Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Mitchell Stephens to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Stephens, 19, skated in 39 games with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, collecting 20 goals and 38 points to go along with 14 penalty minutes. Stephens missed 29 games during the regular season but still ranked fifth on the Spirit for points and tied for fourth for goals. The Peterborough, Ontario, native also appeared in four games for Saginaw during the 2016 OHL Playoffs, posting two goals and three points.
The 6-foot, 193-pound forward has skated in 158 career OHL games, all with Saginaw over three seasons, recording 51 goals and 107 points. Stephens also suited up for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Jr. Championships this past season, notching a goal and two points in five tournament games.
Stephens was selected by the Lightning in the second round, 33rd overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Stephens is a young Callahan in effort and character, but can play both center and wing. He played center all year on Saginaw's top line and put up good numbers when healthy. He broke his foot early in the year and missed several weeks, but returned just in time to make Team Canada and perform well at the WJC's.
Stephens' hands are underrated and he's very poised with the puck. He's an excellent complimentary forward with some skill who will be a favorite of coaches throughout his career. He could have the same impact on the Lightning eventually as Ondrej Palat (or Callahan had with the Rangers earlier in his career).
The second rounder won't turn 20 until February, so while he can join Syracuse now, he has to go back to juniors next fall if he doesn't make the Lightning - which isn't expected. He will probably captain the Spirit next season and may wear a letter for Canada next Christmas.
Lunch bucket win puts the Lightning within an eyelash of clinching a postseason berth.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. He wasn't called on much, but he was there when he needed to be.
9:03 TB Hedman(9), (Palat, Kucherov)
19:32 NJ Henrique(28), (Kennedy, Severson)(PP)
11:32 TB Boyle(12), (Nesterov, Kucherov)(PP)
19:27 TB Kucherov(30), (Hedman, Paquette)(EN)
I don't want to overplay the quality of this victory because, frankly, they played a very offensively challenged New Jersey team and should have won that game. Putting that aside, though, the Devils aren't a soft out and the Lightning were playing without Steven Stamkos and still in the wake of the Stralman injury trying to figure out a defensive rotation that worked. It wasn't perfect. There were still some gap control issues at times and there was clear miscommunication on New Jersey's lone goal and a handful of other plays... but... it had to feel good to get that win in the fashion they got it. They ultimately got the W by outworking a team that is well known for being a very hard working team and they got the winner on a clutch Third Period power play. That's going to be good for the team's confidence as they hit the road to close the regular season and head on into the postseason. And, if I'm being honest, it will probably take some mix of that work ethic plus Bishop heroics for the Lightning to survive and advance out of the first round of the playoffs to have the chance to possibly add a healing Stralman back into their lineup and eventually add Stamkos back after the blood clot clears and make a run.
With Koekkoek a scratch, the Lightning coaches went with Option B and played Hedman 25:59, and it worked. He was fantastic tonight. That's always a card the Lightning can choose to play because Victor skates so well: just play the big fella every other shift and let the chips fall where they may. It's not something he's used to and in the past he's struggled with the heavier workload once he got above a certain minutes threshold, but the best in the game at that position can play half the game.
With 2 games left in the final 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning have 10 points for the segment and are 1 point off of the 80-game-mark goal of 96 points to make the playoffs comfortably. Their magic number, with Detroit winning tonight, is still essentially 2 points, but it's fair to say if they get anything out of the final 4 games of the regular season they'll be in. Making up the 2 points on Florida in the final 4 games of the year to win the Atlantic crown, therefore, may be the last real order of business that has any intrigue to it. The Lightning's matchup in the first round is going to be a pretty key thing, though, and there's no real way of predicting whether finishing 1st or 2nd in the division yields the most benefit. For the record, I think the Isles or Wings would be the most ideal matchups for the Lightning to make it out of the opening round.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Jonne Tammela to a three-year, NHL entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Tammela, 18, has skated in 37 games with Kalpa of the SM-liiga league in Finland, posting five goals and 13 points to go along with 16 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound forward also appeared in three playoff games with Kalpa, registering two penalty minutes. Tammela has played in 69 games with Kalpa over the past two seasons, notching nine goals and 17 points.
The Espoo, Finland native is currently playing for the Finnish U-20 team, skating in seven games with the club while posting a goal and four points. Tammela was selected by the Lightning in the fourth round, 118th overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Lightning dying on the vine after Stralman injury.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. A lesser goaltender gives up 4 goals with the amount of turnovers and poor gap control the Lightning defense had tonight.
9:11 MTL Desharnais(10), (Andrighetto, Emelin)
0:52 MTL Mitchell(10), (Pateryn, Emelin)
17:32 MTL Danauly(4), (Mitchell)(EN)
Steven Stamkos was the game's third star.
The Lightning just look like a hot mess without their top four defensemen in tact. It was that way when Garrison was hurt recently, and it's even worse at the moment without Stralman. The new pairings look disjointed and the team is having to play certain players bigger minutes that simply cannot handle it. Matt Carle should to be playing over 23 minutes a night in the NHL anymore like he did tonight. And, tonight, it became glaringly obvious that Stralman is the glue that holds the Lightning together in terms of gap control. He was the one Lightning defender who routinely stepped up at his blueline. Tonight, you had the Lightning retreating off their own blueline all the way down to the top of the circles, which resulted in the early goal by Mitchell in the Second Period that was tonight's soul-crushing gut punch.
With Florida winning tonight, the Lightning fall out of first place in the Atlantic Division. With 3 games left in the 10-game segment of the season, they still need at least 3 points, although the SunSports team pointed out their "virtual" magic number is 4. Either way, this team would have a hard time not at least backing into the playoffs. The issue for the last 5 games of the regular season, though, is figuring out pairings and a minute rotation on defense that actually looks cohesive and doesn't play like a train wreck destined to get bounced out in the first round. Three games into life without Stralman, they clearly haven't found that formula yet, and time is running out.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 3 shots in 14:27. He surrendered at least 2 Grade A chances that Bishop had to bail him out on with turnovers and poor positioning. It'll be a learning process with Slater, but I don't see another defenseman on the roster who, athletically, can grow into bigger minutes the way that Slater can unless the finally make the decision to give Hedman every other shift.
Bishop willing hapless, Stralman-less Lightning over the regular season finish line.
Ben Bishop stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout victory, and the customary meting of U of Maine Justice. You won't find a finer performance by a goaltender anywhere in Lightning history than what Bishop turned in tonight. Puppa and Khabibulin probably each turned in a game or two that were as good as that, but none better. He carried the Lightning on his back tonight.
7:34 TB Blunden(3), (Condra, Hedman)
14:29 TB Palat(15), (Stamkos, Garrison)
6:38 TB Hedman(8), (Stamkos, Condra)
For a second straight game the Lightning had to go without Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov, and for a second straight game the Lightning looked a bit lost and befuddled. The difference tonight was that the Toronto Marlies are barely a NHL caliber team and Ben Bishop re-routed power to the deflector shields all night long. Hopefully tonight was the last without Kucherov in the lineup and, over time, the team's defensemen will hit their stride without Stralman. But, for the moment, it's pretty awful. Erik Condra is playing on Steven Stamkos' line. That's how awful.
With 4 games left to go in the final 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning cut the magic number to 3 points, and they move into a tie in points with Florida, although the Panthers hold a game in hand in the race for the Atlantic Division title. The Lightning just have to grind out a couple of more wins as soon as possible, lock in their playoff position, and then spend their time getting their defensive pairings in order for the postseason.
Shorthanded Lightning can't overcome the odds.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss. I'm not mad about the Jagr and Huberdeau goals and the Hudler goal was just crummy puck luck, but he was horribly off his angle on the Trocheck goal. He can't allow that goal in that spot given the pretext in this game. The Lightning had to get out of the First Period with a lead feeling good about themselves, and that softie was soul-destroying.
5:52 TB Johnson(14), (Nesterov, Palat)(PP)
13:36 FLA Trocheck(25), (Jokinen)
18:02 FLA Jagr(25), (Barkov, Huberdeau)(PP)
15:53 FLA Hudler(15), (Petrovic, Bjugstad)
4:02 FLA Huberdeau(15), (Barkov, Jagr)
16:48 TB Stamkos(36), (Boyle, Nesterov)(PP)
19:35 FLA Jokinen(17), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
It was just a tough spot for the Lightning to come into. Not only did they lose Stralman to the broken leg last night, but Kucherov also sat out today after getting nicked blocking a shot last night. There's one of your two best defensemen and one of your two most dynamic offensive players out going into a high stakes game against a rested game where the Lightning were on the back-to-back. Then, you throw on top of that the Lightning playing their youthful backup who, unfortunately, gives up a pretty soft goal after a fantastic start by the team. No chance. It was all down hill from there, and when the Panthers got the puck luck with the double deflection on the Hudler goal, it was pretty clear it was not to be Tampa Bay's night. Throw on top of that some... creative... officiating, and you have about three hours every Lightning fans wishes they could get back in their lives.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 in 5:57. I don't get the sparing way he's been used in his last two recalls. There's pretty much no point to having him with the big club if he's only going to get 10 shifts in a game like he did tonight. It doesn't benefit the player or the team.
Jonathan Marchessault was -2 with 2 shots in 16:01. I thought he had another strong game tonight, but his line struggled to get the payoff against Luongo. The game marks Marchessault's graduation from prospect status on the website, meaning he'll join Nesterov in the 2015-2016 Lightning class.
KHL Western Conference Finals
(6)St. Petersburg 0 vs. (1)CSKA 1 (OT)
CSKA Leads the Series 3-0
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 14 GP, 5-9-14, -1, 0 PIM
Regular season totals: 56 GP, 20-29-49, +15, 14 PIM
Ex-Syracuse Crunch Geoff Platt scored 11:12 into Triple OT to deliver CSKA a tremendous 1-0 Game Three win that puts them on the brink of advancing to the Gagarin Cup Final. Islanders third rounder Ilya Sorokin stopped all 52 shots he faced for the shutout victory while ex-Isles second rounder Mikko Koskinen allowed 1 goal on 52 shots for the hard luck loss. Nikita Gusev was scoreless in a sizable 35:18 in the match, which was third among SKA forwards in ice time.
Victory... at a price.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the win. He was not at his best, but thankfully the team in front of him, more or less, was, as he drank again from the cool waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
8:54 NYI Nelson(25), (Strome, Bailey)
13:42 TB Kucherov(29), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:51 TB Namestnikov(14), (unassisted)
5:02 TB Stamkos(35), (Garrison, Kucherov)
5:25 NYI Prince(5), (unassisted)
16:18 NYI Boychuk(8), (Tavares, Bailey)
6:03 TB Sustr(3), (Garrison)
6:22 NYI Kulemin(7), (Nielsen, Hamonic)
10:09 TB Johnson(13), (Palat, Marchessault)
10:32 TB Garrison(5), (Palat, Marchessault)
18:35 TB Hedman(7), (Carle, Palat)(EN)
That was a wild game where the Lightning were dominant offensively, outshooting the Islanders 42-31 and probably outchancing them by an even greater margin, but never pulling away because of some defensive let downs and soft goaltending. In the end they deserved the 2 points for the night, and they got it. That's the good news.
The price was steep, however. Anton Stralman left the game in the First Period with what appeared to be a significant leg injury. Post game we've learned that Stralman has a broken leg, which barring an extremely deep playoff run may pretty much end Stralman's season. This team looked pretty bad just missing Jason Garrison from the lineup. They're ill-equipped to handle losing any of their top-4 defenseman, and losing Stralman will be an extra strain. And no, there isn't a callup from Syracuse who can help fill those shoes. That's a blow that may ultimately torpedo Cup hopes.
With the victory, the Lightning's magic number is cut to 5 points now with 6 games left to play in this segment. They've got a really tough draw tomorrow, though, having to face a rested Panthers team with first place in the division on the line in the wake of the Stralman injury. Maybe they just turn it over to Vasilevskiy tomorrow and hope the kid just does his thing and stands on his head. He's capable of it.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 assists, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 13:24. He was, in my opinion, the key man in the Johnson goal in the Third Period that gave the Lightning the breathing room to pull away in this one. His addition to the line with Johnson and Palat has been productive, and by freeing Kucherov to go play on Stamkos' line it's given the Lightning the scoring balance they have struggled to find over the past two years. Note how well this team has played offensively the past two games despite having veterans Filppula and Callahan out of the lineup due to injury. This is important for Cooper to understand: playing 51 and 24 as much as he has costs the Lightning possession and goals, and their identity is to have possession and be a potent offensive team. So, when Filppula and Callahan come back, one has to live in hope that Cooper uses them in more targeted roles as opposed to lavishing ice time in them in all situations, because it ends up being dead minutes. Either way, Marchessault's next NHL game this regular season will graduate him from prospect status on the website, and he appears to be peaking just ahead of that milestone.
Erik Condra obliterates everything you thought you knew about this team...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the win. Honestly, I thought he was fighting it hard tonight and got the benefit of two posts early on. He may need to go back into five-hole rehab after that Helm goal, in fact. Fortunately, the puck luck early on went the Lightning's way and allowed them to settle into a pretty good defensive game that protected Ben while allowing him to drink from the waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
1:47 TB Condra(4), (Palat, Boyle)
9:55 TB Namestnikov(13), (Brown)
0:33 TB Stamkos(34), (Kucherov, Hedman)
8:08 DET Abdelkader(18), (Zetterberg, Kronwall)(PP)
15:25 DET Helm(12), (Datsyuk, Mantha)
17:42 TB Kucherov(28), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
1:03 TB Palat(14), (Johnson, Hedman)
16:56 TB Condra(5), (Boyle)
Erik Condra, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. Yes, Erik Condra. And, what should terrify you more about the face that Condra had 2 goals is that he probably should've had 1-2 more. Try to think what a Condra hat trick would've done to the laws of time and space... and then thank your lucky stars tragedy was averted tonight.
Tonight's game was a convergence of them being on their possession game and getting the benefit of a lot of the puck luck. It wasn't a perfect game. They were sloppy at times with turnovers. Bishop was a little off, as noted. Alex Killorn looked like he was Magnus ver Magnussen in one of those strongman competitions pulling a semi truck behind him all game. But, on balance, they were on their possession game forechecking hard, their power play was actually not a liability tonight, and they got some breaks. That's a good formula for beating down a team 6-2, and one you'd hope will be repeated a few more times before all is said and done in the 2015-2016 campaign.
The win vaults the Lightning into a tie with the Panthers atop the Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay holding the big advantage in ROW. More importantly, with 7 games to go in the final 10 game set of the year, the Lightning have a magic number of 7 points to ease into the playoff comfortably. That's what you want. You want to be in comfortably at the end of 80 games with the chance to either go for a banner or rest some guys in the final 2 games of the regular season. The Lightning look to be back on track to do that, only needing to go .500 the next 7 games to hit the season target of 96 points.
Jonathan Marchessault was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:22. By my count he's now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Ben Thomas to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Thomas, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, began the 2015-16 season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He recorded three assists in 14 games with Calgary prior to being traded to the Vancouver Giants, also of the WHL, on October 27. Thomas skated in 60 games with the Giants, registering eight goals and 25 points with 40 penalty minutes. He led all Vancouver defensemen for goals and ranked second for assists and points.
The Calgary native has appeared in 213 career WHL games with the Hitmen and Giants, recording 22 goals and 90 points. He also played for Team Canada at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships, tallying one assist in seven games en route to earning the Bronze Medal.
Thomas was drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 119th overall, of the 2014 NHL Draft.