Tampa Bay Lightning
Young Lightning shy away from the moment.
Montreal Leads the Series 1-0
Anders Lindback allowed 5 goals on 44 shots for the OT Loss. Obviously the Lightning got outshot by a mile and only lost by a goal, so it's hard to complain too much about Lindback's play, but there were a couple of goals (Plekanec and Eller's goals) Lindback might want back. On the Plekanec goal, Lindback failed to get square to the shooter and was moving and on the Eller goal he got a piece but allowed it to get behind him and in. He's not the reason they lost tonight, and in fact he helped keep them in the game longer than they had any business being in the game. But, it's also fair to say he can play better, too.
10:09 TB Kucherov (1), (Brown, Paquette)
10:28 MTL Plekanec (1), (Emelin, Gallagher)
13:24 TB Stamkos (1), (Kostka)
16:39 MTL Gionta (1), (Eller, Weaver)(SH)
5:10 MTL Eller (1), (Gionta)
7:11 TB Killorn (1), (Johnson)
11:30 MTL Vanek (1), (Desharnais, Emelin)
13:27 TB Stamkos (2), (Killorn)
18:08 MTL Weise (1), (Brière, Gorges)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
I'm kind of struggling about how to approach this one. Montreal came into this game very well prepared and with a plan to put pressure on the Lightning and on Lindback. For the most part, though, the Lightning did a decent early job of matching that intensity and they eventually manufactured the early goal by Kucherov all alone in the slot for the finish, and things were looking very rosy... for about 19 seconds. 19 seconds later Radko Gudas got undressed around the corner on the rush and Lindback allowed a semi-soft goal on the resulting shot from the left wing circle and the game was instantly tied, and the team's confidence immediately dissolved. They played the next 20 minutes of hockey scared and looking every bit a team that was terrified of the magnitude of playoff hockey. They struggled to get out of their end. They mishandled pucks. Their passing betrayed them. They gave a rash of turnovers to Montreal.
With all that happening, Lindback managed to keep the game at 1-1 until midway through the Second Period when the Lightning started to make a bit of a push, eventually culminating in a great individual effort by Stamkos to get a 2-1 lead and the Lightning going on the PP at 16:06 of the period on a horribly undisciplined penalty by blockhead PK Subban. You had the feeling that the Lightning were about to really swing the game in their favor at that moment when Victor Hedman made a pinch that a blind man would've seen was ill advised resulting in the Gionta shorthanded breakaway goal, and the Lightning played pretty much the entire rest of the game on their heels. Their Third Period was as bad a period as I've seen them play all year and only an abnormally mortal Carey Price allowed the Lightning to stay in the game as long as they did. Also, I will say, credit to Alex Killorn who had a goal and an assist in the period and was one of the few Lightning forwards who played well (at least on the offensive end of the rink). In the end, though, Montreal simply had too much zone time and too many chances for the Lightning to overcome. They had a handful of dangerous chances in Overtime to steal the game, but that's all it would've been: a theft. They didn't deserve Game One, and in the end they didn't win Game One.
Now, if you want a silver lining: the Lightning can't possibly play worse than they did in Game One, so they only have one direction to go, which is up. They have some ongoing injury issues with Ondrej Palat leaving the game after knee-to-knee contact with Subban, an obviously hobbled Filppula, and Bishop still out of the lineup. But, with that put aside, it seems unlikely the Lightning will play another game the rest of these playoffs with that sort of fractured structure, poor passing, and timid approach because of the magnitude of the moment. I expect them to push back in this series, and if anyone is looking for a point of reference for a young Lightning team that struggled with the moment in their first few home playoff games before figuring it out, pop in the tape of Game One and Game Two against Washington back in 2003. This kind of tepid start can certainly be overcome.
Mike Kostka had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:46. He struggled a bit with the extra gear of the playoffs, to be honest, and made a couple of big mistakes on the Eller goal by failing to keep a puck in at the opposing blueline and then failing to pick up the trailer on the resulting odd-man rush. I'm interested to see if Cooper sticks with Kostka or gives Barberio a shot in Game Two.
Cedric Paquette had a helper, 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and he was 27% on draws in 11:28. He played a very gritty playoff game and hit everything that moved. But, in the end, he wears the goat horns for abandoning Weise in front of the Lightning net on the game-winning goal in Overtime. It wasn't an athleticism issue, in this case, it was a decision making issue at a time of the year when poor decision making gets magnified ten-fold. Like Kostka, I'll be interested to see if Cooper sticks with Paquette or if he goes to the press box and brings in Pyatt or another forward. I feel bad for the young man because he played a pretty good game, otherwise.
101 reasons to be proud of their regular season.
Anders Lindback stopped all 18 shots he faced and 3 of 3 shooters for the SO victory to deliver the Lightning home ice in the first round of the playoffs against Montreal. His toe save on a Backstrom 1-timer on a Third Period penalty kill was the stuff of legend. Big Anders is definitely getting hot at the right time of the year.
Lindback was named the first star of the game. The Lightning needed a win of any flavor to get home ice in the first round and, for the most part, they remained patient and didn't get too loose defensively trying to get the W. Washington looked like they wanted no part of the game and the Lightning dominated possession and shots (32-18), but with Holtby playing pretty well there was a chance the Lightning would start freelancing outside of their system and allow the Washington skill players to capitalize. They did not, fortunately, and Matt Carle delivered the one finish they needed to get the Lightning back to Tampa Bay on Wednesday for Game One against the Habs.
The Lightning finish the season with 101 points. Triple digits is impressive for any team. For a team with so many prospects who established themselves at the NHL level this year, though, it's unbelievable.
Mike Kostka had 1 hit and 3 blocked shots in 15:41 and was denied dekeing to his backhand in the penalty shot session.
Cody Kunyk had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 20% on draws in 10:12. He nearly set up Kucherov for the winner in the Third Period off some forechecking work in the corner. First impressions: smooth skater who will work hard in the corners and along the wall. First step could use a little attention, but couldn't we all use a little first step improvement? Should be a good add for Syracuse next season.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 16:19 and was 47% on draws. He nearly set up Callahan for a nice deflection goal off the rush, but there were moments you could see his lack of speed could be a vulnerability on the backcheck.
One more to go.
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 36 of 38 for the victory in his first NHL shot. He was impressive. His quickness and athleticism are striking, and he showed a competitiveness and unwillingness to give up on plays that is also the hallmark of great netminders.
3:55 TB Palat (23), (Killorn)(PP)
13:46 CBJ Jenner (16), (Johnson, Johansen)(PP)
14:54 TB Brewer (3), (Paquette)
18:06 TB Brewer (4), (Kostka, Panik)
16:37 CBJ Savard (5), (Jenner, Comeau)
Gudlevskis, Eric Brewer, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. It wasn't the best effort the Lightning have put forward, but Gudlevskis played well and the team capitalized on some shaky netminding by Columbus' McElhinney at the other end of the rink. It wasn't without a price, as Victor Hedman left the game early with a lower body injury and Ondrej Palat left after getting his bell rung on an open ice hit, but at this hour their absence seems more precautionary than anything else (although that's always subject to change).
The Lightning now have 99 points with 1 game to go. Win and they get home ice against Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs. Win and they break the 100 point barrier. Win, and they'll cap off one of the best regular seasons in team history.
Mike Kostka had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 20:35. He was forced into extra ice time with Hedman out of the game early, and he handled it reasonably well, even getting his 3rd point in 2 games since returning. Win if you can, survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 12:46. He was also 64% on 14 draws, including several wins while the Lightning were trying to stave off Columbus with their goaltender pulled at the end of the game. Good debut by Dump Truck, and I thought the scorekeepers cheated him out of a few hits because I counted 2-3 more. The young man's got a future on the team's fourth line.
The sun still rises in Tampa Bay.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the victory tonight, 1 of which was an own goal tipped in by Palat. Lindback was magnificent, as he was in relief in the last game against Toronto. Is he as athletic and aesthetically pleasing as Ben Bishop between the pipes? No. Is he fully capable of stopping pucks? Yes, and he showed resiliency and mental toughness by not cracking after the Flyers broke through on him. He stayed focus, got a good team effort in front of him (including some street hockey netminding by Gudas) and got the W.
2:00 TB Johnson (24), (Stamkos, Kostka)
18:39 PHI Simmonds (27), (Giroux, Voracek)(PP)
4:33 TB Panik (3), (Hedman, Kostka)
9:43 TB Brewer (2), (Johnson, Palat)
12:22 PHI Couturier (12), (Streit)
14:14 TB Stamkos (25), (Filppula, Hedman)(PP)
Let it not be said that this Lightning team packs it in the second they hit a bump in the road. There was a lot of hand wringing and consternation with the injury to Ben Bishop that will, at a minimum, shut him down for the rest of the regular season. But, much like when Stamkos broke his leg and the captain of the team decided he wanted to go to Broadway, the Lightning circled the wagons. They came out very strong tonight and got a quick goal on Philly, which was great. I thought they took their foot off the gas through to the end of the Second Period, which was not good, but Lindback has something to prove and he played fantastic to keep the Lightning in it until they broke it open in the Third Period, where only a goofy own goal blemished a complete 20 minute team effort. So, the sky didn't fall and, in fact, with Montreal losing tonight the Lightning can get home ice in the first round if they win out in the final 2 games of the regular season.
Throughout the campaign, I've written regularly about segment goals with the team, with an eye on 96 points in 80 games. With the victory tonight, the Lightning nailed down 97 points in 80 games and they got the target number of 12 in the 8th and final segment of the year. In games 81 and 82, if they can get at least 3 of the 4 possible points, they have an opportunity to get to 100 points, which is truly an accomplishment for any team, let alone one this young.
Mike Kostka returned from his concussion with 2 assists, a +3 rating, and 1 blocked shot in 14:18. Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 19:36. It wasn't Andrej's best game, as I've seen him a lot tighter and under control defensively, but it's still pretty good that you can play him 19+ minutes and not worry about him completely wetting the bed. With the appearance tonight, Sustr reaches 41 NHL games played this season, which graduates him from prospect status on the website. Sustr becomes the 10th prospect to graduate this season, finishing out a class the likes of which we may never see again. To put this in perspective, there were only 10 prospects that graduated on the site in the previous 4 seasons combined (I looked it up). Congratulations to Andrej and everyone in the 2013-2014 Bolt Prospects Alumni class.
A solid, satisfying win... but at what price?
Ben Bishop made 3 saves on 3 shots before leaving the game 5:43 into the First Period in serious discomfort after falling to the ice while catching a puck with his glove hand. Wrist, elbow, shoulder? Whatever it was, Bishop was writhing in pain enough to leave doubt whether he'll be available anytime soon. Anders Lindback entered the game and stopped all 25 shots he faced the rest of the way for the combined shutout and the win. Putting aside any critique of Bishop's workload, I feel like Lindback's play in his last start merited more starting time than Cooper has given him. He looked good again tonight, including a sparkling glove save toward the end of the Second Period. What I like about Lindback is the team in front of him seems to simplify its game and pay closer attention to detail rather than simply relying on Ben Bishop to be the eraser for their mistakes. It certainly appeared that way tonight.
9:19 TB Palat (21), (Hedman, Gudas)
15:45 TB Palat (22), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
19:47 TB Hedman (13), (unassisted)(EN)
That was a fantastically well played hockey game by the Tampa Bay Lightning after the debacles against Calgary and Dallas. Ordinarily I'd be really excited about the way they played tonight, because it represents a total reversal of the issues that had plaqued the club earlier this season when it simply couldn't get power play production, couldn't kill penalties with any reliability, and struggled mightily to protect Third Period leads. They were ruthlessly efficient in all three aspects, which bodes well, but...
Between Bishop leaving the game and Sami Salo also leaving early in the Second Period, you wonder if they won the battle and ended up losing the war. It's never a good thing when an injury looks so significant that people start asking you how quickly your KHL-based prospect goaltender-of-the-future might be available to be signed and, gulp, appear for your team in the playoffs. That's the scary predicament of the night, though, pending word on what ails Bishop.
The Lightning's victory tonight puts them at 95 points for the season, 1 shy of our 80-game goal of 96 points and 2 points shy of the 10-game segment goal of 12 points earned. It's remarkable how efficient they've been about staying on schedule all season long.
Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 18:10. He, again, had to play bigger minutes with one of his defensive corps-mates out of the game (in this case Salo). He made several key plays in the Second Period including breaking up a 3-on-1 by Toronto's top line. Tonight was his 40th game of the season, meaning he is now just 1 game away from graduation on the site. He'll likely be the capstone to an unprecedented Bolt Prospects Alumni class the likes of which we may never see again.