JETS 3 Lightning 1

Goals:  Peca (1)

Saves:  Domingue (34), 2-1-0

Lightning 7 FLAMES 4

Goals:  Coburn (1), Killorn 2 (7), Peca (2), Conacher 2 (5), Stamkos (19)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (42), 30-9-2

Lightning 4 CANUCKS 2

Goals:  Kunitz (8), Hedman (7), Gourde (18), Conacher (6)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (31), 31-9-2

SEASON:  36-12-3, 75 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • Following the injury to forward Ondrej Palat and the release of forward J.T. Brown, the Lightning recalled center Matthew Peca from their AHL team in Syracuse and the results, so far, have been outstanding.  In the six games he has played this season, Peca, a seventh-round pick and 201st overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has scored two goals, recorded three assists and has a plus/minus rating of plus-9 while centering the line with Alex Killorn and Vlad Namestnikov as his linemates.  More importantly, Peca has been dominant in the face-off circle, an area where the Lightning have struggled all season, winning 61.63 percent of his face-offs.  Unlike last year when he was re-assigned to Syracuse, look for Peca to stay with Tampa when Palat returns from his lower-body injury.
  • Over the course of the regular season and even during the playoffs, an NHL team will need their third and fourth lines, along with their defensemen, to contribute to the offense when their primary scorers are either in a slump or being closely defended.  The Lightning had that kind of offensive support this past week as their third and fourth lines plus their defensemen, accounted for 64.5 percent of the team’s points scored in their last three games (20 of 31 points).  This kind of unexpected scoring depth is essential for any team to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a good sign as Tampa Bay works towards home ice advantage throughout the post-season.
  • At last week’s All-Star weekend in Tampa, the Pro Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) released their mid-season awards and to say the Lightning were well represented is a large understatement.  The writers named Nikita Kucherov as the NHL’s MVP (Hart Trophy), Victor Hedman as the league’s best all-around defenseman (Norris Trophy), Andrei Vasilevskiy as the best goaltender (Vezina Trophy) and Steven Stamkos as the Comeback Player of the Year.  Additionally, head coach Jon Cooper and general manager Steve Yzerman finished second in the PHWA’s voting for coach of the year (Jack Adams Award) and GM of the year respectively.  Given the Lightning’s record at the halfway point of the season, the PHWA’s results should come as no surprise.


  • Given how badly the Lightning were outshot in their three games this week, it’s surprising they finished the week 2-1-0.  Tampa Bay was outshot in all three games (24-37 vs. Winnipeg, 31-46 vs. Calgary and 28-33 vs. Vancouver) by a total of 33 shots (83-116) despite outscoring their opponents 12-9.  The shot disparity was especially wide in the third period of each game (27-48 in three games combined) with the Lightning giving up Grade A chances when games were still in the balance.  Thanks to some excellent goaltending by Louis Domingue and Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay survived the onslaught of shots and won two out of three.  It’s a trend, however, the Lightning can’t allow to continue if they want to earn home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and capture the franchise’s second Stanley Cup.
  • In the last two games, the Lightning have scratched defenseman Dan Girardi and forwards Cedric Paquette and Michael Bournival.  Girardi’s absence is explainable due to the injury he incurred while blocking a shot against Winnipeg.  The exclusion of Paquette and Bournival, however, isn’t so obvious.  With the trade deadline looming, scratching Paquette and Bournival from the lineup may indicate that one or both of them are part of a trade general manager Steve Yzerman is considering.  If Paquette and Bournival continue to be scratched, look for a trade involving either or both of them in the very near future.
  • With one game left on the Lightning’s interminable eight game road trip, they are 5-2-0 with a chance to finish it with six wins in eight games.  What makes this successful road trip so surprising is that Nikita Kucherov has not scored a goal in any of the first seven games.  In fact, Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer, hasn’t scored a goal since January 7 when he netted his 27th goal of the season against Detroit.  Getting Kucherov back in the scoring groove is imperative as the Lightning head down the stretch of the regular season.


  1. Cory Conacher–3 goals, 3 points, 1 game-winning goal
  2. Matthew Peca–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
  3. Alex Killorn–2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points


  • Monday–at Edmonton
  • Thursday–vs. Vancouver
  • Saturday–vs. Los Angeles




Lightning 2 BLACKHAWKS 0

Goals:  Kunitz (6), Gourde (15)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (40), Shutout (7), 28-9-2

Lightning 4 PREDATORS 3 (OT)

Goals:  Kunitz (7), Namestnikov (16), Stamkos (18), Gourde (16)

Saves:  Domingue (31), 2-0-0

Lightning 5 FLYERS 1

Goals:  Point (20), Gourde (17), Callahan (2), Namestnikov 2 (18)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (36), 29-9-2

SEASON:  34-12-3, 71 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • The Lightning put an emphatic end to their season long three-game losing streak by winning the last three games of their road trip and one of the key reasons was the play of forward Chris Kunitz.  A four-time Stanley Cup winner who signed a free agent contract with the Lightning during the off-season, Kunitz was primarily acquired to bring veteran leadership and successful playoff experience to the Tampa Bay locker room.  This week, however, it was Kunitz’s offense that sparked the Lightning and turned a potentially disastrous pre-All-Star break road trip into a momentum building three game winning streak.  Paired with Steven Stamkos and Vlad Namestnikov starting with the game in Chicago, Kunitz scored two goals, including the game-winner against the Blackhawks, had two assists and finished the week with a plus/minus rating of plus 3.
  • Over the last three weeks, the Lightning have completely turned around their issues of having more giveaways than takeaways and the end result, especially this week, has been a tighter and better defensive effort.  In their last seven games, Tampa Bay has effected 66 takeaways compared to 42 giveaways, including a margin of 33-17 last week in which they went 3-0-0 and allowed only a total of four goals.
  • If there was any doubt that the city of Tampa and the surrounding area was a hockey town, those were erased this past weekend when the city hosted the NHL All-Star Game.  It was abundantly clear while watching the coverage of the event that the hockey fans of Tampa are on par with any other city in the NHL.  In fact, given the recent attendance at Red Wings games, maybe it’s time to name Tampa “Hockey Town” instead of Detroit.


  • The mood was sour following the Lightning’s loss to Minnesota a week ago Saturday because it was the team’s third straight loss.  It only got worse the following day when it was announced that forward Ondrej Palat will miss the next six to eight weeks due to a lower-body injury caused by a slash to the back of his lower right leg from the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon.  It was an injury head coach Jon Cooper believed was a cheap shot, stating the next day he “didn’t like the way he (Palat) got hurt.”  More importantly, Palat’s absence is a tough one to overcome.  “Of all the success we’ve had in the last few years, he’s a big part of it,” Cooper said of Palat, arguably the team’s best defensive forward.  “It’s unfortunate, because he’s a guy that plays the game the right way.”
  • Tampa’s recent struggles with their power play continue to mount.  The Lightning went 0-5 on the power play in their three games last week and have scored only two goals in their last 15 power play opportunities.  It is one of the areas where the absence of defenseman Victor Hedman is significantly felt.  Help may soon be on the way as Hedman was skating in full equipment and without any noticeable issues this past weekend during the All-Star break in Tampa.
  • Much to everyone’s surprise, rookie defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev, was a healthy scratch in the Lightning’s last two games against Nashville and Philadelphia.  While no official explanation has been given, the Lightning apparently benched Sergachev because he has been a minus-6 in his last eight games and for taking a bad cross-checking penalty against Chicago on Monday which he complicated by arguing with the referee and throwing a towel, resulting in an additional two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Much to his credit, Sergachev is using the benching as a learning experience.  “Obviously I’m struggling,” Sergachev said prior to Thursday’s game against Philadelphia.  “Now I’m just trying to work my way out of it.”


  1. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 3 points, 2 game-winning goals
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1 shutout, 0.50 GAA, 76 saves, .987 save percentage
  3. Chris Kunitz–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 1 game-winning goal


  • Tuesday–at Winnipeg
  • Thursday–at Calgary
  • Saturday–at Vancouver




Golden Knights 4, LIGHTNING 1

Goals:  Palat (8)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (26), 27-8-2

WILD 5, Lightning 2

Goals:  Point 2 (19)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (30), 27-9-2

SEASON:  31-12-3, 65 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • The lone bright spot for the Lightning in this current three game losing streak has been the play of the team’s second line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson.  These three forwards have accounted for 75 percent of the points the Lightning have scored in the last three games, with Point leading the way with three goals scored.  A second-year center with breakaway speed and a solid two-way player, Point has already scored more goals (19) and points (44) through 46 games this year than he did in his entire rookie season and leads the NHL in game-winning goals with seven.
  • There’s no doubt that losing defenseman Victor Hedman for three to six weeks due to a knee injury has played a large part in why the Lightning are experiencing their longest losing streak of the season.  If there is any silver lining regarding Hedman’s injury it’s that his absence coincides with the team’s bye week and the NHL All-Star Game, meaning the amount of games Hedman could potentially miss is significantly lower than normal.  It also provides Tampa Bay the opportunity to give valuable ice time  in critical situations which would otherwise be handed by Hedman to young defensemen like Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek.  Those additional minutes these three play in the regular season should pay dividends for the Lightning once the playoffs begin.
  • Even though the Lightning’s power play, a lackluster 8 for its last 50, is now the third best in the NHL after leading the league earlier in the year, there were signs this week that it is returning to its early season explosiveness.  Thanks to the insertion of Ondrej Palat in place of Alex Killorn on the primary line, Tampa Bay has scored power play goal in their last two games.  Revitalizing the power play is one sure way for the Lightning to get back to their previous winning ways.


  • When the NHL announced the goaltenders for the Eastern Conference in this year’s All-Star Game, no one was surprised that one of those goaltenders was Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.  Lately, however, Vasilevskiy hasn’t played anything like an All-Star goalie.  In his last five games, he is 1-4-0, allowing 23 goals and no less than four goals in any of those five contests.  The last time Vasilevskiy allowed fewer than four goals in a game was in a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal on January 4.  You have to wonder if Vasilevskiy’s recent struggles has anything to do with the fact that he has started all but eight of the Lightning’s 46 games this season.
  • Following Saturday’s loss at Minnesota, head coach Jon Cooper told the assembled media, in the understatement of the year, “We’re just out of sync right now.”  If Cooper is honest with himself, he’ll take some responsibility for the Lightning’s recent inability to play in concert with one another.  His constant juggling and changing of lines at the moment things look like they are going awry, plays a large role in what Cooper described as the team’s frustration since coming back from the bye week.  Later in his press conference Saturday night, Cooper said his team needs to “get back to what got us here.”  That starts with the head coach returning to and staying with the lineups which produced such consistent success earlier in the year.
  • Just before Christmas, it seemed as if the Lightning would easily win the Atlantic Division.  Fast forward one month, and a Tampa Bay division title doesn’t appear so certain.  While the Lightning have had their ups and downs over the last 30 days, the Boston Bruins have gone 12-0-4 since December 14, closing the Lightning’s lead in the division to three points heading into this week.


  1. Brayden Point–3 goals, 3 points
  2. Tyler Johnson—3 assists, 3 points
  3. Steven Stamkos—2 assists, 2 points


  • Monday–at Chicago
  • Tuesday–at Nashville
  • Thursday–at Philadelphia



Lightning 2, MAPLE LEAFS 0

Goals:  Paquette (1), Killorn (5)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (29), Shutout (6), 26-5-1

CANADIENS 2, Lightning 1 (SO)

Goals:  Kucherov (26)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (37), 26-5-2

SENATORS 6, Lightning 3

Goals:  Hedman (5), Koekkoek (4), Gourde (12)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (27), 26-6-2

Lightning 5, RED WINGS 2

Goals:  Girardi (3), Johnson (13), Gourde 2 (14), Kucherov (27)

Saves:  Domingue (34), 1-0-0

SEASON:  30-9-3. 63 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • With their 5-2 victory over Detroit Sunday night, the Lightning once again completed a very successful extended road trip.  In their five games away from Tampa, the Lightning went 3-1-1, earning points in four of the five games played for a total of seven out of a possible 10 points.  During this five game stretch, the Lightning outscored their opponents 16-10, outshot them 188-157, recorded two shutouts and was a perfect 15 for 15 on the penalty kill.  Overall, not a bad way to end 2017 and begin 2018.
  • Rookie center Yanni Gourde not only continues to impress his teammates but the rest of the NHL as well.  During the most recent five game road trip, Gourde recorded three goals and three assists for six points, a game-winning goal and a Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist and a fight) in the Lightning’s 5-2 victory over Detroit on Sunday night.  For the season, Gourde has 14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points, two game-winning goals and a plus/minus rating of +18 while averaging 16:13 of ice time per game.  Steve Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov may get all of the attention but Gourde’s performance this season deserves just as much praise.
  • At the season’s official halfway point, the Lightning were 29-9-3. the best record in franchise history after 41 games…Jon Cooper was named the head coach for the Atlantic Division at this year’s All-Star game in Tampa on January 28…Since Ben Bishop was traded last season, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is 38-10-4, the best record in the NHL during that time span…Seven of Vasievskiy’s 10 career shutouts have occurred on the road…The Lightning are 9-3-1 against Atlantic Division opponents…Tampa’s next game against the Atlantic Division is February 12 when they play Toronto…11 of Tampa’s next 13 games are against the Western Conference…The Lightning’s defensemen have scored 28 goals this season, the second most in the NHL and lead the league in points score with 102…24 of Nikita Kucherov’s 27 goals this season are even strength goals.


  • The one regulation defeat the Lightning suffered during the road trip, a 6-3 loss to Ottawa on Saturday, was one head coach Jon Cooper found disturbing.  “You can’t win a Stanley Cup in the regular season, you have to get to the playoffs first, ” Cooper said after Saturday’s game.  “I think there is a team in there that thinks we’ve already made the playoffs.  With that attitude, we are not going to go anywhere.”  There’s no doubt that the Lightning’s performance against Ottawa was sub-par but it seems Cooper’s comments were either an overreaction or a ploy to motivate the team and keep them focused on the rest of the regular season.  Regardless of Cooper’s motive, the Lightning received the message as they won convincingly the following night at Detroit.
  • Over the last three weeks, the Lightning’s power play, once the NHL’s best, has suffered greatly.  In their last 10 games, Tampa has scored only six goals in their last 37 power play opportunities.  The lack of production has lowered the Lightning’s power play percentage to 24.7 percent and dropped them from first to third in the NHL.
  • With most everyone in the league having played at least half of their scheduled games, it’s time to speculate as to which teams will become sellers as the trade deadline approaches.  In the Eastern Conference, the most likely candidates are Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa while in the West, Arizona and Vancouver seemed poised to make a move.  The biggest name rumored to be moved is Ottawa defenseman, Erik Karlsson, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season.


  1. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, 1 game-winning goal
  2. Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points
  3. Louis Domingue–1 win, 2.00 GAA, .944 save percentage (34 saves on 36 shots)


  • Tuesday–vs. Carolina
  • Thursday–vs. Calgary





LIGHTNING 3, Canadiens 1

Goals:  Stamkos 2 (15), Point (15)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (31), 24-5-1

Flyers 5, LIGHTNING 3

Goals:  Stamkos (16), Point (16), Johnson (10)

Saves:  Budaj (29), 3-3-1 and Vasilevskiy (4)

Lightning 5, BLUE JACKETS 0

Goals:  Johnson 2 (12), Kucherov (25), Conacher (3), Stamkos (17)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (21), Shutout (5), 25-5-1

SEASON:  28-8-2. 58 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • As the Lightning head into the New Year with the NHL’s best record, the overwhelming amount of attention has focused on the Hart Trophy play of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and the Norris Trophy play of Victor Hedman.  Often overlooked in Tampa Bay’s fast start this season has been the play of defenseman Anton Stralman.  Stralman has been a mentor and teacher to fellow defenseman and future All-Star, Mikhail Sergachev, and is seemingly in the right place to clean up a teammate’s potentially disastrous mistake.  While Kucherov and Stamkos get all the notice for their goal scoring and assists, Stralman’s contributions have been just as impactful as he leads the league in plus-minus with a +26 rating.  There is no question that Kucherov, Stamkos and Hedman are the stars of this team and rightfully so.  But without Stralman, it’s just as certain that the Lightning wouldn’t have the record they have through their first 38 games.
  • Following their 5-0 victory over Columbus on New Year’s Eve, Lightning forward, Tyler Johnson, who scored two goals in the game, was asked about the performance of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who just recorded his fifth shutout of the season.  “I truly believe he’s the best goalie in the world right now, ” Johnson said.  “He’s unbelievable.  The saves he makes, it’s crazy.  He’s a guy who works extremely hard, and he has no ceiling.  He’s just going to keep getting better.”  Johnson’s comments, while on the surface hyperbolic, aren’t that far off.  Vasilevskiy leads the NHL in wins (25), goals against average (2.02) and save percentage (.935) and has started 20 games this year in which he has allowed two or fewer goals.  Lightning fans can only hope Johnson is right and that Vasilevskiy keeps getting better.
  • Not only do the Lightning have the NHL’s best record, but they also lead the league in goals per game (3.74), power play goals (37) and power play percentage (25.7)…After 35 games, the 2017-18 Lightning had the best start in franchise history with 54 points…Nikita Kucherov was named the NHL’s Third Star for the month of December after scoring in 12 of the 13 games in December and averaging 1.54 points per game for the month…After getting off to a slow start, Tyler Johnson recorded 18 points in the month of December…Steven Stamkos leads the NHL in power play goals with 12…Brayden Point leads the team in game-winning goals with seven.


  • When forward Ryan Callahan left the game against Arizona on December 14 with an upper body injury that would cause him to miss the rest of the month, most observers shrugged his absence off since he had accounted for only one goal and five assists up to that point in the season.  What those same observers failed to recognize was Callahan’s role in the Lightning’s penalty kill and since his injury the team’s ability to kill penalties has suffered greatly.  Prior to his absence, the Lightning had the eighth best penalty kill in the league.  Since his injury, Tampa Bay has allowed 10 power play goals in 33 opportunities, dropping them 23rd in the league with a 79.1 penalty kill percentage.  Word that Callahan has been approved for contact is good news for the Lightning and their penalty kill team.  His presence in the lineup can’t come soon enough.
  • The Lightning have struggled all season in the face-off circle and last week was no exception.  They lost 31 of 54 face-offs against Montreal, 35 of 62 against Philadelphia and 34 of 60 against Columbus.  That’s a face-off winning percentage of only 43.2%, a number the Lightning must improve upon as they make their run towards a Stanley Cup.
  • The Lightning will play the majority of their games in January away from the friendly confines of Amalie Arena.  Beginning Tuesday night in Toronto, Tampa Bay will play nine of their 12 games this month on the road, facing the Maple Leafs, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia and Winnipeg in two separate extended road trips.  How the Lightning fare during this difficult stretch will go a long way in determining how deep a run they can make in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.


  1. Tyler Johnson–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
  2. Brayden Point–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
  3. Steven Stamkos–4 goals, 4 points


  • Tuesday–at Toronto
  • Thursday–at Montreal
  • Saturday–at Ottawa
  • Sunday–at Detroit



LIGHTNING 6, Islanders 2

Goals:  Point (10), Sustr (2), Gourde 2 (8), Namestnikov (11), Kunitz (4)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (29), 18-4-1

LIGHTNING 5, Avalanche 2

Goals:  Stamkos (12), Kunitz (5), Namestnikov (12), Killorn (3), Point (11)

Saves:  Budaj (28), 2-2-1

LIGHTNING 4, Jets 3 (OT)

Goals:  Gourde (9), Sergachev (7), Kucherov (20), Point (12)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (17), 19-4-1

SEASON:  21-6-2, 44 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • Any time you finish a four-game home stand 4-0-0, you’re doing a lot of things right and the Lightning were no exception after they completed their own four game sweep with a 4-3 overtime win against Winnipeg Saturday night.  During the homestand, Tampa Bay averaged five goals per game and only allowed an average of 2.25 goals per game.  In these four wins, they outshot their opponents 137-108. successfully killed six out of seven penalties and extended their consecutive games streak with a power play goal to nine.  Not a bad formula for winning four straight home games.
  • From a numbers standpoint, the Lightning are leaving no doubt as to why they are currently the best team in the NHL.  They lead the league in goal differential (+36), goals per game (3.8) and power play percentage (28.4%) and tied for the league lead with St. Louis in wins (21) and points (44).  Defensively, they are strong as well, allowing a NHL fifth best goals per game (2.5) and sporting the eighth best penalty kill (82.6%) through the first third of the season.
  • For the first time this season, the Lightning won the majority of their face-offs for the week.  They won 93 of a possible 173 face-offs (53.7%) in their three games last week that included a 33-25 face-off victory against the Islanders and a 35-26 margin over Colorado.  It’s a trend the Lightning need to continue as they embark on a four-game road trip.


  • One way Tampa’s opponents are attempting to slow down their explosive offense is by being more physical.  This strategy was on full display last week when the Islanders, Avalanche and Jets combined to out-hit the Lightning 67-50.  Even though Tampa Bay won all three games last week, it will be interesting to see if more of their opponents will adopt this philosophy and how the Lightning will adjust to a more physical style of play.
  • Despite coming away with a 5-2 victory over Colorado, the game showed that the Lightning need to acquire a better back-up goaltender.  Peter Budaj, who earned the victory against the Avalanche, is the current back-up and his play in five games this season has made it clear that general manager Steve Yzerman needs to make a deal to improve the team’s goaltending roster.
  • If you’re a fan of the Ottawa Senators, the season, so far, has been a major disappointment.  Coming off their Game 7 double-overtime loss to Pittsburgh in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, Ottawa fans expected to see another extended playoff run.  Instead, the Senators are 9-12-7, 19 points behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division and only five points ahead of last place Buffalo.  Now comes word that the ownership and management in Ottawa have asked all their players with modified no-trade clauses, including All-Star defenseman, Eric Karlsson, to list the teams they want or don’t want to be traded to.  It seems a fire sale in Ottawa is in the offing.


  1. Brayden Point–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
  2. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 1 assist ,4 points, 1 game winning goal
  3. Tyler Johnson–5 assists, 5 points


  • Tuesday–at St. Louis
  • Thursday–at Arizona
  • Saturday–at Colorado



Lightning 2, SABRES 0

Goals:  Sergachev (6), Girardi (1)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (34), Shutout (2), 16-3-1

BRUINS 3, Lightning 2

Goals:  Sustr (1), Stamkos (11)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (33), 16-4-1

LIGHTNING 5, Sharks 2

Goals:  Kucherov 2 (19), Johnson 2 (6), Conacher (2)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (25), 17-4-1

SEASON:  18-6-2, 38 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • In their previous five games prior to their matchup against San Jose on Saturday night, Tampa Bay’s vaunted offense had scored only 10 goals.  In the minds of several of the Lightning’s players, it was time to mix things up.  “You’ve got to try new things when things aren’t working,” captain Steven Stamkos said at the team’s Saturday morning skate.  “I think we got a little stagnant in the way we were playing,” added Tyler Johnson.  “So, I think we had to change a little bit.”  Head coach Jon Cooper agreed with Stamkos’ and Johnson’s sentiments as he shuffled his lineup before their game with the Sharks, breaking up his top two lines by placing Johnson with Stamkos and Vlad Namestnikov and moving Nikita Kucherov to the line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat.  Cooper’s changes paid immediate dividends as the Lightning had their best offensive output in six games, a 5-2 victory over San Jose, thanks to both Johnson and Kucherov.  Each of them had two goals a piece, with Johnson scoring the game-winner in a four-goal third period.  The entire Tampa Bay offense was in full flight with their revamped lineup as they had 43 shots on goal, 71 shot attempts and four five-on-five goals.  With  three games left on the current home stand, time will tell if the Lightning can sustain this offensive surge with their repackaged lines.
  • While their even-strength offense has struggled over the past couple of weeks, the Lightning’s power play, meanwhile, continues to consistently produce.  Tampa Bay has scored a power play goal in six consecutive games and in 11 of their last 12 games played.  Their 11 power play goals in their last 41 chances has improved their season success rate with the man advantage to 27.8%, the league’s best through Sunday’s games.
  • When Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman traded budding superstar Jonathan Drouin during the off-season, there were a lot of questions about what Yzerman was thinking.  As the season approached, Yzerman contended the deal was good for the franchise and that the centerpiece of the trade for the Lightning, 19-year old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, would make everyone forget about Drouin absence.  So far, Yzerman is proving that he knew what he was doing.  In 26 games this season, Sergachev, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, became the youngest Lightning defenseman to record a multi-goal game and of this six total goals, four have been game-winners.  He is tied for sixth on the team in points scored (18) and has a +7 plus/minus rating despite only averaging 14:30 of ice time per game.  Yes, Sergachev makes mistakes just like any other NHL rookie on nightly basis.  But the upside for the young Russian far outweighs any miscues he commits and is a reminder not to question Yzerman’s decisions when it comes to building the Lightning roster.


  • With the exception of Saturday’s game against San Jose, opponents of the Lightning, in this case, Buffalo and Boston specifically, continue to effectively slow down Tampa Bay’s offense.  The Sabres and the Bruins went to great lengths to take away the middle of the ice from the Lightning, and for the most part, were successful.  Buffalo held Tampa Bay to two goals on 26 shots while Boston allowed just two goals on only 21 shots the following night.  If not for the goaltending of Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning could have easily lost both games.  Their lineup changes on Saturday night notwithstanding, Cooper and the Lightning need to adjust their game to compensate for the strategies their recent opponents have employed.
  • Being dominated in the face-off circle has become a nightly occurrence for the Lightning and the numbers last week and for the season tell a very ugly story.  Last week, Tampa Bay won only 93 of 205 face-offs (46.4%) and for the season they rank 28th in the NHL out of 31 teams with a very sub-par 46.7 face-offs won percentage.
  • It’s the holiday season and in the NHL that means the firing of the first coach is right around the corner.  The leading candidates for this dubious distinction are Edmonton’s Todd McLellan and Philadelphia’s Dave Harkstol.  The Oilers were picked by many to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Through their first 27 games, however, the Oilers are anything but a Cup contender.  They are 11-14-2 and six points behind of the second Wild Card playoff spot.  The Flyers are 1-4-5 in their last 10 games and in last place in the Metropolitan Division, eight points behind for the Eastern Conference’s second Wild Card playoff berth.


  1. Tyler Johnson, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 1 game winning goal
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, 2 wins, 1 shutout, 92 saves, .948 save percentage
  3. Nikita Kucherov, 2 goals, 2 points


  • Tuesday–vs. New York Islanders
  • Thursday–vs. Colorado
  • Saturday–vs. Winnipeg


In this week’s edition of NFL random thoughts, Volume 12, we take look at what teams and players are letting the rest of the NFL know…

  • Philadelphia is letting the rest of the NFL know that they are for real.  The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games.
  • Dallas is letting the rest of the NFL know that without Ezekiel Elliott they stink.  For the first time in Cowboys history, they’ve scored less than 10 points in three straight games.
  • The management teams in Denver, Oakland and Los Angeles are letting the rest of the NFL know that when it comes to hiring coaches, recycling is the only option.  As NFL Network host Rich Eisen recently tweeted, “Former Chargers HC fired as Broncos OC and replaced by former Raiders OC just as Broncos head to Raiders who just fired DC and replaced him with former Chargers DC.  You follow?
  • Cincinnati’s rookie defensive end Carl Lawson is letting the rest of the NFL know that when playing the Bengals you’re guaranteed a free five yards at least once a game because he’ll jump offsides.
  • Andy Reid is letting the rest of the NFL know that he doesn’t trust his quarterback, Alex Smith, to throw the ball down the field anymore.  When the Chiefs won their first five games this season, Smith averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt.  In the following six games, Kansas City is 1-5 and Smith’s average yards per pass attempt has dropped to 6.8
  • After benching Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith, New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is letting the rest of the NFL know that he’ll be looking for employment once the season is over.
  • The New England Patriots are letting the rest of the NFL know that some things never change.  Their victory over Miami on Sunday guaranteed the Patriots their 17tth consecutive winning season.
  • Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib are letting the rest of the NFL know that they don’t have clue when it comes to the current public perception of the league and its players behavior.
  • Since Deshaun Watson went down with a season-ending injury, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has let the rest of the NFL know that he is over-rated and blowhard who conjures up memories of Jeff Fisher roaming the sidelines.
  • One look at the play calling at the end of their 27-24 last-second loss to Arizona and it appears Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone is letting the rest of the NFL know that he is unaware that Blake Bortles is his quarterback.
  • The Bengals organization is letting the rest of the NFL know that the disappointing season of rookie first-round draft choice John Ross is the result of either poor scouting or poor coaching and development.  Regardless, it’s the only explanation for why a healthy Ross is declared inactive every week.


Here are a few random thoughts regarding the debacle that was the hiring and then the not hiring of Greg Schiano as Tennessee’s next head football coach…

  • Let’s call this episode for what it truly was.  This was a case of a delusional, mob-mentality fan base who threw a hissy fit when athletic director John Currie didn’t hire the man they wanted for the job, a coach they had no chance of hiring, Jon Gruden.  They disguised their anger by claiming they opposed the hiring of Schiano because of his association with the Penn State football program as an assistant coach during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  Despite there being no proof he knew of any of Sandusky’s improprieties, Schiano was labeled complicit, and therefore, unfit to be hired, by Tennessee supporters who in all honesty didn’t think Schiano was a good enough coach.  This coming from a school that is 62-64 in the last 10 years and is at best, the seventh best school in the SEC.  In the real world, that’s guilt by association, an unreasonable excuse for stopping an employer’s hiring process.  In the fantasy world of Knoxville, Tennessee, it’s enough to get your way and to bring the school to its gutless knees.  Here’s hoping that the employment lawyers, who are currently circling like planes trying to land at Hartsfield Airport, bleed the university dry.
  • The next casualty in this whole affair is Tennessee athletic director John Currie.  His failure to squash the rumors that Gruden was even considering the job and his apparent pliable backbone when it came to confronting the social media lynch mob that wanted Schiano out before he started, makes Currie’s position with the school untenable.  Currie sent a message to every potential coach, regardless of the sport, that the decision makers at the school are not him or the administration but state legislators and Facebook groups and Twitter followers instead.
  • Clay Travis should be ashamed of himself and exposed for being a poisonous and hypocritical snake.  Travis, the current host of Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage” and former analyst on Fox Sports 1’s college football pre-game show and their weekly SEC football show, instigated this entire mess when after learning that Tennessee was set to hire Schiano tweeted, incorrectly, that Schiano knew about child rape at Penn State and kept it quiet, adding that his hiring as the Vols next head coach was disgraceful.  The tweet incited the ensuing social media mob that led to the school’s reversal and was punctuated by a profanity laced blog post by Travis with the headline, “Tennessee Poised to Hire Loser Coach Named in Child Sex Investigation.”  His post included Currie’s cell phone number so his readers could text their displeasure over the hiring and the oxymoronic line, “After all, I am the King of Tolerance and I sit on the Iron Throne of Inclusion.”  Mind you, this is the same Clay Travis who earlier on Periscope encourage Tennessee to hire Bobby Petrino as their next head football coach, the same Bobby Petrino, who as the head coach at Arkansas, lied to his boss about his adultery to a student-athlete development coordinator for the football program.  It seems Travis believes being unfaithful to your wife, intentionally misleading your athletic director and giving preferential treatment in hiring your lover to the football staff are better qualities for Tennessee next football coach then a hiring a proven winner at the FBS level who according to a Board of Trustee member at Penn State, was not involved in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  This whole episode proves that Travis’ opinions and his unsubstantiated statements are toxic to college football and that for the good of the sport, he needs to shut the hell up.
  • Fox college football analyst, Joe Klatt, perfectly summed up this dumpster fire when sent this tweet on Monday:  “Tennessee is now having to focus on coaches with ‘Tennessee ties’ because no one else will touch that job with a ten foot pole.  You were led by emotional hypocrites with a severe lack of football knowledge that incited an internet mob…you made your bed, now go to sleep!”

Now, here are some random thoughts about the play on the field for Week 13 in college football…

  • As of Sunday afternoon, it has been 421 days and counting since Michigan has defeated a team with a winning record.  The streak stayed intact after the Wolverines lost to Ohio State on Saturday, the third straight year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has lost to the Buckeyes in his first three seasons at Ann Arbor.  The only other Michigan coach to lose his first three games to Ohio State was Rich Rodriquez.
  • Even though their loss to Auburn cost them a chance at a SEC championship, Alabama does have two scenarios in which they can still qualify for the college football playoffs.  An Ohio State victory over Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game increases Alabama’s chances, forcing the selection committee to choose between a one loss Crimson Tide and a two loss Buckeye team for one, if not the final, spot in the playoffs.  The second scenario, however, contains the best case for Nick Saban’s squad to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.  If TCU defeats Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, the selection committee will have to choose between two teams who failed to win their conference, a one loss Alabama and a two loss Oklahoma.  With their only loss coming to a strong Auburn team, the edge in that scenario favors the Crimson Tide.
  • Central Florida’s 49-42 victory over South Florida made it possible for 51 players on UCF’s roster to experience both a winless and an undefeated season in their college career.
  • Here’s installment two of the 2017 College Football Head Coaching Speculation Carousel:
    • Tennessee–Jeff Brohm, head coach Purdue
    • Texas A&M–Jimbo Fisher, head coach Florida State
    • Arizona State–Kevin Sumlin, former head coach Texas A&M
    • Arkansas–Gus Malzahn, head coach Auburn
    • Nebraska–Scott Frost, head coach, Central Florida










7.Ohio State



9.Central Florida





Here is a look at the good and the bad of the week that was for the Tampa Bay Lightning…


LIGHTNING 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

GOALS:  Palat (6), Kunitz (4), Point (9)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (29), 15-2-1

CAPITALS 3, Lightning 1

GOALS:  Namestnikov (10)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (35), 15-3-1

PENGUINS 5, Lightning 2

GOALS:  Palat (7), Conacher (1)

SAVES:  Budaj (29), 1-2-1

SEASON:  16-5-2. 34 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division


  • Defeating the three-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks is always a good thing.  Coming back from a two goal deficit like the Lightning did on Wednesday in their 3-2 overtime victory makes it even sweeter.  The win was highlighted by Braydon Point’s game-winning goal and a beautiful short-handed goal by Ondrej Palat made possible by two great assists from Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan.
  • Due to the NHL’s necessity of having to use an unbalanced schedule to accommodate the inaugural season of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Lightning have played 18 of their first 23 games against the Metropolitan Division and the Western Conference.  They’ve only played five games against team in their own division, the Atlantic, and those have been against two teams, Florida (3) and Detroit (2).  Inter-division games are crucial to either increasing your lead or to make up ground as they are essentially four point games.  With Tampa Bay playing as well as they have in the first quarter of the season, the more games they can play now against their division rivals, the better chance they have at solidifying their playoff spot and a possible number one seed in the Eastern Conference and home ice throughout the playoffs.
  • Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy continues to justify general manager Steve Yzerman’s decision to trade Ben Bishop last season to make room for the young Russian to become the Lightning’s number one goaltender.  Vasilevskiy is an early front-runner for this year’s Vezina Trophy with his league-leading 15 wins against only three regulation and one overtime loss.  His 2.31 goals against average is the NHL’s sixth best and his .930 save percentage is tied for fourth.  It is clear the Lightning have hitched their goaltending wagon to Vasilevskiy and so far, the results speak for themselves.


  • Whether or not the Lightning were suffering from tryptophan in their game against Washington on the day after Thanksgiving is anybody’s guess but it would at least help explain their performance against the Capitals.  Even though the final result was a 3-1 loss, Tampa Bay was so thoroughly outplayed on both ends of the ice that the final score should have been worse.  The Capitals outshot the Lightning 38-26, outhit them 26-16 and won 40 out of 58 face-offs.  Simply put, it was a total domination.
  • On the other hand, the Lightning’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh the night after their lackluster performance against Washington was more competitive than the final score indicated.  The three goal margin of victory was due in large part to three separate 5-on-3 power plays the Penguins enjoyed on some very questionable penalty calls.  Pittsburgh scored on all three of those chances, essentially ending any hope that the Lightning had of preventing their first two-game losing streak of the season.
  • The Lightning’s current two-game losing streak is probably what coach Jon Cooper called a “speed bump” after Saturday’s game.  That being said, the lack of offense this past week, six goals in three games, is concerning.  Tampa Bay will need to adjust to the game plans implemented by Washington and Pittsburgh, particularly their strategy of emphasizing blocked shots.  The Capitals blocked 25 shots on Friday while the Penguins blocked 2) Lightning shots the following night.


  • The Lightning essentially traded forwards with Ottawa last week using the waiver wire.  Tampa Bay placed right-winger Gabriel Dumont on waivers and was immediately claimed by Ottawa.  Meanwhile, the Senators placed forward Chris DiDomenico on waivers and he was immediately claimed by the Lightning.  In 64 NHL games with Montreal and Tampa Bay, Dumont had three goals and four assists while DiDomenico has scored three goals and three assists in 15 NHL games with Ottawa.


  1. Ondrej Palat–2 goals, 2 points, 1 short-handed goal
  2. Braydon Point–1 goal, 1 point, 1 game-winning goal
  3. Victor Hedman–2 assists, 2 points


  • Tuesday–at Buffalo
  • Wednesday–at Boston
  • Saturday–vs. San Jose