Here’s the good and the bad of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s week and random thoughts about the NHL for the week ending October 7, 2016…
GAME SUMMARIES (Home team in CAPS)
LIGHTNING 5, Panthers 4–Goals: Palat 2 (2), Point (1), Namestnikov (1), Kucherov (1). Saves: Vasilevskiy 33, 1-0-0
PANTHERS 5, Lightning 4–Goals Kucherov (2), Namestnikov (2), Point (2), Johnson (1). Saves: Vasilevskiy 43, 1-1-0
SEASON: 1-1-0, 2 POINTS
- Both Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan appear to have fully recovered from their season-ending injuries of a year ago. Stamkos skated fast, hard and effortlessly, making several plays that would give no indication he tore his lateral meniscus 11 months earlier. Meanwhile, Callahan showed no ill-effects of the right hip injury that has sidelined him since last January. He was his usual blue-collar self on the ice this past weekend, throwing his body around and relentlessly fore checking at both ends of the ice. Both performances were a welcomed sight.
- It’s early, but if the first two games are any indication, then Brayden Point won’t suffer from any sophomore jinx. Point scored two goals and had three assists in the Lightning’s first two games and playing alongside wingers Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde, centered the most consistent line of the weekend.
- Ever since the Lightning dealt goalie Ben Bishop at last year’s trading deadline, the prevailing question has been whether or not Andrei Vasilevskiy could handle the pressure of being the team’s number one goalie. Based upon his performance at the end of last year and the first two games this season, the answer is a resounding yes. His 76 saves this past weekend kept the Lightning from being blown out of both games and the main reason why they were able to salvage two points against the Panthers.
- In all honesty, the Lightning should have lost both games to the Panthers by a large margin. They were outshot 84-55 in the two games combined because the Lightning lost nearly every battle along the boards and around the net and were sloppy with the puck. Consequently, the puck stayed in Tampa’s defensive zone the majority of both games. The only time Tampa flipped the ice was in the last nine minutes of Saturday’s game when they were down two goals and desperate to send the game into overtime. With the Capitals, Penguins and Blues on this week’s schedule, the Lightning need to play with that type of desperation if they hope to earn some critical early season points and to set the foundation for a successful season.
- It only took five periods of play before head coach Jon Cooper started juggling his lines in order to generate some spark or change the momentum of the game. It’s clearly Cooper’s M.O. but it comes at a price. The Lightning are seemingly always searching for consistency or a go-to-line to snap them out of a funk. Cooper’s constant shuffling of lines simply doesn’t allow for that to happen.
- The NHL’s new emphasis on slashing this season is doing more harm than good. The league hoped the new interpretation would open up play, create more scoring chances and more power play opportunities. Instead, the increased number of penalties has become annoying and disrupted the rhythm of the game.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Monday: vs. Washington Captials
Thursday: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Saturday: vs. St. Louis Blues