Here is the good and the bad from last week for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL..
GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
Lightning 8, PANTHERS 5
Goals: Point (6), Kucherov (13), Stamkos 2 (6), Palat (4), Gourde (2), Namestnikov (5), Stralman (2)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (18), 10-1-0
Rangers 2, LIGHTNING 1 (OT)
Goals: Gourde (3)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (33), 10-1-1
LIGHTNING 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SO)
Goals: Point (7), Kucherov (14), Stamkos (7), Gourde (4)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (30), 11-1-1
SEASON: 11-2-2, 24 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division
- The Lightning’s three games last week proved that Victor Hedman is one of the premier defensemen in the NHL, and barring an injury, a perennial contender for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. In addition to his five assists last week, Hedman, the second overall selection by the Lightning in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, averaged 26:33 of ice time per game, solidifying his status as coach Jon Cooper’s most dependable two-way player. Hedman’s performance over the last three games underscored the fact that he is an elite, all-around defenseman who possesses high-level shutdown skills and great passing abilities while playing a large amount of minutes every night.
- One of the more surprising early season highlights for the Lightning has been the play of forward Yanni Gourde. Coming into the year Gourde has scored six goals and earned three assists in 22 career NHL games. Through 15 games this season, Gourde already has four goals and five assists and has teamed with Braydon Point and Ondrej Palat to form the second highest scoring line on the team. Gourde is filling the void quite nicely left by Jonathan Drouin’s departure during the off-season thanks to his hard-nosed play and his good hockey sense.
- The Lightning special teams shined again last week with the penalty kill stepping up to make a significant contribution to the team’s 2-0-1 record for the week. The power play scored three times on 10 chances, increasing their season percentage to 28.8%, tied for the second best power play in the NHL. The penalty kill, led by the stellar play of Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan, went a perfect nine for nine last week, improving their penalty kill percentage for the season to a league 11th best.
- Two weeks ago it was an issue. Last week it was a problem. Now that the Lightning have lost the majority of their face-offs for the fifth consecutive week, it is now bordering on becoming an epidemic. Last week, Tampa Bay lost 103 of 198 face-offs (52.0%) and if this trend continues the Lightning’s good fortune on the power play, the penalty kill and in one-goal games will come to an unhappy end.
- Another potential crisis on the horizon is the Lightning’s recent habit of blowing two goal leads. Last week it happened twice when Tampa Bay blew a 3-1 lead to Florida on Monday and then a 4-2 third period lead to Columbus on Saturday. Luckily, the Lightning won both games but Stanley Cup contenders can’t expect those results when they carelessly allow their opponents to come back from two goals down. They need to either deliver a knock-out punch or at the very least keep their opponent at bay when they jump out to a multiple goal lead.
- Last year after falling short in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against Anaheim, the Edmonton Oilers were the darlings of the NHL. Many experts predicted the Oilers and their young core led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, would take the next step and represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Through 13 games in 2017, however, the Oilers are 4-8-1 with a -13 goal differential and in next to last place in the Pacific Division. Unless they turn around their season soon, the only step the Oilers will take this season is a backwards one, right out of Stanley Cup contention.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points
- Victor Hedman–5 assists, 5 points
- Steven Stamkos–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, game-winning shoot-out goal
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Wednesday–at San Jose
Thursday–at Los Angeles