Here’s a quick trip of the good and the bad for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL for the week ending November 12…
GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
Lightning 5, SHARKS 1
GOALS: Dotchin (1), Kucherov (15), Koekkoek (3), Namestnikov 2 (7)
SAVES: Vasilevskiy (32), 12-1-1
Lightning 5, KINGS 2
GOALS: Kucherov (16), Killorn (2), Hedman (2), Stamkos (8), Namestnikov (8)
SAVES: Budaj (22), 1-1-1
Lightning 2, DUCKS 1
GOALS: Namestnikov (9), Brown (1)
SAVES: Vasilevskiy (28), 13-1-1
SEASON: 14-2-2, 30 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division
- When the Lightning embarked on a three-game California road trip this past week, the hope was they could return home with three points. On the other hand, coming back to Tampa with four points would have exceeded all expectations. But to finish the road trip with six points and a 3-0-0 record, as the Lightning did after their 2-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday, not only is the road trip an unqualified success but it establishes Tampa Bay as the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning played their best stretch of two-way hockey of the year against perennial Cup contenders San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim, averaging four goals scored and 1.3 goals allowed per game during their three game trip. The California swing made it abundantly clear that the Lightning’s toughest opponent this season will be themselves.
- The spotlight on the Lightning’s explosive offense this season has focused on Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and rightfully so. But the third member of their line, Vlad Namestnikov, deserves some recognition for his exceptional play this year as well. Namestnikov has scored nine goals and added 10 assists for a total of 19 points through the Lightning’s first 18 games. Those stats include four power play goals, seven power play points, one game-winning goal and a +8 rating. Namestnikov has been overshadowed by Stamkos and Kucherov so far this season but there’s no question that his play is one of the many reasons why the Lightning have the league’s best record.
- Tampa Bay’s penalty kill continues to excel, going a perfect 6-6 for the week. It is the second consecutive week that the Lightning have been perfect on the penalty kill as they have not allowed a power play goal in their opponent’s last 15 opportunities.
- Week Six verse, same as the first. A little bit louder and a little bit worse. The Lightning once again lost the battle in the face-off circle last week, losing 105 of 187 (56.1%) face-offs in their three games in California.
- In the past two weeks which has encompassed six games, the Lightning have averaged over 12 giveaways per game. Last week, they had 43 giveaways in three games, including 25 against San Jose. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay isn’t doing the same to their opponents, only averaging a little over eight takeaways per game, including only four against Los Angeles and five against Anaheim last week. As the season wears on, it is one area of their game that the Lightning need to clean up.
- As the 2017-18 season reaches the quarter pole, it seems the decade long dominance of the Chicago Blackhawks may be approaching its end. The Blackhawks entered this year fresh off being swept 4-0 by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs last year, even though they had the Western Conference’s best regular season record. Through their first 19 games this year, it seems Chicago can’t shake the effects of last season’s playoff whitewash. They are 9-8-2 and are currently out of the playoffs. Their performance is even more puzzling when you consider they have suffered no major injuries to any of their star players such as Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith. Granted, it is a small sample size but as the season closes in on the Thanksgiving holiday, the Blackhawks need to ramp up their game if they hope to have a chance at winning their fourth Stanley Cup since 2010.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Vladislav Namestnikov–4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points
- Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points
- Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 60 saves, .968 save percentage
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Saturday–vs. New York Islanders