Here is a look at the good and the bad of the week that was for the Tampa Bay Lightning…
GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
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.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Ondrej Palat–2 goals, 2 points, 1 short-handed goal
- Braydon Point–1 goal, 1 point, 1 game-winning goal
- Victor Hedman–2 assists, 2 points
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Tuesday–at Buffalo
- Wednesday–at Boston
- Saturday–vs. San Jose