GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
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.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Tyler Johnson–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
- Brayden Point–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
- Steven Stamkos–4 goals, 4 points
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Tuesday–at Toronto
- Thursday–at Montreal
- Saturday–at Ottawa
- Sunday–at Detroit