LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 16

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Golden Knights 4, LIGHTNING 1

Goals:  Palat (8)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (26), 27-8-2

WILD 5, Lightning 2

Goals:  Point 2 (19)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (30), 27-9-2

SEASON:  31-12-3, 65 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • The lone bright spot for the Lightning in this current three game losing streak has been the play of the team’s second line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson.  These three forwards have accounted for 75 percent of the points the Lightning have scored in the last three games, with Point leading the way with three goals scored.  A second-year center with breakaway speed and a solid two-way player, Point has already scored more goals (19) and points (44) through 46 games this year than he did in his entire rookie season and leads the NHL in game-winning goals with seven.
  • There’s no doubt that losing defenseman Victor Hedman for three to six weeks due to a knee injury has played a large part in why the Lightning are experiencing their longest losing streak of the season.  If there is any silver lining regarding Hedman’s injury it’s that his absence coincides with the team’s bye week and the NHL All-Star Game, meaning the amount of games Hedman could potentially miss is significantly lower than normal.  It also provides Tampa Bay the opportunity to give valuable ice time  in critical situations which would otherwise be handed by Hedman to young defensemen like Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek.  Those additional minutes these three play in the regular season should pay dividends for the Lightning once the playoffs begin.
  • Even though the Lightning’s power play, a lackluster 8 for its last 50, is now the third best in the NHL after leading the league earlier in the year, there were signs this week that it is returning to its early season explosiveness.  Thanks to the insertion of Ondrej Palat in place of Alex Killorn on the primary line, Tampa Bay has scored power play goal in their last two games.  Revitalizing the power play is one sure way for the Lightning to get back to their previous winning ways.

THE BAD

  • When the NHL announced the goaltenders for the Eastern Conference in this year’s All-Star Game, no one was surprised that one of those goaltenders was Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.  Lately, however, Vasilevskiy hasn’t played anything like an All-Star goalie.  In his last five games, he is 1-4-0, allowing 23 goals and no less than four goals in any of those five contests.  The last time Vasilevskiy allowed fewer than four goals in a game was in a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal on January 4.  You have to wonder if Vasilevskiy’s recent struggles has anything to do with the fact that he has started all but eight of the Lightning’s 46 games this season.
  • Following Saturday’s loss at Minnesota, head coach Jon Cooper told the assembled media, in the understatement of the year, “We’re just out of sync right now.”  If Cooper is honest with himself, he’ll take some responsibility for the Lightning’s recent inability to play in concert with one another.  His constant juggling and changing of lines at the moment things look like they are going awry, plays a large role in what Cooper described as the team’s frustration since coming back from the bye week.  Later in his press conference Saturday night, Cooper said his team needs to “get back to what got us here.”  That starts with the head coach returning to and staying with the lineups which produced such consistent success earlier in the year.
  • Just before Christmas, it seemed as if the Lightning would easily win the Atlantic Division.  Fast forward one month, and a Tampa Bay division title doesn’t appear so certain.  While the Lightning have had their ups and downs over the last 30 days, the Boston Bruins have gone 12-0-4 since December 14, closing the Lightning’s lead in the division to three points heading into this week.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Brayden Point–3 goals, 3 points
  2. Tyler Johnson—3 assists, 3 points
  3. Steven Stamkos—2 assists, 2 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

  • Monday–at Chicago
  • Tuesday–at Nashville
  • Thursday–at Philadelphia

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