GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)
JETS 3 Lightning 1
Goals: Peca (1)
Saves: Domingue (34), 2-1-0
Lightning 7 FLAMES 4
Goals: Coburn (1), Killorn 2 (7), Peca (2), Conacher 2 (5), Stamkos (19)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (42), 30-9-2
Lightning 4 CANUCKS 2
Goals: Kunitz (8), Hedman (7), Gourde (18), Conacher (6)
Saves: Vasilevskiy (31), 31-9-2
SEASON: 36-12-3, 75 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division
- Following the injury to forward Ondrej Palat and the release of forward J.T. Brown, the Lightning recalled center Matthew Peca from their AHL team in Syracuse and the results, so far, have been outstanding. In the six games he has played this season, Peca, a seventh-round pick and 201st overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has scored two goals, recorded three assists and has a plus/minus rating of plus-9 while centering the line with Alex Killorn and Vlad Namestnikov as his linemates. More importantly, Peca has been dominant in the face-off circle, an area where the Lightning have struggled all season, winning 61.63 percent of his face-offs. Unlike last year when he was re-assigned to Syracuse, look for Peca to stay with Tampa when Palat returns from his lower-body injury.
- Over the course of the regular season and even during the playoffs, an NHL team will need their third and fourth lines, along with their defensemen, to contribute to the offense when their primary scorers are either in a slump or being closely defended. The Lightning had that kind of offensive support this past week as their third and fourth lines plus their defensemen, accounted for 64.5 percent of the team’s points scored in their last three games (20 of 31 points). This kind of unexpected scoring depth is essential for any team to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a good sign as Tampa Bay works towards home ice advantage throughout the post-season.
- At last week’s All-Star weekend in Tampa, the Pro Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) released their mid-season awards and to say the Lightning were well represented is a large understatement. The writers named Nikita Kucherov as the NHL’s MVP (Hart Trophy), Victor Hedman as the league’s best all-around defenseman (Norris Trophy), Andrei Vasilevskiy as the best goaltender (Vezina Trophy) and Steven Stamkos as the Comeback Player of the Year. Additionally, head coach Jon Cooper and general manager Steve Yzerman finished second in the PHWA’s voting for coach of the year (Jack Adams Award) and GM of the year respectively. Given the Lightning’s record at the halfway point of the season, the PHWA’s results should come as no surprise.
- Given how badly the Lightning were outshot in their three games this week, it’s surprising they finished the week 2-1-0. Tampa Bay was outshot in all three games (24-37 vs. Winnipeg, 31-46 vs. Calgary and 28-33 vs. Vancouver) by a total of 33 shots (83-116) despite outscoring their opponents 12-9. The shot disparity was especially wide in the third period of each game (27-48 in three games combined) with the Lightning giving up Grade A chances when games were still in the balance. Thanks to some excellent goaltending by Louis Domingue and Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay survived the onslaught of shots and won two out of three. It’s a trend, however, the Lightning can’t allow to continue if they want to earn home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and capture the franchise’s second Stanley Cup.
- In the last two games, the Lightning have scratched defenseman Dan Girardi and forwards Cedric Paquette and Michael Bournival. Girardi’s absence is explainable due to the injury he incurred while blocking a shot against Winnipeg. The exclusion of Paquette and Bournival, however, isn’t so obvious. With the trade deadline looming, scratching Paquette and Bournival from the lineup may indicate that one or both of them are part of a trade general manager Steve Yzerman is considering. If Paquette and Bournival continue to be scratched, look for a trade involving either or both of them in the very near future.
- With one game left on the Lightning’s interminable eight game road trip, they are 5-2-0 with a chance to finish it with six wins in eight games. What makes this successful road trip so surprising is that Nikita Kucherov has not scored a goal in any of the first seven games. In fact, Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer, hasn’t scored a goal since January 7 when he netted his 27th goal of the season against Detroit. Getting Kucherov back in the scoring groove is imperative as the Lightning head down the stretch of the regular season.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
- Cory Conacher–3 goals, 3 points, 1 game-winning goal
- Matthew Peca–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
- Alex Killorn–2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Monday–at Edmonton
- Thursday–vs. Vancouver
- Saturday–vs. Los Angeles