THE LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 10

GAME SUMMARIES–(Home Team in CAPS)

LIGHTNING 6, Islanders 2

Goals:  Point (10), Sustr (2), Gourde 2 (8), Namestnikov (11), Kunitz (4)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (29), 18-4-1

LIGHTNING 5, Avalanche 2

Goals:  Stamkos (12), Kunitz (5), Namestnikov (12), Killorn (3), Point (11)

Saves:  Budaj (28), 2-2-1

LIGHTNING 4, Jets 3 (OT)

Goals:  Gourde (9), Sergachev (7), Kucherov (20), Point (12)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (17), 19-4-1

SEASON:  21-6-2, 44 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • Any time you finish a four-game home stand 4-0-0, you’re doing a lot of things right and the Lightning were no exception after they completed their own four game sweep with a 4-3 overtime win against Winnipeg Saturday night.  During the homestand, Tampa Bay averaged five goals per game and only allowed an average of 2.25 goals per game.  In these four wins, they outshot their opponents 137-108. successfully killed six out of seven penalties and extended their consecutive games streak with a power play goal to nine.  Not a bad formula for winning four straight home games.
  • From a numbers standpoint, the Lightning are leaving no doubt as to why they are currently the best team in the NHL.  They lead the league in goal differential (+36), goals per game (3.8) and power play percentage (28.4%) and tied for the league lead with St. Louis in wins (21) and points (44).  Defensively, they are strong as well, allowing a NHL fifth best goals per game (2.5) and sporting the eighth best penalty kill (82.6%) through the first third of the season.
  • For the first time this season, the Lightning won the majority of their face-offs for the week.  They won 93 of a possible 173 face-offs (53.7%) in their three games last week that included a 33-25 face-off victory against the Islanders and a 35-26 margin over Colorado.  It’s a trend the Lightning need to continue as they embark on a four-game road trip.

THE BAD

  • One way Tampa’s opponents are attempting to slow down their explosive offense is by being more physical.  This strategy was on full display last week when the Islanders, Avalanche and Jets combined to out-hit the Lightning 67-50.  Even though Tampa Bay won all three games last week, it will be interesting to see if more of their opponents will adopt this philosophy and how the Lightning will adjust to a more physical style of play.
  • Despite coming away with a 5-2 victory over Colorado, the game showed that the Lightning need to acquire a better back-up goaltender.  Peter Budaj, who earned the victory against the Avalanche, is the current back-up and his play in five games this season has made it clear that general manager Steve Yzerman needs to make a deal to improve the team’s goaltending roster.
  • If you’re a fan of the Ottawa Senators, the season, so far, has been a major disappointment.  Coming off their Game 7 double-overtime loss to Pittsburgh in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, Ottawa fans expected to see another extended playoff run.  Instead, the Senators are 9-12-7, 19 points behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division and only five points ahead of last place Buffalo.  Now comes word that the ownership and management in Ottawa have asked all their players with modified no-trade clauses, including All-Star defenseman, Eric Karlsson, to list the teams they want or don’t want to be traded to.  It seems a fire sale in Ottawa is in the offing.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Brayden Point–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, 1 game winning goal
  2. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 1 assist ,4 points, 1 game winning goal
  3. Tyler Johnson–5 assists, 5 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

  • Tuesday–at St. Louis
  • Thursday–at Arizona
  • Saturday–at Colorado

THE LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 9

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 2, SABRES 0

Goals:  Sergachev (6), Girardi (1)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (34), Shutout (2), 16-3-1

BRUINS 3, Lightning 2

Goals:  Sustr (1), Stamkos (11)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (33), 16-4-1

LIGHTNING 5, Sharks 2

Goals:  Kucherov 2 (19), Johnson 2 (6), Conacher (2)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (25), 17-4-1

SEASON:  18-6-2, 38 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • In their previous five games prior to their matchup against San Jose on Saturday night, Tampa Bay’s vaunted offense had scored only 10 goals.  In the minds of several of the Lightning’s players, it was time to mix things up.  “You’ve got to try new things when things aren’t working,” captain Steven Stamkos said at the team’s Saturday morning skate.  “I think we got a little stagnant in the way we were playing,” added Tyler Johnson.  “So, I think we had to change a little bit.”  Head coach Jon Cooper agreed with Stamkos’ and Johnson’s sentiments as he shuffled his lineup before their game with the Sharks, breaking up his top two lines by placing Johnson with Stamkos and Vlad Namestnikov and moving Nikita Kucherov to the line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat.  Cooper’s changes paid immediate dividends as the Lightning had their best offensive output in six games, a 5-2 victory over San Jose, thanks to both Johnson and Kucherov.  Each of them had two goals a piece, with Johnson scoring the game-winner in a four-goal third period.  The entire Tampa Bay offense was in full flight with their revamped lineup as they had 43 shots on goal, 71 shot attempts and four five-on-five goals.  With  three games left on the current home stand, time will tell if the Lightning can sustain this offensive surge with their repackaged lines.
  • While their even-strength offense has struggled over the past couple of weeks, the Lightning’s power play, meanwhile, continues to consistently produce.  Tampa Bay has scored a power play goal in six consecutive games and in 11 of their last 12 games played.  Their 11 power play goals in their last 41 chances has improved their season success rate with the man advantage to 27.8%, the league’s best through Sunday’s games.
  • When Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman traded budding superstar Jonathan Drouin during the off-season, there were a lot of questions about what Yzerman was thinking.  As the season approached, Yzerman contended the deal was good for the franchise and that the centerpiece of the trade for the Lightning, 19-year old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, would make everyone forget about Drouin absence.  So far, Yzerman is proving that he knew what he was doing.  In 26 games this season, Sergachev, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, became the youngest Lightning defenseman to record a multi-goal game and of this six total goals, four have been game-winners.  He is tied for sixth on the team in points scored (18) and has a +7 plus/minus rating despite only averaging 14:30 of ice time per game.  Yes, Sergachev makes mistakes just like any other NHL rookie on nightly basis.  But the upside for the young Russian far outweighs any miscues he commits and is a reminder not to question Yzerman’s decisions when it comes to building the Lightning roster.

THE BAD

  • With the exception of Saturday’s game against San Jose, opponents of the Lightning, in this case, Buffalo and Boston specifically, continue to effectively slow down Tampa Bay’s offense.  The Sabres and the Bruins went to great lengths to take away the middle of the ice from the Lightning, and for the most part, were successful.  Buffalo held Tampa Bay to two goals on 26 shots while Boston allowed just two goals on only 21 shots the following night.  If not for the goaltending of Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning could have easily lost both games.  Their lineup changes on Saturday night notwithstanding, Cooper and the Lightning need to adjust their game to compensate for the strategies their recent opponents have employed.
  • Being dominated in the face-off circle has become a nightly occurrence for the Lightning and the numbers last week and for the season tell a very ugly story.  Last week, Tampa Bay won only 93 of 205 face-offs (46.4%) and for the season they rank 28th in the NHL out of 31 teams with a very sub-par 46.7 face-offs won percentage.
  • It’s the holiday season and in the NHL that means the firing of the first coach is right around the corner.  The leading candidates for this dubious distinction are Edmonton’s Todd McLellan and Philadelphia’s Dave Harkstol.  The Oilers were picked by many to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Through their first 27 games, however, the Oilers are anything but a Cup contender.  They are 11-14-2 and six points behind of the second Wild Card playoff spot.  The Flyers are 1-4-5 in their last 10 games and in last place in the Metropolitan Division, eight points behind for the Eastern Conference’s second Wild Card playoff berth.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Tyler Johnson, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 1 game winning goal
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, 2 wins, 1 shutout, 92 saves, .948 save percentage
  3. Nikita Kucherov, 2 goals, 2 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

  • Tuesday–vs. New York Islanders
  • Thursday–vs. Colorado
  • Saturday–vs. Winnipeg

QUICK NFL THOUGHTS–WEEK 12

In this week’s edition of NFL random thoughts, Volume 12, we take look at what teams and players are letting the rest of the NFL know…

  • Philadelphia is letting the rest of the NFL know that they are for real.  The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games.
  • Dallas is letting the rest of the NFL know that without Ezekiel Elliott they stink.  For the first time in Cowboys history, they’ve scored less than 10 points in three straight games.
  • The management teams in Denver, Oakland and Los Angeles are letting the rest of the NFL know that when it comes to hiring coaches, recycling is the only option.  As NFL Network host Rich Eisen recently tweeted, “Former Chargers HC fired as Broncos OC and replaced by former Raiders OC just as Broncos head to Raiders who just fired DC and replaced him with former Chargers DC.  You follow?
  • Cincinnati’s rookie defensive end Carl Lawson is letting the rest of the NFL know that when playing the Bengals you’re guaranteed a free five yards at least once a game because he’ll jump offsides.
  • Andy Reid is letting the rest of the NFL know that he doesn’t trust his quarterback, Alex Smith, to throw the ball down the field anymore.  When the Chiefs won their first five games this season, Smith averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt.  In the following six games, Kansas City is 1-5 and Smith’s average yards per pass attempt has dropped to 6.8
  • After benching Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith, New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is letting the rest of the NFL know that he’ll be looking for employment once the season is over.
  • The New England Patriots are letting the rest of the NFL know that some things never change.  Their victory over Miami on Sunday guaranteed the Patriots their 17tth consecutive winning season.
  • Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib are letting the rest of the NFL know that they don’t have clue when it comes to the current public perception of the league and its players behavior.
  • Since Deshaun Watson went down with a season-ending injury, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has let the rest of the NFL know that he is over-rated and blowhard who conjures up memories of Jeff Fisher roaming the sidelines.
  • One look at the play calling at the end of their 27-24 last-second loss to Arizona and it appears Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone is letting the rest of the NFL know that he is unaware that Blake Bortles is his quarterback.
  • The Bengals organization is letting the rest of the NFL know that the disappointing season of rookie first-round draft choice John Ross is the result of either poor scouting or poor coaching and development.  Regardless, it’s the only explanation for why a healthy Ross is declared inactive every week.

QUICK COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOUGHTS–WEEK 13

Here are a few random thoughts regarding the debacle that was the hiring and then the not hiring of Greg Schiano as Tennessee’s next head football coach…

  • Let’s call this episode for what it truly was.  This was a case of a delusional, mob-mentality fan base who threw a hissy fit when athletic director John Currie didn’t hire the man they wanted for the job, a coach they had no chance of hiring, Jon Gruden.  They disguised their anger by claiming they opposed the hiring of Schiano because of his association with the Penn State football program as an assistant coach during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  Despite there being no proof he knew of any of Sandusky’s improprieties, Schiano was labeled complicit, and therefore, unfit to be hired, by Tennessee supporters who in all honesty didn’t think Schiano was a good enough coach.  This coming from a school that is 62-64 in the last 10 years and is at best, the seventh best school in the SEC.  In the real world, that’s guilt by association, an unreasonable excuse for stopping an employer’s hiring process.  In the fantasy world of Knoxville, Tennessee, it’s enough to get your way and to bring the school to its gutless knees.  Here’s hoping that the employment lawyers, who are currently circling like planes trying to land at Hartsfield Airport, bleed the university dry.
  • The next casualty in this whole affair is Tennessee athletic director John Currie.  His failure to squash the rumors that Gruden was even considering the job and his apparent pliable backbone when it came to confronting the social media lynch mob that wanted Schiano out before he started, makes Currie’s position with the school untenable.  Currie sent a message to every potential coach, regardless of the sport, that the decision makers at the school are not him or the administration but state legislators and Facebook groups and Twitter followers instead.
  • Clay Travis should be ashamed of himself and exposed for being a poisonous and hypocritical snake.  Travis, the current host of Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage” and former analyst on Fox Sports 1’s college football pre-game show and their weekly SEC football show, instigated this entire mess when after learning that Tennessee was set to hire Schiano tweeted, incorrectly, that Schiano knew about child rape at Penn State and kept it quiet, adding that his hiring as the Vols next head coach was disgraceful.  The tweet incited the ensuing social media mob that led to the school’s reversal and was punctuated by a profanity laced blog post by Travis with the headline, “Tennessee Poised to Hire Loser Coach Named in Child Sex Investigation.”  His post included Currie’s cell phone number so his readers could text their displeasure over the hiring and the oxymoronic line, “After all, I am the King of Tolerance and I sit on the Iron Throne of Inclusion.”  Mind you, this is the same Clay Travis who earlier on Periscope encourage Tennessee to hire Bobby Petrino as their next head football coach, the same Bobby Petrino, who as the head coach at Arkansas, lied to his boss about his adultery to a student-athlete development coordinator for the football program.  It seems Travis believes being unfaithful to your wife, intentionally misleading your athletic director and giving preferential treatment in hiring your lover to the football staff are better qualities for Tennessee next football coach then a hiring a proven winner at the FBS level who according to a Board of Trustee member at Penn State, was not involved in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  This whole episode proves that Travis’ opinions and his unsubstantiated statements are toxic to college football and that for the good of the sport, he needs to shut the hell up.
  • Fox college football analyst, Joe Klatt, perfectly summed up this dumpster fire when sent this tweet on Monday:  “Tennessee is now having to focus on coaches with ‘Tennessee ties’ because no one else will touch that job with a ten foot pole.  You were led by emotional hypocrites with a severe lack of football knowledge that incited an internet mob…you made your bed, now go to sleep!”

Now, here are some random thoughts about the play on the field for Week 13 in college football…

  • As of Sunday afternoon, it has been 421 days and counting since Michigan has defeated a team with a winning record.  The streak stayed intact after the Wolverines lost to Ohio State on Saturday, the third straight year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has lost to the Buckeyes in his first three seasons at Ann Arbor.  The only other Michigan coach to lose his first three games to Ohio State was Rich Rodriquez.
  • Even though their loss to Auburn cost them a chance at a SEC championship, Alabama does have two scenarios in which they can still qualify for the college football playoffs.  An Ohio State victory over Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game increases Alabama’s chances, forcing the selection committee to choose between a one loss Crimson Tide and a two loss Buckeye team for one, if not the final, spot in the playoffs.  The second scenario, however, contains the best case for Nick Saban’s squad to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.  If TCU defeats Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, the selection committee will have to choose between two teams who failed to win their conference, a one loss Alabama and a two loss Oklahoma.  With their only loss coming to a strong Auburn team, the edge in that scenario favors the Crimson Tide.
  • Central Florida’s 49-42 victory over South Florida made it possible for 51 players on UCF’s roster to experience both a winless and an undefeated season in their college career.
  • Here’s installment two of the 2017 College Football Head Coaching Speculation Carousel:
    • Tennessee–Jeff Brohm, head coach Purdue
    • Texas A&M–Jimbo Fisher, head coach Florida State
    • Arizona State–Kevin Sumlin, former head coach Texas A&M
    • Arkansas–Gus Malzahn, head coach Auburn
    • Nebraska–Scott Frost, head coach, Central Florida

ONE MAN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS

THE FINAL FOUR

1.Oklahoma

2.Clemson

3.Auburn

4.Wisconsin

FIRST FOUR OUT

5.Georgia

6.Alabama

7.Ohio State

8.Miami

NEXT FOUR OUT

9.Central Florida

10.USC

11.TCU

12.Washington

THE LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 8

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

THE GOOD

  • 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.

THE BAD

  • 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.

TRANSACTIONS

  • 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

  1. Ondrej Palat–2 goals, 2 points, 1 short-handed goal
  2. Braydon Point–1 goal, 1 point, 1 game-winning goal
  3. Victor Hedman–2 assists, 2 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

  • Tuesday–at Buffalo
  • Wednesday–at Boston
  • Saturday–vs. San Jose

QUICK COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOUGHTS—WEEK 12

Here are some random thoughts about Week 12 of the college football season…

  • UCLA didn’t fire Jim Mora because they don’t want to lose to Florida on the chance to hire Chip Kelly or because he failed to win a PAC 12 title in his six seasons in Westwood.  Mora lost his job because he failed to make UCLA the dominant program in Los Angeles during a time when crosstown rival USC was down and because he essentially won nothing with Josh Rosen, arguably the number one overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft, as his quarterback.
  • Speaking of Chip Kelly, the PAC 12, a Power 5 conference that will more than likely not have a team selected for the college football playoff for the second time in four years, needs him just as much or even more than UCLA does as their next head football coach.
  • It’s hard to believe in today’s college football that Army is 8-3 even though they have completed 18 passes all season.
  • This Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Auburn is more than just an annual renewal of a fierce in-state rivalry.  The winner of the Iron Bowl has won the SEC and played for the national championship in seven of the last eight  seasons.
  • Over the coming weeks, several athletic directors will begin their search for a new head football coach.  Shortly thereafter, these A.D.’s will identify their number one choice to lead their program.  Some will get the man they wanted while others will have to go to Plan B.  For those athletic directors who are forced to hire their second choice, all is not lost.  Just ask perennial national title contender, Alabama.  When the Crimson Tide were looking for Mike Shula’s replacement in 2007, their first choice was then West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriquez.  Rodriquez turned Alabama down, so athletic director Mal Moore offered the position to his second choice, a former college and NFL head coach by the name of Nick Saban.  Saban accepted and you know the rest.
  • Minutes after they suffered their second loss of the season, a 55-24 thrashing at Iowa,, the chances Ohio State had of making the college football playoffs seemed non-existent.  It’s now the penultimate week of the college football regular season and the Buckeyes, much to their critics chagrin and disbelief, are poised to make the playoffs for the third time in four years.  If Ohio State wins out against Michigan this weekend and then Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship, and Alabama and Oklahoma win out, the college football playoff selection committee will have to choose between a two-loss Buckeye squad and the loser of the ACC title game, either Clemson or Miami, for the fourth and final spot.  There are a lot of “what if’s” for Ohio State to have a chance at a national championship but the prospect is certainly a lot better than it was three weeks ago.
  • Here’s installment one of the Coaching Carousel Speculations, a guess of who will become the new head coach at the following schools that are actively searching for a replacement:
    • Florida—Matt Campbell, head coach Iowa State
    • Tennessee—Dan Mullen, head coach Mississippi State
    • UCLA—Chip Kelly, former Oregon and Philadelphia Eagles head coach
  • Based on his statistical performance, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will in all likelihood win this year’s Heisman Trophy.  His performance as a football player has been unparalleled.  Sadly, the same can’t be said for his behavior.  Once again, the childish, immature Baker Mayfield reered its ugly head, this time against Kansas last Saturday when he chided Jayhawk fans from the Oklahoma bench and grabbed his crotch and shouted expletives towards the Kansas sidelines.  These ongoing antics are tiresome, boorish and beneath the level of a player with Mayfield’s talents.  If he can allow the actions of a 1-9 Kansas team get underneath his skin, heaven help him when it comes time to play Alabama or Clemson.  If there was any other player who could come close to matching Mayfield’s performance this season, he surely would not win the Heisman.  But as the Heisman voters have shown in the past, a player’s character or his off-the-field antics doesn’t affect who wins the award.  If it did, Cam Newton, Johnny Menzies and Jameis Winston never would have won.  So, despite his deplorable behavior Mayfield will win this year’s Heisman, even though his questionable character is what everyone will remember about his 2017 season and his college career.  And that, it truly unfortunate.

ONE MAN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS—WEEK 12

THE FINAL FOUR

1.Alabama

2.Miami

3.Oklahoma

4.Clemson

FIRST FOUR OUT

5.Wisconsin

6.Auburn

7.Georgia

8.Ohio State

NEXT FOUR OUT

9.Central Florida

10.Notre Dame

11.USC

12.TCU

THE LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 7

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

LIGHTNING 6, Stars 1

GOALS:  Stamkos 2 (10), Sergachev (5), Point (8), Dotchin (2), Kucherov (17)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (27), 14-1-1

Islanders 5, LIGHTNING 3

GOALS:  Gourde 2 (6), Palat (5)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (27), 14-2-1

SEASON:  15-3-2, 32 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • The Lightning’s ability to dominate all phases of the game were on full display in their 6-1 victory over Dallas on Thursday.  The offense was firing on all cylinders, scoring six goals on 28 shots as nine different players made the scoresheet, including the top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vlad Namestnikov, who were responsible for three goals and five assists.  The defense limited the Stars to one goal on 28 shots, killed all three of the Stars power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 advantage and scored a short-handed goal to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead they never would relinquish.  Meanwhile, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was his usual stellar self, making 27 saves en route to his 14th win in 16 games played.  The only disappointing aspect of the game was the onslaught came at the expense of former Lightning and current Dallas goalie, Ben Bishop, who was making his first visit back to Tampa since his trade last season.  It was a performance that solidified the Lightning’s spot as the NHL’s best team so far this season.
  • There were very few highlights for the Lightning in their 5-3 loss to the Islanders Saturday night but one bright spot was Tampa’s furious third period comeback.  After trailing 4-0 early in the third period, the Lightning, led by Yanni Gourde’s two scores, closed the gap to 4-3 with under four minutes remaining.  Even though the comeback fell short when the Islanders scored an empty net goal, coach Jon Cooper should be encouraged by his team’s effort in a game that looked like it was totally lost with less than a full period left to play.
  • Despite their 5-3 loss on Saturday, the Lightning continue to have the NHL’s best record of 15-3-2 and 32 points.  Here’s a glimpse of four other teams in addition to Tampa Bay that most consider one of the top five teams through the early stages of the 2017-18 season:
    • St. Louis Blues–15-5-1, 31 points, 1st place in the Central Division, +15 goal differential, 7-3 in last 10 games
    • Toronto Maple Leafs–14-7-0, 28 points, 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, +16 goal differential, 7-3 in last 10 games
    • Los Angeles Kings–12-7-2, 26 points, 1st place in the Pacific Division, +14 goal differential
    • Winnipeg Jets–12-4-3, 27 points, 2nd place in the Central Division, 8-1-1 in last 10 games

THE BAD

  • Nothing much went right, especially in the first two periods, against the Islanders Saturday night and most of it stemmed from the Lightning’s very slow start.  They trailed 2-0 midway through the first period due in large part to the fact that New York outplayed and outskated Tampa Bay from the outset.  The Lightning never seemed to get their footing until the third period but by then they were down 4-0.  It’s a start the Lightning have suffered from, but were able to overcome, in several of their games this year.  Unfortunately, they’re good fortune in those earlier games caught up with them Saturday night.
  • Saturday’s game also marked the end of the Lightning’s penalty killing streak.  They had successfully killed their previous 19 penalties, including a 5-on-3 against Dallas on Thursday before the Islanders Anders Lee scored a power play goal at 1:05 of the third period.
  • The Lightning continued their recent trend, at times, of sloppy puck handling and puck management.  Tampa Bay averaged 11 giveaways per game last week, four of which directly resulted in or led to a goal.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Steven Stamkos–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, +2 rating
  2. Yanni Gourde–2 goals, 2 points, +2 rating
  3. Braydon Point–1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +1 rating

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

  • Wednesday–vs. Chicago
  • Friday–at Washington
  • Saturday–at Pittsburgh