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

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

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 6

Here’s a quick trip of the good and the bad for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL for the week ending November 12…

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 5, SHARKS 1

GOALS:  Dotchin (1), Kucherov (15), Koekkoek (3), Namestnikov 2 (7)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (32), 12-1-1

Lightning 5, KINGS 2

GOALS:  Kucherov (16), Killorn (2), Hedman (2), Stamkos (8), Namestnikov (8)

SAVES:  Budaj (22), 1-1-1

Lightning 2, DUCKS 1

GOALS:  Namestnikov (9), Brown (1)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (28), 13-1-1

SEASON:  14-2-2, 30 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • When the Lightning embarked on a three-game California road trip this past week, the hope was they could return home with three points.  On the other hand, coming back to Tampa with four points would have exceeded all expectations.  But to finish the road trip with six points and a 3-0-0 record, as the Lightning did after their 2-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday, not only is the road trip an unqualified success but it establishes Tampa Bay as the best team in the Eastern Conference.  The Lightning played their best stretch of two-way hockey of the year against perennial Cup contenders San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim, averaging four goals scored and 1.3 goals allowed per game during their three game trip.  The California swing made it abundantly clear that the Lightning’s toughest opponent this season will be themselves.
  • The spotlight on the Lightning’s explosive offense this season has focused on Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and rightfully so.  But the third member of their line, Vlad Namestnikov, deserves some recognition for his exceptional play this year as well.  Namestnikov has scored nine goals and added 10 assists for a total of 19 points through the Lightning’s first 18 games.  Those stats include four power play goals, seven power play points, one game-winning goal and a +8 rating.  Namestnikov has been overshadowed by Stamkos and Kucherov so far this season but there’s no question that his play is one of the many reasons why the Lightning have the league’s best record.
  • Tampa Bay’s penalty kill continues to excel, going a perfect 6-6 for the week.  It is the second consecutive week that the Lightning have been perfect on the penalty kill as they have not allowed a power play goal in their opponent’s last 15 opportunities.

THE BAD

  • Week Six verse, same as the first.  A little bit louder and a little bit worse.  The Lightning once again lost the battle in the face-off circle last week, losing 105 of 187 (56.1%) face-offs in their three games in California.
  • In the past two weeks which has encompassed six games, the Lightning have averaged over 12 giveaways per game.  Last week, they had 43 giveaways in three games, including 25 against San Jose.  To make matters worse, Tampa Bay isn’t doing the same to their opponents, only averaging a little over eight takeaways per game, including only four against Los Angeles and five against Anaheim last week.  As the season wears on, it is one area of their game that the Lightning need to clean up.
  • As the 2017-18 season reaches the quarter pole, it seems the decade long dominance of the Chicago Blackhawks may be approaching its end.  The Blackhawks entered this year fresh off being swept 4-0 by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs last year, even though they had the Western Conference’s best regular season record.  Through their first 19 games this year, it seems Chicago can’t shake the effects of last season’s playoff whitewash.  They are 9-8-2 and are currently out of the playoffs.   Their performance is even more puzzling when you consider they have suffered no major injuries to any of their star players such as Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith.  Granted, it is a small sample size but as the season closes in on the Thanksgiving holiday, the Blackhawks need to ramp up their game if they hope to have a chance at winning their fourth Stanley Cup since 2010.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Vladislav Namestnikov–4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points
  2. Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points
  3. Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 60 saves, .968 save percentage

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Thursday–vs. Dallas

Saturday–vs. New York Islanders

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 5

Here is the good and the bad from last week for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL..

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 8, PANTHERS 5

Goals:  Point (6), Kucherov (13), Stamkos 2 (6), Palat (4), Gourde (2), Namestnikov  (5), Stralman (2)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (18), 10-1-0

Rangers 2, LIGHTNING 1 (OT)

Goals:  Gourde (3)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (33), 10-1-1

LIGHTNING 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SO)

Goals:  Point (7), Kucherov (14), Stamkos (7), Gourde (4)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (30), 11-1-1

SEASON:  11-2-2, 24 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • The Lightning’s three games last week proved that Victor Hedman is one of the premier defensemen in the NHL, and barring an injury, a perennial contender for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.  In addition to his five assists last week, Hedman, the second overall selection by the Lightning in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, averaged 26:33 of ice time per game, solidifying his status as coach Jon Cooper’s most dependable two-way player.  Hedman’s performance over the last three games underscored the fact that he is an elite, all-around defenseman who possesses high-level shutdown skills and great passing abilities while playing a large amount of minutes every night.
  • One of the more surprising early season highlights for the Lightning has been the play of forward Yanni Gourde.  Coming into the year Gourde has scored six goals and earned three assists in 22 career NHL games.  Through 15 games this season, Gourde already has four goals and five assists and has teamed with Braydon Point and Ondrej Palat to form the second highest scoring line on the team.  Gourde is filling the void quite nicely left by Jonathan Drouin’s departure during the off-season thanks to his hard-nosed play and his good hockey sense.
  • The Lightning special teams shined again last week with the penalty kill stepping up to make a significant contribution to the team’s 2-0-1 record for the week.  The power play scored three times on 10 chances, increasing their season percentage to 28.8%, tied for the second best power play in the NHL.  The penalty kill, led by the stellar play of Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan, went a perfect nine for nine last week, improving their penalty kill percentage for the season to a league 11th best.

THE BAD

  • Two weeks ago it was an issue.  Last week it was a problem.  Now that the Lightning have lost the majority of their face-offs for the fifth consecutive week, it is now bordering on becoming an epidemic.  Last week, Tampa Bay lost 103 of 198 face-offs (52.0%) and if this trend continues the Lightning’s good fortune on the power play, the penalty kill and in one-goal games will come to an unhappy end.
  • Another potential crisis on the horizon is the Lightning’s recent habit of blowing two goal leads.  Last week it happened twice when Tampa Bay blew a 3-1 lead to Florida on Monday and then a 4-2 third period lead to Columbus on Saturday.  Luckily, the Lightning won both games but Stanley Cup contenders can’t expect those results when they carelessly allow their opponents to come back from two goals down.  They need to either deliver a knock-out punch or at the very least keep their opponent at bay when they jump out to a multiple goal lead.
  • Last year after falling short in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against Anaheim, the Edmonton Oilers were the darlings of the NHL.  Many experts predicted the Oilers and their young core led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, would take the next step and represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Through 13 games in 2017, however, the Oilers are 4-8-1 with a -13 goal differential and in next to last place in the Pacific Division.  Unless they turn around their season soon, the only step the Oilers will take this season is a backwards one, right out of Stanley Cup contention.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points
  2. Victor Hedman–5 assists, 5 points
  3. Steven Stamkos–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, game-winning shoot-out goal

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Wednesday–at San Jose

Thursday–at Los Angeles

Sunday–at Anaheim

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 4

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 5, HURRICANES 1

Goals:  Johnson (4), Sergachev (4), Namestnikov (4), Callahan (1), Kucherov (11)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (31), 8-1-0

LIGHTNING 3, Red Wings 2

Goals:  Kucherov (12), Stamkos (4), Point (5)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (29), 9-1-0

Ducks 4, LIGHTNING 1

Goals:  Kunitz (2)

Saves:  Budaj (17), 0-1-1

THE GOOD

  • The Lightning continued their fast start to the 2017-18 season thanks to some very impressive record-setting performances.  Tampa Bay set a franchise record by winning their first six home games of the year following their 3-2 victory over Detroit last Wednesday night.  The win was highlighted by goaltender’s Andrei Vasilevskiy’s personal best eighth consecutive win and points by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.  Kucherov’s goal and assist and a goal by Stamkos in the win against the Red Wings marked the 11th consecutive game where they both scored a point, tying a club record for most consecutive games with a point scored to start a season.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy is quickly becoming one of the top goaltender’s in the NHL.  His nine wins leads all NHL goalies, while his .936 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average are sixth and seventh best in the league respectively.  More importantly, Vasilevskiy has made several momentum changing saves during critical junctures in the game, especially when the Lightning defense hasn’t been at its best.  Most people would tab Nikita Kucherov as the team’s early season MVP but Vasilevskiy is not that far behind.
  • The Lightning power play continued to fire on all cylinders, finishing the week with three goals in 11 opportunities with the man advantage.  Tampa Bay has the second highest power player percentage (28.6%) in the NHL so far this season and their 76 power play goals since the start of last season are the most by any team in the league

THE BAD

  • Saturday’s 4-1 home loss to Anaheim, which snapped their six game home winning streak as well as stopping the 11-game point streak of both Kucherov and Stamkos, was the Lightning’s worst performance so far this season.   All phases of the game were to blame as the power play went 0-4, the penalty kill went 0-2 and back-up goalie Peter Budaj struggled in his second start of the year, giving up four goals on just 21 shots.  Even when the Lightning pulled Budaj for the extra attacker with over four minutes to play, they failed to put the puck in the back of the net.  Overall, it was a night to forget.
  • The loss to Anaheim also exposed a potential problem going forward when the Lightning play a Western Conference opponent.  They have scored only three goals in two games against teams from the Western Conference and so far it appears the style of hockey employed by most of the teams from the West, a physical, hard-checking game played at a slower, slogging pace, gives Tampa problems.  It’s a small sample size, but it’s worth keeping any eye on this trend, especially when the Lightning embark on a three-game Western road trip next week.
  • For the fourth consecutive week, the Lightning had a losing record in the face-off circle, winning only 49.1 percent of their draws over three games.  It’s a recurring problem Tampa needs to address, especially during the power play and penalty kill as well as late in the third period of a one-goal game.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy–2 wins, 60 saves, 1.5 GAA, .950 save percentage
  2. Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points
  3. Ryan Callahan–1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Monday–at Florida

Thursday–vs. New York Rangers

Saturday–vs. Columbus

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 3

Here’s the good and the bad of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s week and random NHL thoughts for the week ending October 23, 2017…

GAME SUMMARIES (Home team in CAPS)

Lightning 3, RED WINGS 2

Goals:  Johnson (3), Kucherov 2 (7)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (29), 5-1-0

DEVILS 5, Lightning 4 (SO)

Goals:  Namestnikov (3), Palat (3), Kucherov (8), Stamkos (2)

Saves:  Budaj (30), 0-0-1

Lightning 2, BLUE JACKETS 0

Goals:  Sergachev 2 (2)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (43), 6-1-0

LIGHTNING 7, Penguins 1

Goals:  Kucherov 2 (10), Stamkos (3), Gourde (1), Point (4), Stralman (1), Sergachev (3)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (28), 7-1-0

SEASON:  7-1-1. 15 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • In a week in which our country’s leaders traded idioms to explain the nations’ current events, it’s only appropriate to describe the Lightning’s play last week as a hockey team cooking with gas.  Tampa was 3-0-1 for the week, including two wins on the road and a dominating six goal victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Lightning corrected their defensive lapses from the previous five games, allowing only 2.0 goals per game last week, while maintaining their fast start offensively by averaging 4.0 goals per game.  Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy continued his early season sharp play, winning all three games he started thanks to a 1.00 GAA and a .971 save percentage that included a shutout victory against Columbus.  Add it all up and it’s a recipe for a nearly flawless week of hockey that vaulted the Bolts into first place in the Atlantic Division and the NHL’s best record with 15 points.
  • With the Lightning averaging over four goals per game, the spotlight, and rightfully so, has been on Nikita Kucherov and his 10 goals in nine games.  But as last week showed, the Lightning have a very balanced scoring attack.  In their four games last week, Tampa had nine different goal scorers and 12 different players score a point.  The Lightning defensemen, unlike last year, also made a significant contribution, scoring four goals and 10 points in four games.  Getting goals and points from more than just Kucherov and Steven Stamkos only makes Tampa a stronger Stanley Cup contender.
  • Both aspects of the Lightning’s special teams continue to contribute to the team’s early season success.  They scored six power play goals on 17 opportunities last week, improving their power play percentage for the season to 28.9%, the fifth best in the league.  Meanwhile, after struggling in the first four games, the penalty kill has stepped up, allowing only three power play goals on 17 chances last week, and elevating their penalty kill for the season to 81.1%.

THE BAD

  • It’s hard to find any faults in a week in which the Lightning went 3-0-1 but there still remains the problem of giving up too many scoring opportunities to their opponents.  Once again, Tampa was outshot for the week (137-116) and that doesn’t include the 52 shots the Lightning defenders blocked.  They can’t expect Vasilevskiy to continue to stand on his head and maintain his early season torrid goaltending.  They need to clean up their propensity, at times, of allowing too easy of an entry into their zone and the high amount of point-blank and excellent scoring chances they give their opponents.
  • The Lightning also can’t expect Vasilevskiy to play every game and that’s why keeping his backup, Peter Budaj sharp is critical to the team’s success.  Playing him only once in the first nine games, however, isn’t fulfilling that need.  Head coach Jon Cooper needs to find more ways to insert Budaj in the lineup so that Vasilevskiy isn’t burnt out come playoff time.
  • The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers are paying a hefty price to learn a very important lesson–you can’t make your highest paid player, Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, respectively, your goaltender.  So far this season, the Canadiens and the Rangers are combined 3-11-3 and discovering the hard way that success in today’s NHL is predicated on paying for good, not great, goaltending, which frees up the money to pay for the players in front of the goalie who can score and do the dirty work necessary to win games on a nightly basis.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Nikita Kucherov–5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy–3 wins, 1 shutout, 1.00 GAA, 100 saves, .971 save percentage
  3. Steven Stamkos–2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Tuesday–at Carolina

Thursday–vs. Detroit

Saturday–vs. Anaheim

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 2

Here’s the good and the bad of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s week and random NHL thoughts for the week ending October 15, 2017…

GAME SUMMARIES  (Home team in CAPS)

LIGHTNING 4, Capitals 3–(OT)

Goals:  Killorn (1), Kunitz (1), Kucherov (3), Point (3)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (23), 2-1-0

LIGHTNING 5, Penguins 4

Goals:  Koekkoek 2 (2), Hedman (1), Stamkos (1), Kucherov (4)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (36), 3-1-0

LIGHTNING 2, Blues 1

Goals:  Johnson (2), Kucherov (5)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (28). 4-1-0

SEASON:  4-1-0, 8 points, 2nd place Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • Unlike their two games against the Panthers last week, the Lightning looked like a Stanley Cup contender in their three games this week.  Their puck management was stronger, they outhit each of their three opponents (68-50) and won more than 50% of their faceoffs for the entire week.  They also scored a power play goal in each of their three games, going a combined 5-12 on the man advantage against three elite opponents in Washington, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
  • If you are a hockey fan, don’t miss a chance to see the Lightning play either Washington or Pittsburgh during the regular season and especially the playoffs.  It’s 60 minutes of end-to-end, fast-paced action that is the definition of firewagon hockey.  Lightning fans were treated to two such games last week and it was simply a blast to watch.
  • Before the season started, Nikita Kucherov was considered one of the elite forwards in the NHL.  His five goals in five games only validates that assessment.  Kucherov has become must-see hockey every time he steps on the ice with everyone in the building anxiously awaiting for him to produce another highlight reel moment.  “Kuch has so much deception to his game,” head coach Jon Cooper said after Saturday’s game.  “That’s why he’s a special player.”

THE BAD

  • When you win three games in a row, it’s difficult to find any faults.  The Lightning did outshoot their opponents for the week, 101-95, but they did lose the shots on goal battle to Pittsburgh (40-34) and St. Louis (29-25).  The penalty kill did improve against St. Louis, shutting out the Blues on three power play opportunities, but against Washington and Pittsburgh they allowed three power play goals on nine chances.  Allowing fewer shows on goal and improving the penalty kill are two areas where the Lightning need to improve so their offense, the strength of their team, can control the rhythm of the game.
  • Over the previous four seasons, Andrej Sustr has been a mainstay of the Tampa Bay defense.  This season, even when Cooper has played with seven defensemen, Sustr has been absent, playing only one of the team’s first five games.  Based on the early returns, Sustr appears to be on the team’s trading block.
  • If you are a Buffalo Sabres fan, you’re praying the team doesn’t go on the power play.  In their first six games, the Sabres have allowed five shorthanded goals.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Nikita Kucherov–3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy–3 wins, 87 saves, 2.66 GAA
  3. Alex Killorn–1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

Monday–at Detroit

Tuesday–at New Jersey

Thursday–at Columbus

Saturday–vs. Pittsburgh Continue reading “LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 2”