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.
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
FIRST FOUR OUT
NEXT FOUR OUT
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Ondrej Palat–2 goals, 2 points, 1 short-handed goal
- Braydon Point–1 goal, 1 point, 1 game-winning goal
- Victor Hedman–2 assists, 2 points
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Tuesday–at Buffalo
- Wednesday–at Boston
- Saturday–vs. San Jose
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
FIRST FOUR OUT
NEXT FOUR OUT
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 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
- 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
- Steven Stamkos–2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, +2 rating
- Yanni Gourde–2 goals, 2 points, +2 rating
- Braydon Point–1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +1 rating
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
- Wednesday–vs. Chicago
- Friday–at Washington
- Saturday–at Pittsburgh
Here are some random and very delayed, random thoughts about Week 10 in the NFL…
- Anyone who believes Teddy Bridgewater should replace Case Keenum as Minnesota’s starting quarterback needs to report to their local drug testing facility immediately.
- Father Time has issued an Amber Alert for Tom Brady. He shouldn’t expect to find him anytime soon.
- The four NFC Division leaders, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams, failed to make the playoffs last year. If the standings remain the same at the end of the season, it will mark the first time that the four division champions failed to make the playoffs in the previous season.
- Before the excoriating of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones begins because of his attempts to stall and stop the contract extension negotiations of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, consider what Goodell is demanding. He is asking, among other things, a $50 million annual salary, the lifetime use of a private plane and lifetime health insurance for him and his family. Considering that Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, a company that earned the twice the revenue as the NFL did last year, receives a $14 million annual salary, it’s not so unreasonable for Jones, who was able to purchase the Cowboys and make it the most valuable professional sports franchise because he is an astute businessman, to put the brakes on what appears to be a very one-sided and inequitable business deal.
- Once NFL Network host Rich Eisen tweeted on Sunday, “The Browns just tried to QB sneak on goal line with no timeouts left. Of course it was stopped. No points, No time. No clue,”, Cleveland should have fired head coach Hue Jackson on the spot.
- You have to wonder what Fox broadcasters Chris Myers and Darryl Johnson did to management for the both of them to have inglorious assignment of calling the titanic struggle between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.
- New Orleans is a legitimate Super Bowl contender because they’re not asking quarterback Drew Brees to do everything for them. Thanks to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Saints have discovered a running game, rushing for 110.9 yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt through their first nine games. Last Sunday, on the road against Buffalo, New Orleans rushed 48 times for 298 yards and six touchdowns, including 24 straight plays in which they ran the ball. With their emphasis on the running game, no longer do the Saints need to play in an offensive shoot-out with Brees throwing all over the field to have a chance at winning. More importantly, their ball control philosophy keeps their defense, the team’s Achilles Heel since their Super Bowl victory in 2010 off the field for longer periods of time.
- It’s been well documented that Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has struggled this season due to a weak offensive line. But before placing all the blame on the offensive line for the team’s sub-par passing attack this season, Dalton himself is responsible for some of the problems as well. This is not the same quarterback who led the Bengals to the post-season in each of his first five years in the league. In those five seasons, Dalton completed all types of passes, short, medium and long, to all places on the field. This year, however, is vastly different. Dalton has been extremely inconsistent, rarely completing a pass greater than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and mainly only between the numbers. Dalton’s ability to accurately throw outside the numbers is practically non-existent as evidenced by his two misfires to A.J. Green deep down the right sidelines in the last two games. Those were passes Dalton routinely completed in his previous six seasons. It is true that the inability of the offensive line to provide decent pass protection has made life difficult for Dalton in 2017. But it is just as obvious that Dalton’s inefficient and ineffective play is compounding the problem.
- Vontaze Burfict’s ejection last Sunday proved four things about him and the Bengals current and future state:
- Game officials are signaling out Burfict and are giving him absolutely no benefit of the doubt when it comes to a borderline or marginal infraction on the field. There’s no question Burfict’s reputation precedes him.
- It’s painfully obvious that Burfict only cares about himself who ignores the impact his actions have on the rest of the team. After being ejected, he was only concerned with complaining to someone he knew in the stands and taunting the Tennessee fans as he was leaving the field. Burfict’s selfishness is readily apparent and detrimental to the team’s chances at success.
- Burfict’s actions are emblematic of what the Bengals have become under head coach Marvin Lewis, who condones and defends the behavior of Burfict and is responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the team: A group of undisciplined, ill-prepared, and selfish players who do not, under any circumstances, resemble a team.
- It’s time for the good of the franchise for the Bengals to cut ties with both Burfict and Lewis no later than the end of the season.
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
- 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.
- 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
- Vladislav Namestnikov–4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points
- Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points
- Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 60 saves, .968 save percentage
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Saturday–vs. New York Islanders