The Lightning won back-to-back road games for the first time this season. It was a welcome change for a team that is just trying to claw its way back into the playoff race. Tonight’s two points will go a long way in ensuring the Bolts have a chance at the post-season. Roloson was superb, the offense did what it had to and the defense held its own for the most part. It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Bolts, but they got the job done. That’s what counts. Any win against a Dave Tippett coached team is a huge win. Tonight’s game was exactly that. Here are my post-game thoughts.
The First Period
In the pre-game report, it was noted that the Lightning would have to weather an early storm. The Coyotes knew that the Bolts played last night and they took advantage. The puck didn’t leave the Lightning zone for the first few minutes of the period. The Lightning were turning over pucks, making stupid passes and generating absolutely nothing. Thankfully, the Coyotes were not able to capitalize on their chances and take-aways early on. Consider for a second that the Lightning weren’t able to get a shot on Mike Smith until midway through the first period; that’s how bad things were. One could make the excuse that the Lightning were tired, but still, they should be able to at least test the goaltender.
The Bolts’ first real good chance came at about the 10 minute mark when Marty St. Louis took a Dominic Moore pass straight to the net to create a great scoring chance. Mike Smith spread out across his crease and managed to deny Marty of the goal he so obviously deserved. Since coming back from injury, Marty has been putting up tons of assists but not many goals. It was nice to see him get a Grade-A offensive chance even though he didn’t deposit it.
That St. Louis chance really seemed to wake the Lightning up through the latter part of the first period. They started shooting the puck, creating chances and using speed to their advantage. That’s what this Bolts group needs to do to win. It wasn’t long after the aforementioned St. Louis chance that Moore, Marty and Stammer combined to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The passing in the slot among the three guys was something special to watch. Stammer was left all alone in front of the net and he made no mistake in putting up his 32nd goal of the year.
A couple minutes before the period ended, Pavel Kubina threw the puck on net on a rather harmless play. Mike Smith left a juicy rebound in the slot and an unguarded Teddy Purcell put the puck in the net to extend the lead. As a Lightning fan, it’s really great to see Teddy Purcell get hot. That was his third goal on this mini west coast trip. Teddy is a guy who could really come in handy down the stretch to take some of the defensive attention off Stammer, Vinny and Marty.
Through the first period, all three keys of the game remained intact. The Bolts got really solid goaltending from Roloson, they stayed disciplined and they weathered the early storm. I mentioned Roloson for a reason. Had it not been for him early in the game, the Bolts probably wouldn’t have walked out of the first period with a 2-0 lead. As a result, he gets the player of the period honors.
Bolts Player of the Period: Dwayne Roloson
The Second Period
The start of the second was a lot better for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They came out aggressive, strong and determined. The Lightning forechecked hard and created offensive chances because of it. Just over six minutes in, the lead was extended to 3-0 when Marty St. Louis shot the puck past Mike Smith after a beautiful pass from Trevor Smith. As I mentioned earlier, seeing Marty get the great chances is really positive for this team. Finally, he was able to convert for his first goal in 13 games. Not only was it great to see Marty finish off the play, it was also great to see PC Labrie get his first NHL point. Congratulations to the young man who is quickly establishing himself as a solid NHL player.
Shortly after the third goal, the Bolts were given an opportunity to all but end the game when the Coyotes took a penalty. The PP started out really nicely with some nice chances and stellar puck movement. It was about halfway through the PP that Korpikoski jumped on a puck and took advantage of the 5-forward setup to put a shorthanded goal up on the board. As I mentioned last game, the 5-forward setup is a bit of a double edged sword. Personally, I still like it.
Still in control at 3-1, the Bolts ended up taking a penalty when Clark interfered with the Coyotes’ player. On the PP, the Coyotes moved the puck really well and created some dandy offensive chances. Unfortunately for the guys who call the desert home, they couldn’t get many on net. Ray Whitney had the best chance on the PP but Roloson was equal to the task and made the HUGE stop to keep the lead at 2 goals. I know we often harp on the guy, but he played a solid game for the guys and made the stops that were needed.
The rest of the period was played without a lot of flow. The Lightning seemed comfortable just sitting back and conserving energy. Knowing that the Bolts played the night before, I can’t say that really surprises me. Guy Boucher actually did a really nice job of forcing the Coyotes into having to skate 200 feet every time they wanted to create offense. It wasn’t the most exciting style but it was a great coaching move to protect the two goal lead. At this point in the season, the Lightning just need to focus on winning and not how they are winning. Two points is two points whether the game is high flying and exciting or dull and slow.
Even when Downie scored the Lightning’s fourth goal of the game, it didn’t look like the guys were really giving it their all. Downie simply slapped the puck off net from a bad angle and it squeaked by Mike Smith. As far as ugly goals goes, that’s just about as bad as they come. You can bet that Smith would love to have that one back. Vinny Lecavalier assisted on the goal to continue his strong offensive play as of late. With a three goal lead, Guy Boucher was able to really spread out the ice time to end the second. Labrie had a number of shifts along with other players who normally wouldn’t see a lot of ice. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: It’s a lot easier to play with the lead in the National Hockey League.
Despite giving up one goal in the period, Dwayne Roloson was once again really solid for the Lightning. He takes the player of the period honors again.
Bolts Player of the Period: Dwayne Roloson
The Third Period
The third began with a lot of PP time. The Coyotes had just about 30 seconds to start and then the Lightning got a full two minute advantage. Neither team was able to convert, leaving the score at 4-1.
Only seconds later, Keith Yandle ripped a one-timer from the point and it got by a screened Roloson. There wasn’t a lot Rollie could do on that one as he had three players blocking his line of vision. Speaking of Yandle; he is exactly what this Lightning team needs. If there is such a thing as an underrated all-star, Yandle is the pure definition. He does everything so well and just plays the game the right way. He is a true number one D-man. Phoenix would be stupid to give Yandle up, and they probably never will. But, could you imagine?
After Yandle narrowed the gap to two goals, you could see the Coyotes’ intensity level shoot through the roof. They played like they did early in the first period. The ‘Yotes were hard on the puck, forechecking and creating offensive chances in front of Roloson’s net. The havoc created by the Coyotes seemed to throw the Lightning off. It almost seemed like they didn’t know how to respond to the increased intensity level. At 4-1, that’s pretty excusable. In a tight came, that would be slightly more concerning.
The scrambled atmosphere continued for most of the third culminating with a really tense moment when Roloson was all but knocked out. The Lightning tender had his neck jammed in between Hanzal and his eqipment. He lay on the ice motionless for several moments. After having such a strong night to that point, it was really upsetting to see the guy injured like that. Despite staying in the game, I’m not totally convinced that he is totally okay. It looked very severe and you could see Rollie kinking his net every few minutes from that point on. With a two goal lead late in the third, I would have thrown Garon in there rather than risk further injury with Rollie. Whenever a player is injured, the only thing that concerns me is their health. Above all, these guys are human beings.
Moments later, the Phoenix Coyotes converted on the man advantage when Ray Whitney fired one from the point. It looked as though it deflected somewhere in front of Roloson but I could be wrong on that. The game was 4-3 with time remaining and the atmosphere was tense yet exciting. It’s that sort of situation that really defines a team’s mental strength. The Lightning could have rolled over and let the Coyotes back into this one, but no. They held off the ‘Yotes and won the game. That’s the mark of a good team. It may not have been the best game for the Bolts, but they found a way to win. That’s what matters in this league.
Bolts Player of the Period: Dwayne Roloson
From this point until the end of the season, I’m going to update the standings. It’s important to keep tabs on them as they change ever so often. In fact, there was a point during the game tonight that the Lightning found themselves in last place in the East. That’s not the case anymore. Here are your updated standings:
11th Place: Montreal Canadiens with 45 Points through 48 Games
12th Place: New York Islanders with 44 Points through 46 Games
13th Place: Tampa Bay Lightning with 44 Points through 47 Games
As you can see, tonight’s win puts the Lightning in a much better position to move up the standings in February. With the all-star break here and a light schedule to end the month, the Bolts will be ready to take on the Blue Jackets and Capitals. Two wins there would go a long way in our quest for that elusive 8th spot. Let’s make it 4 wins in a row.
With all the time off I will be updating rumors quite frequently, writing about Bolts news and then just my random hockey blogs that come out every once in a while. Also, any questions you turn in will be posted in a “Your Questions” blog over the break, so please do not hesitate to throw something in there. My last thing in this blog is a request from my readers.
I am looking to change my Twitter name so that it has something to do with Hockeybuzz, MyHockeybuzz, the Bolts or any combination. Any suggestions would be more than welcome as I plan on doing that within the next couple of days. If I pick your suggestion, I’ll throw a shout-out to my followers on Twitter for you.
Thanks for reading and have a great rest of your weekend!
Follow me on Twitter: @michaelstuart93
Nice couple of road games, Rolly came to play which was really good to see. Good game guys now get some rest! Keep up the good work Michael
Any word on Malone?
Haven't heard much. Return was questionable which leads me to believe that it's not overly serious. I could be totally off base there; it's just my feeling.
I can't believe it, but 9 regulars are out now with Malone? Nice to see them pull 3 BIG wins in row, I just hope the don't let the wind out of the sails when they play the Jacket on Tuesday. If they can stop the win 3 or 4 in row and loose 5 to 7 we'll be in good shape. Home for the next 5 with a nice break in between is going to be huge for the Bolts. Lets hope the wheels keep turning GO BOLTS!
Great stuff from the Bolts of late. The amount of GAs would still be a concern but with the rash of injuries it's understandable and as long as the offense is clicking then it's a gap that can be overcome. Lots of talk on possible G acquisitions for the Bolts but I think when all is said and done SY will have more options in the off-season. If any trades are made before Feb 27, they should be for Dmen and only if the value is fair.
When did you start writing this column, Michael?
I start writing it right after the game. I take handwritten notes during the games and then piece them all together afterwards.
I think Ben Bishop is a good choice for our next keeper. Look at our history of signing "NHL" goalies. Ellis, Smith, Graham, Burke, Denis, Roloson and Garon are all veterans, but have been less then stellar.
Yeah but let's be honest all those on that list have all been suspect. I still think one of Bernier/Schneider/Harding are better bets for the Bolts long term (Schneider being the best option IMO). No one else of note will likely be available.
I've got to agree with Alex. Bernier, Schneider and Harding. At least all have proven something at every level they've played at. Bishop's AHL stats scare the crap out of me.
None of them are proven either. Schneider has one of the best offenses and defenses in front of him and no pressure of a teams dependence on him. Harding also has a defensive style in front of him and doesn't face as many shots. Bernier is not exactly knocking at the kings no.1 spot.
Schneider proved himself at the AHL level with stellar stats. I watch the Canucks enough to know that it isn't the team in front of him doing the job. Often he gets left out to dry and just plays stellar hockey. Harding is a little older with good stats in the NHL. He really established himself when Todd Richards was coach of the Wild (they played an offensive style that didn't work for them).
Bernier is playing behind quick but his career track record is very impressive. I will say that Bishop has looked better this season, but over his career he doesn't wow me. That's just my opinion.
I can't possably see Yzerman going after Schneider or Bernier due to the fact both teams would want way to much for them. We can't afford to give the farm for ANYONE at the moment, plus i don't think we have a farm to give. I think we are going to be stuck with mediocrity goaltending for a while unless someone becomes a free agent, isn't Harding?
Bishop would be a hell of a lot cheaper then the top 3 choices anyway. They have to potential to want big $ which we can't afford anyway. Bishop i think, being not proven at the NHL level, would make around 2 mill per, Maybe even less. A goalie making 5 mill isn't going to happen if Tampa, unless you think having subpar defensman and no scoring depth will win you a cup.
To be able to keep payroll around 57m and sign a couple of good defensmen we can probably spend about 3m on a goalie and that's about it.
These are line assumptions with cap hits. Malone 4.5, Stamkos 7.5, Downie *2.5, Purcell 2.362, Lecavalier 7.728, St. Louis 5.625, Conacher *1.64, Moore *2.5, Connolly 1.64, Tyrel .6, Thompson .9, Pyatt .6. Yes these are a little off base, I am just trying to get an idea of our playroll next year. This is the offense.
Brewer 3.85, Hedman 4, Ohlund 3.607, Jeff Shultz (if we could get him) 2.75, Gilroy 1.5, Mikkelsen .75, Barberio .58. This is defense, I believe that kicking Kubina, Clark and Bergeron to the curb would fix a huge amount of issues. Garon 1.3 and buyout 1.167. The total before another goalie is 57,599,000 and so I'm a little off, but if they wish to keep it close to this years payroll then 3m is all they can spend on a goalie.
Exactly! Schneider and Bernier would want more then 3 just look at Halak getting 4 mil. I would rather see better D in front of a decent goalie. You don't need a top $ goalie unless you have no Offense.
I am liking Mikkelsen more and more. Not super or flashy, just a meat and potatoes kinda guy. My top 5 affordable goalies for next season are: Leighton, Bishop, Helenius, Harding (we could pay and get him, but still has something to prove) and Clemenson.
Anders Lindback. UFA. Hasn't been that good this season but I've seen the guy play enough to make me want to take a flyer on him. Pretty sure he could be signed for under 2 million.
Leighton I want nothing to do with. Bishop has 6 shutouts this year! Think we need to get Helenius back to North America for sure. Mikkelsen would be an ok 5th or 6th D-man.
He IS a good 5th or 6th.