Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Lightning Remember to Score Against Hurricanes
Third time’s the charm, right? It took the Tampa Bay Lightning three tries, but they finally managed to put the puck behind a Carolina Hurricanes goaltender for the first time this season last night. The result was a 4-2 victory to put the Bolts back in the win column. Here are yesterday’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Goaltending
Both the underlying numbers and eye test suggested that the Lightning were nothing more than ‘okay’ last night. Some lines looked good, while others really struggled. The major reason they were able to turn a mixed-bag skater performance like that into a win was the goaltending delivered by Andrei Vasilevskiy. After giving up a goal on one of Carolina’s first few shots of the game, Vasilevskiy settled into an impressive rhythm. He was more than deserving of the “W” in this one.
Thumbs Up: Alex Barre-Boulet’s NHL Debut
Due to the incredible run of success they’ve been on for the better part of the last five or six years, Tampa Bay’s prospect cupboard is almost bare. So, when someone like Cal Foote, Alex Volkov, or, in this case, Alex Barre-Boulet steps into the lineup and has a bit of success, it’s worth noting.
Barre-Boulet didn’t look at all out of place in his NHL debut. He was involved in the play, had the puck moving in the right direction, and didn’t do anything to hurt the team. While his name didn’t show up on the scoresheet at night’s end, it’s hard to ask for much more from an inaugural performance.
Those solid eye test results were matched by absurdly good underlying numbers. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Lightning controlled 70% of the five-on-five shot attempts and generated 82% of the five-on-five expected goals when Barre-Boulet was on the ice. I'm not sure that he was quite *that* good, but he was good. The bottom line for this player: He earned himself another look.
Thumbs Up: The Best Players Contributing
Mired in a disastrously long two-game losing streak, the Lightning needed their best players to step up. They did exactly that yesterday.
Steven Stamkos delivered a two-point performance, which included a goal off one his patented from-the-circle bombs. Victor Hedman scored a goal with a wrist shot that most forwards around the league would kill to have in their arsenal. Ondrej Palat notched the game-winner by standing firm in front of the net and battling until he converted.
What more could you want, really?
Thumbs Up: The Line Blender
If you had asked me about Jon Cooper’s lineup prior to puck drop, I would have told you that it looked a lot like a coach throwing stuff at the wall hoping that some of it would stick. Brayden Point with Blake Coleman? Steven Stamkos with Mathieu Joseph? Alex Killorn with Yanni Gourde? Cooper went to the blender in a major way.
Somehow, though, it worked. I didn’t think the Stamkos line was overly effective, but the Gourde trio and Point trio both looked excellent for stretches in this game. Point’s line, in particular, did so much great work to move the puck up ice and create chances. The combination of Coleman and Palat’s puck retrieval ability with Point’s speed and offensive instincts made that line very dangerous.
I’m not sure whether these refreshed combinations will stick around as permanent fixtures, but it’s nice to know that the coach has options in his back pocket.
The Lightning continue their series against these Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
As always, thanks for reading.