Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Lightning Stun Stars in Stanley Cup Final Rematch
The Tampa Bay Lightning turned a relatively low-event game into an impressive 5-0 victory yesterday against the Dallas Stars, in what was the first matchup between the foes since last year’s Stanley Cup Final. While the Lightning have seemingly picked up right where they left off, the Stars are struggling to start this abbreviated season; it showed yesterday. Here are the thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Goaltending
He was only tested with 20 shots, but Vasilevskiy stopped them all. Any time the goaltender pitches a shutout, he deserves a thumbs up. There’s a reason that Vasilevskiy is consistently showing as one of the league’s top goaltenders, if not the league’s very top goaltender, when goalie analytics are discussed these days. He’s been an absolute rock for the Lightning.
Thumbs Up: The League’s Most Underrated Superstar
Another goal, another assist for Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos yesterday, which pushes his season totals to ten goals and 19 points through 17 games. That puts him in a tie for tenth overall in league goal scoring, despite Stamkos having played far fewer games than most of the names above him on the list. To put that in context, Natural Stat Trick shows Stamkos as ranking fifth in the league in goals / 60 minutes of all-situation play this season, behind only David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Tyler Toffoli, and Patrik Laine. He remains one of the league’s very best at what he does – even if he doesn’t get the attention he got when he was a 60-goal man.
Perhaps most impressive about Stamkos, though, is his ability to match the goal-scoring prowess with play-driving ability. That’s been the biggest change in his game over the years, and last night was a perfect example of it in action. Per Natural Stat Trick, Stamkos generated a 62% five-on-five shot attempt share and a 72% five-on-five expected goal share. Those are elite numbers from an elite player. He was phenomenal in all respects.
Thumbs Up: Anthony Cirelli Returns
In case you weren’t already convinced of Anthony Cirelli’s importance to this Tampa Bay Lightning team, last night should put any doubt to rest. Returning to the lineup after time away with injury, Cirelli stepped in and delivered a comically good performance. There was no need for him to get back up to speed despite missing two weeks of action; he was already there. Whether it was making the right plays in the defensive zone, teaming up with Steven Stamkos for a goal and an assist, or simply using his underrated speed to move the puck in the right direction, Cirelli was doing it all for Jon Cooper’s Bolts.
Thumbs Up: Tyler Johnson’s Quiet Competence
It’s starting to look like a trend. Tyler Johnson was once again – at least by my eye – a solid contributor for the Lightning at both ends of the ice last night. His two assists, which came off Brayden Point’s seventh of the season and Pat Maroon’s second, were just gravy. The Point assist was a bit of a generous one, but the Maroon assist was a great example of using smarts to put the puck in the right place rather than simply throwing it on net mindlessly. Johnson matched those contributions with generally sound underlying numbers.
Thumbs Up: The Victor Hedman / Mikhail Sergachev Dynamic
It’s practically unfair to have two defenseman this good on one roster.
The Lightning and Stars will be back in action on Tuesday.
As always, thanks for reading.