Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Lightning Return to Playing Lightning Hockey
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the better team by a country mile on Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it took them until overtime to secure the 3-2 victory. Regardless, the result was the right one. Here are last night’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: A Return to Bolts Hockey
The Lightning have had a bit of a rough go of things in recent weeks, so to see them play such a wonderful game against a top-tier opponent was very refreshing. The Lightning looked like… the Lightning. They kept the Hurricanes largely to the perimeter, used their speed to push the puck through the neutral zone, and created opportunities for themselves in the offensive zone.
Thumbs Up: Receiving the Message
Tyler Johnson’s effort in the Lightning’s last game was, quite frankly, inexcusable. It didn’t take him long in this game to make amends, as he delivered a subtly spectacular assist on Alex Killorn’s first period goal. When Johnson is engaged in the play, he can still be an effective contributor. The task for Jon Cooper is determining how best to keep him engaged so that we get more of this and less of whatever last game was.
Thumbs Up: Alex Killorn’s Contributions
Alex Killorn’s first-period goal, referenced above, was a thing of beauty. Having a middle-six winger with hands like those is a huge benefit for Tampa Bay, and it paid off on two occasions last night. Killorn was a big part of this victory, even if his underlying numbers weren’t particularly impressive.
Thumbs Up: Gourde Gets Rewarded
The second Killorn contribution was an assist on Yanni Gourde’s overtime winner. If you were to have asked me at the start of overtime who the rightful overtime hero should have been, my answer would have been Gourde. He - along with his usual linemates - was fantastic from start to finish in this game.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Lightning seem to be at their best when Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow are operating at their best as a trio. Last night, Natural Stat Trick had that line as generating a five-on-five expected goal share of 95% (!!!). It was an absurdly good performance.
Thumbs Up: Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Goaltending
Because they were unable to convert on their chances at the other end, the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to be good in order to earn a win. He delivered "good" and more.
Thumbs Up: David Savard’s Best Game Since Arriving
It’s not as though we’re dealing with a large sample size, but I thought this was David Savard’s best game since arriving in Tampa. He was really effective in the defensive zone, which limited opportunities for Carolina and allowed the Lightning to get things moving in the right direction. His best moments came in and around the crease, using his size and strength to clear space and secure the puck for his team. If this is what the Lightning are going to get moving forward into the playoffs, they’ll be more than happy with the return on their investment.
The Lightning are in action again tonight against the Hurricanes.
As always, thanks for reading.