Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Lightning Take Final Two Games vs. Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes are a quality hockey club, and arguably the Tampa Bay Lightning’s biggest competition in the Central Division this year. After dropping the first game of their four-game set against the Canes, the Lightning responded by delivering three straight victories including a 3-0 win on Wednesday and 3-1 victory tonight. Here are two games of thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Goaltending
The Lightning were the better team by a solid margin on Wednesday night, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made sure that they were rewarded for that quality play. He stopped all 25 shots fired in his direction for the first shutout of his season. He made a number of excellent saves, which frustrated the Hurricanes on multiple occasions. Nobody summed up his play better than the Canes’ social media team:
Thumbs Up: Ross Colton’s Debut
Household name Ross Colton scored his first career goal in his first career game. The beneficiary of Victor Hedman breaking into the zone with McDavid-like speed, Colton was in the right place at the right time with his stick on the ice to get the score. Colton’s underlying numbers were less than stellar, but it’s impossible to give him anything but a big “thumbs up” for scoring in his debut.
Thumbs Up: Keep Cal Foote in the Lineup
Per Natural Stat Trick, Foote posted a five-on-five shot attempt share of nearly 60% and a five-on-five expected goal share of nearly 80%. He needs to play.
Thumbs Up: Tyler Johnson, per the Eye Test
He didn’t factor in on the offence, but my notes from Wednesday suggest that I thought Tyler Johnson had a good game. Johnson’s at his best when he’s using his speed to move the puck up ice, and I thought he was doing a lot of that yesterday. As mentioned in the last Mike’s Mailbag, he and Alex Killorn really seem to be working well together this season.
Thumbs Up: The 2020 Trade Deadline
The last two goals of the game came from Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a trade deadline that has paid more return on investment for an organization than the one Julien BriseBois crafted last season. Both Coleman and Goodrow have become integral parts of this Lightning lineup.
Thumbs Down: The Team Play
Unlike Wednesday, the Lightning were… bad tonight. They looked ridiculously sloppy, and seemed to adopt a bit of a nonchalant attitude when it came to managing the puck. It was an ugly, ugly performance as evidenced by the 37% expected goal share they generated at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. The end result flattered them in a major way.
Thumbs Up: Curtis McElhinney Delivers a Gem
When the team plays so badly and somehow manages to leave the arena with a 3-1 victory in their pocket, it can only mean one thing: The goaltending was really good. It was. Curtis McElhinney turned in a performance that should earn him a steak dinner or two courtesy of his teammates, as he stopped 31 of 32 shots he faced. The quantity was matched by quality as well. Getting that kind of goaltending out of a backup is a major win on any occasion.
Thumbs Up: Mikhail Sergachev’s Goal
You have to be a fairly confident defenseman to even think about trying what Mikhail Sergachev tried when he scored the Lightning’s opening goal. Right off the faceoff, Sergachev walked the puck in tight from along the boards and popped it into the Carolina goal. It’s the kind of tally fans are used to seeing from forwards like Nikita Kucherov or Brayden Point, not necessarily defenders like Sergachev. He’s a special player.
Thumbs Up: Yanni Gourde’s Shot
It’s hard to believe that this is the same player who couldn’t buy a goal for almost three months last season:
That shot had some velocity on it.
Thumbs Down: The Power Play Unit
A team with so much offensive talent on the roster shouldn’t look so deflated with the man-advantage unit on the ice.
Thumbs Up: The Penalty Killing Unit
McElhinney was by far their best penalty killer, especially in the second period, but any time your unit goes 5/5 it deserves kudos.
The Lightning will now prepare to take on the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
As always, thanks for reading.