Saturday, 13 October 2018

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets: Power Play Adjustment Pays Dividends

The Tampa Bay Lightning offense had largely been quiet to start the 2018-19 campaign... until Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In front of a great crowd at Amalie Arena, the Bolts defeated the visitors by a score of 8-2 (!). Here are some thoughts:

1) Cooper's power play adjustment paid dividends

As highlighted in this blog after the team's last game, a loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Mikhail Sergachev had been under-utilized on the man advantage to start the year in favor an inferior Ryan McDonagh. The cries for Sergachev to take that spot on the second unit came from all corners of Bolts Nation. After watching his power play units look listless for the first couple games of the year, Jon Cooper made the switch. It paid immediate dividends, as Sergachev notched two power play apples on the night:
In 3:15 of PP ice time, Sergachev looked great. Per Natural Stat Trick, he was on the ice for 7 Lightning scoring chances at 5v4. Consider it a productive experiment. Simply put, using the young rearguard in positions where his slick skating and vision can exploit opposing defenses seems like common sense; it was therefore unsurprising to see him have success on the power play against the Blue Jackets. Here's hoping that this is one adjustment that Cooper sticks with for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Lightning vs. Canucks: Hate the Result, Not the Process

The Tampa Bay Lightning struggle with the Vancouver Canucks. It's something this blogger has just come to accept, regardless of how bad the Canucks are in any given year. Tonight's game was no exception. Despite absolutely dominating the play all night long (ALL. NIGHT. LONG.), the Lightning fell to Vancouver by a score of 4-1 (two ENG) in regulation. Some thoughts:

1) The Lightning were more than good enough

Other than when they were on the man-advantage, the Lightning looked every bit as good as anyone could have expected them to look. The Canucks are a team that's expected to compete for Jack Hughes in next year's draft, and the Bolts made them look like a team that's expected to compete for Jack Hughes for most of the night. Somehow they lost. That's hockey, I suppose. If you look at the underlying numbers, however, it's difficult to complain about much:

The chart above paints a picture of complete domination. The Lightning were good, but were bested by a stellar goaltending performance from Anders Nilsson and some bad luck. Review a bit of power play video and get ready for the next one --- things will probably be okay.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Three Things: Lightning vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning are back! The 2018-19 campaign got off to a winning start, as the Bolts defeated the Florida Panthers in a shootout. The final score in the contest was 2-1. Here are quick thoughts on three things that caught my eye during the game:

Thing #1: Yanni Gourde looked like Yanni Gourde

One of the big questions for me heading into this season was how Gourde would respond to heightened expectations after a 25-goal, 64-point year in 2017-18. While he didn't score last night, and likely won't shoot at 18%+++ again this year, Gourde looked like the Gourde we've all come to know and love.

He was tenacious, he was a beast on the forecheck, and he was one of a few Lightning players who was able to "take it" to the Panthers at five-on-five. The great thing about a player who can do those things is that there's always going to be room for him in the lineup, even when he's not scoring.

With a $1M cap hit, Gourde has to be considered one of the better bargains in the National Hockey League. It was great to see him pick up exactly where he left off last year.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

BREAKING: Lightning Sign Ryan McDonagh to Seven-Year Extension

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they have signed defender Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract extension, worth $6.75M per season. According to Joe Smith of The Athletic, the deal comes with a full no-trade clause through 2026. McDonagh, who was acquired at the 2018 trade deadline from the New York Rangers, has one season remaining on his current contract.

As mentioned in this blog earlier in the offseason, McDonagh comes with a sterling reputation. Long viewed as one of the league's premier rearguards, he brings with him a pedigree that is nearly unmatched around the league. The trouble, of course, is that teams shouldn't sign seven year extensions to pay for past performance; they should be looking towards the future.

In this case, projections for future performance are iffy at best. A quick look at McDonagh's statistical trend line tells a concerning story:


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Opinion: Cashing in on Ryan McDonagh's Reputation Could Make Sense for Tampa Bay

As Raw Charge's @loserpoints eloquently points out, the Lightning paid a big price for Ryan McDonagh at the 2017 trade deadline, and need him to be a consistent presence to justify that price moving forward. The question this blogger has been wrestling with over the past number of weeks is whether it makes more sense for the Lightning to gamble on a McDonagh bounce back campaign or to cash in on his sterling reputation now by way of a trade. Having given it some measure of thought, I'm leaning more and more towards at least exploring the trade option to see if value can be derived there.

My reasoning for the aforementioned conclusion is essentially twofold:

1) The Lightning's *real* need is (and was at the time of the McDonagh acquisition, for that matter) on the right side of the blue line; and
2) The trendline in McDonagh's past performance suggests that his reputation might provide the Lightning with more value than any expected future results

Monday, 26 February 2018

Lightning Deal Namestnikov, Futures to Rangers for McDonagh, Miller

Imagine you're battling a bad case of the flu. The package of Tylenol says to take one dose of medicine every four hours, or six daily. Now imagine you only choose to take three of the six every day. You're probably still feeling quite sick. But, what would happen if you decided to add a fourth dose?  What if that fourth dose was extra strength?  You're likely still not feeling 100%, but I can guarantee that you're a heck of a lot better than you were when you were only taking three.

That's what happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning defence core today, when the team dealt Vladislav Namestnikov and some futures to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller. Full particulars of the deal are included below:

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Could Nikita Kucherov get Connor McDavid Money?

Much has been made of the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning have forward Nikita Kucherov under contract at $4.77M per season for this year and next.  Bolts GM Steve Yzerman has been given ample credit for getting one of the game's brightest stars under contract for a fraction of his true market value.  Cornered into signing a bridge deal at the end of his entry-level contract, Kucherov had little negotiating leverage and was all but forced into signing what the team put in front of him.  The long and tense negotiation and resulting team-friendly deal almost certainly played a role in Kucherov changing agents earlier this year.

The trouble with signing Kucherov to a deal with such bountiful short-term benefits is the long-term cost.  What could have been a long-term deal with a $6-7M cap hit two summers ago is now going to be much, much worse for the Lightning.  Kucherov's continued meteoric rise to stardom means that he will be able to command a tremendous amount of wealth on his next contract.

Still, there seems to be some underlying theory in Tampa hockey circles that, because Steven Stamkos took less and signed for $8.5M per season on his deal, Kucherov will do the same and come in around that same number.  With each passing day, that idea sounds more and more ridiculous.  In a league where stars are being paid big dollars earlier and earlier in their careers, the notion that Kucherov will settle below $8.5M because someone else did seems far-fetched.  Especially after the way his last contract negotiation went.

The question, then, is this: Could Nikita Kucherov get Connor McDavid money?