Saturday, 21 October 2017

Three Things: Lightning vs. Penguins

A perfect game. 27 up, 27 do... Wrong sport, but Saturday night's game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins was hockey's equivalent of perfection.  From top to bottom, the Lightning were excellent.  Here are three things that caught my eye:

Thing #1: Gourde gets rewarded.

Obviously lots of things have bounced right for the Lightning to start this season, as evidenced by their now 7-1-1 record.  While players like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy have dominated headlines since the season's start, it's impossible to understate the contributions that Yanni Gourde has made for the team.  His tenacity and speed on the forecheck since puck drop on night one have been undeniable; players around him have benefited, as evidenced by his positive relative Corsi rating and astronomical relative goals-for percentage (10.65%).

Far from a household name heading into the 2017-18 campaign, Gourde had done so much prior to Saturday's contest without being rewarded with a goal of his own.  That all changed with 0.1 (!) seconds remaining in the first period:
Well deserved.

Thing #2: Thank the Hockey Gods that Namestnikov was on the protected list.

When the Vegas Golden Knights were being born into existence earlier this year, there was some debate among Lightning fans as to whether Vladislav Namestnikov should have been protected or not.  My opinion on the subject is well-documented here at TLL.  Thank goodness he was protected.

Since settling back in on a line with Stamkos and Kucherov, Namestnikov has been electric.  He's not the flashiest guy on that line.  He's not the fastest guy on that line.  He's not even the only guy whose last name ends in 'V' on that line.  What he is on that line, though, is a player who makes special things happen.  In an almost understated way, Namestnikov goes about his business and produces.  It's so nice to see him put it all together after a few years of being a fancy stat favorite without the corresponding production.

And, if you still think that he's just riding on the coattails of two of the NHL's brightest stars, check out his primary assist on Stamkos's first period goal:


He went on to add another assist on Mikhail Sergachev's third goal of the season.

Thing #3: Sergachev isn't going anywhere.

All the "will he stay through the nine game mark?" conversations we were having are almost starting to sound downright ridiculous.  Sergachev isn't going anywhere.  The Lightning need this, this, and more of this:

On top of the goal, Sergachev posted a 59.09% Corsi rating at five-on-five.  He's largely doing the quiet stuff right, too.

With each and every passing day, the deal that sent Jonathan Drouin to Montreal in exchange for Sergachev is looking more and more like one that will benefit the Tampa Bay Lightning for years to come.

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As always, thanks for reading.

(Advanced statistics cited in this blog are courtesy of Corsica.Hockey and HockeyStats.ca, two premier sources for hockey analytics.)

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