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.