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.

2) Kucherov did the thing 

The season was only two games old, but a goalless Nikita Kucherov looked tense:

While it wasn't a particularly consequential marker within the context of this contest, Kucherov's third period goal to make the game 7-2 probably felt like a game-changer for him personally. If the Lightning can get number-86 going, opposition teams will be in some serious trouble.

3) Bending not breaking, with thanks to Vasilevskiy

The Lightning jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after a dominant first period, but then the Blue Jackets took over.

While Columbus was able to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for two in the second period, the Bolts somehow managed to hold on to their lead. Give credit to the Russian goaltender for battling, because without him things could have been very different. The Lightning were outshot 16-5 in that second period, but entered the third with a 4-2 lead. Great goaltending can be a difference maker.

Vasilevskiy keeping the Bolts ahead through that lacklustre second period was key, as once the buzzer sounded to start the third period Tampa skaters never looked back. The heat was right back on the Blue Jackets, and the Lightning worked their way to victory. With the win, Vasilevskiy now sits with a 2-1-0 record, .950 save percentage, and 1.64 GAA. That'll do.


As always, thanks for reading.

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