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.

2) Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman were not more than good enough

The Lightning were good enough as a team, but Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman were not. Individually, they had dismal nights. The best evidence for this is perhaps their individual 5v5 relative Corsi percentages, which sat at -41.05% for Stralman and -35.53% for McDonagh. The results are so strikingly bad that they are almost unbelievable. Unfortunately for those guys, the eye test wasn't much friendlier.

The McDonagh-Stralman duo was on the ice when the Canucks, who had been trailing 1-0 for most of the night, tied the game. Rookie sensation Elias Pettersson walked McDonagh like a turnstile to set up a lengthy offensive zone shift for Vancouver, which culminated with the game-tying marker. All Stralman and McDonagh could do was watch, seemingly in awe. They simply weren't able to keep up with the best that Vancouver had to offer:
Obviously it's still incredibly early, but the play of Stralman and McDonagh this year will be something worth watching. McDonagh's job is to prove that he *isn't* the player that he's looked like over the last couple seasons and that he *is* the guy who looked fantastic in New York for so many years. Stralman's job, on the other hand, is to prove that he's still the team's steadiest hand on the blue line. Tonight wasn't a great start on either front.

3) Mikhail Sergachev looked electric and deserves power play time

Sergachev boasted a CF% of 75% at 5v5 tonight, and looked every bit as good as he did at his very best last season. Watching him is downright mesmerizing, especially when he's walking the offensive blue line.

Despite that, and the fact that he put up more than a half-point per game last season, Sergachev got exactly 16 SECONDS of power play time on a night when the Lightning had five (count 'em FIVE) power plays. Ryan McDonagh, the guy who looked more like an AHL call-up than a $7M man for most of the night, played 4:28 on the man advantage.

There's no explaining that. It needs to change. This thing should be a meritocracy, and Sergachev has earned everything he's been given to date and more.

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As always, thanks for reading.

(All statistics cited within are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, a premier source for hockey analytics.)


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