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.

Thing #2: Andrei Vasilevskiy earned the win

The Lightning left Vasilevskiy out to dry last night, to put it lightly. He made 42 saves on 43 shots through regulation and overtime. His performance left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it's pretty great that the Bolts have a goaltender who can be relied on to steal a game like that; on the other, though, this seems to be happening far too often:
This is definitely something to watch as the Lightning continue through their first few weeks of the season. Expectations are too high on this squad to have games like that become a regular occurrence. Vasilevskiy can't be counted on to allow one goal on 40-plus shots every night. It's not fair. It's not sustainable. Raw talent masks process issues on many nights during the regular season, but it doesn't tend to be enough to take a seven-game series last in the postseason.

Thing #3: Gary Sanchez hit a bomb

Listen, it's way too early in the hockey season to draw big conclusions or start weaving together narratives. Until the sample size is a little bit bigger, keeping one eye on baseball makes a lot of sense. You might even get a chance to see something like this:

It cleared Fenway. Like, what?

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As always, thanks for reading!

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