First a little introduction. Lightning Hang Overs won’t be done for every game. But, if there is something significant to talk about from the previous night’s game, that’s what a Lightning Hang Over is for. Or if I just feel like talking about the game. Anyways, on to the thoughts!
Last night was the first pre-season game of the year for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Hurricanes had a game on Monday night against the Capitals, so this was their second. With so many players participating in the World Cup of Hockey and still enjoying some rest after coming back, last night’s roster was primarily minor leaguers and prospects.
The Lightning roster consisted of four players that were regulars in the NHL last year for the Lightning and five players that were fill-in depth players appearing for the Lightning. Then include James Wisniewski and Cory Conacher. After that, you had eight players that played major junior hockey last season. Only Brayden Point out of that group will be in the AHL full time this season. And then add in one Adam Wilcox as the lone minor leaguer from last year that hasn’t appeared in the NHL yet.
Carolina brought a few more veterans and NHL regulars on their trip to Tampa Bay. They had Elias Lindholm who scored 39 points last year, veteran Lee Stempniak, Jeff Skinner, and Cam Ward in goal. They also brought some highly touted young defensive players in Noah Hanifin and Jake Bean.
I was really disappointed at how dominated the Bolts were in the 1st and 2nd periods. While the first half of the first period wasn’t too bad, they got called for a penalty mid-way through the 1st period and it seemed to be all down hill from there. The team killed off the penalty, but then got trapped in their zone for three shifts in a row. By the time they’d get it out or get control of it, it’d be time to change and then Carolina would disrupt the outlet and hem the Bolts in again.
The Lightning were also undisciplined throughout the game taking five penalties, not including J.T. Brown’s double minor for roughing with 2.5 seconds to go in the game. The power play when they did get on the ice didn’t look bad. James Wisniewski is as advertised. He made good passes and he had no fear of shooting the puck from the point. I think that’s one of the things that Anton Stralman has lacked working the point for the Lightning’s power play. Not only can Wisniewski set up Stamkos in his office, but he can also get the puck through traffic with his shot.
While the power play failed to produce, it did look better. Guys were aggressive getting on the puck and keeping the puck in the zone. They may have been a little guilty of over passing, but also give credit to Carolina’s penalty killers as they were keeping things to the outside, clogging up the middle, and getting in the shooting lanes forcing the Lightning to try tricky passes that ultimately didn’t work.
The Lightning did finally show some life in the third period being able to pot two goals after Cam Ward left the game. They got a goal from Brayden Point, who also ended up being the third star of the game, and another goal from Boko Imama. Both were basically what you’d expect from them. Point got a nice set up from Johnson and beat the goal with a wrister. Boko found the puck on his stick in a scrum around the crease and knocked it home.
I was impressed with Libor Hajek’s game. He’s a smooth skater and he passed the puck well. He also played on the second power play unit which I think is a good sign for how the Lightning see his future as a two-way defenseman. He’s probably headed back to the WHL in the next couple days, but it was great to see him in this game and at the rookie tournament.
Anthony Cirelli had a bit of an up and down game to me. He was playing a lot in a fourth line role with Imama and Tye McGinn. He ended up even on the night, but was on ice for a Carolina goal. He also played on the penalty kill. He wasn’t great on faceoffs as he went 7-11 for a 39% win percentage. His future with the team is likely as a fourth line defensive forward and penalty killer.
James Wisniewski was pretty much as advertised. He looks healthy and skated well. I noticed him often talking to the other guys on the ice and directing things. He has quickly shown some leadership there and an ability to take charge which was especially good with so many young guys on the ice. He led the team on TOI with 21:20 and had 3 shot attempts.
Tyler Johnson looked like he was back to normal. Having his wrist fully healthy and being able to go through a full offseason workout program seems to have done wonders for him. He had 3 shots on goal and another 3 shot attempts besides that. He was also an impressive 72% in the faceoff dot going 13-5.
Cory Conacher was fast all night. While he did get shuffled down off of Johnson and Killorn’s line in the third period, he was a disruptive force. He’s tenacious on the forecheck and does better along the ways than you’d expect with his size. I think he’s going to earn himself a spot on the roster out of training camp.
Kristers Gudlevskis looked good for his half of the game. It was unfortunate that he left the game after letting in a goal, but it was just timing as it was the first stoppage after the 10:00 minute mark of the second. He looked calm and poised. He had a good economy of motion and wasn’t flopping around. When he’s playing like that, he’s good. The two goals he let in weren’t soft goals. The first was a cross-crease pass to the back post. The other was a well placed wrist shot that went bar down.
Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Braydon Coburn wore As for the Bolts tonight with none of the regular alternate captains in the line up.