If you want to know what Jon Cooper's 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals or 2012-13 Syracuse Crunch looked like when they were running all over the AHL, look no further than the first period of tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues to find a taste of that. There was speed, sustained time in the offensive zone, and periods of excellent puck control. The Lightning didn't dominate like Cooper's AHL teams were capable of, but they controlled 51.9% of shot all attempts at 5v5 and 50% of unblocked attempts.
In short, they looked a damn sight better than the team that Cooper described as stagnant and stale before Friday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Cooper remarked after tonight's game, "I thought tonight was probably our most complete game."
(Scroll down for details and video on the goals.)
Going in, observers knew the Blues would be a tough opponent. They came to Tampa with a 8-1-2 record and a reputation for fierce defensive play. They also had Alexander Steen, the only player in the league with more goals (12) than Steven Stamkos (10, though he added one tonight). But the Lighting matched up very well tonight against one of the best teams in the league. It bodes well for the rest of the season.
There is still some work to be done, of course. The power play still allowed some shorthanded chances against and by the end of the game was letting the Blues prevent them from gaining the offensive zone, even with the man advantage. As the game wore on, it became harder and harder for the Lightning to control the puck at the blueline. One huge turnover by Radko Gudas led to a breakaway that thankfully Bishop stopped. There were also too many long east-west passes that were effectively disrupted by the Blues. This tendency had a lot to do with the Lightning's difficulty with zone exits and entries in the second and third period.
- Brett Connolly scored his first goal of the season tonight on a very nice deflection of a shot by Radko Gudas. I've added the video below.
- The line of Alex Killorn-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis looks very good to the eye. Killorn ended the game with a CorsiFor % of 54.8, though both Stamkos and St. Louis were under 50%.
- Jon Cooper said of Killorn: "You’ve got to give Killorn a lot of credit because he might have been the only guy on the ice for all four goals. He’s got two world class line mates but I thought he more than held his own tonight."
- In fact, St. Louis didn't have a great night, Corsi-wise. The team controlled only 40% of the shot attempts when he was on the ice. He ended the night with no points but the team had a shooting percentage of 28.6% when he was playing.
- The best player Corsi-wise was Ryan Malone with over 70% of shot attempts going for the Lightning when he was playing. Sami Salo was close at 70.4%. Matt Carle (32%) and Ondrej Palat (37.5%) were the worst Lightning players in shot attempts. Only those two were below 40%.
- This was an incredibly physical game, with lots of pushing and shoving as both teams battled for every lost puck.
- Ben Bishop himself took a bit of a beating, getting knocked over by T.J. Oshie twice and landed on in several scrums.
- The goaltending was quite solid on both ends of the ice. Jaroslav Halak has been one of the best goalies in the league over the past few years, and he was very good most of this evening as well. That said, it wasn't a Quality Start for either goaltender.
- Bishop appears to be coming into his own at the moment. He's so solid on goal line plays, and that was definitely needed tonight with how much the Blues crashed the net.
- Of course, this was Bishop's second game in two days, and many expressed concern over giving him both games in the back-to-back. Jon Cooper responded, "It’s really hard to sit Bishop, especially against his old organization; if you can’t get fired up for that then you shouldn’t be in the business." I'd say that if you need that to get fired up, you shouldn't be in this business. But then I'm not in this business, so what do I know? (I understand the decision to play Bishop. I just don't think it ought to be made based on that reasoning. He ought to play because he's earned the time, not because he'd be super-duper motivated tonight. Don't even get me started on the hot hand myth.)
- Bishop now has the best start of any goaltender in Lightning history, with 9 of his first 11 games as wins.
- Time on Ice leaders were Victor Hedman (22:34) and Sami Salo (22:46).
- Faceoffs were even for the two teams. Lightning faceoff leaders were Nate Thompson (54%) and Valtteri Filppula (53%). Stamkos, who had been struggling on the dot for a few games, won 52%.
The Lightning take on the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night at 7:30pm ET at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
10:44 TBL Alex Killorn (4) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE
16:01 TBL Valtteri Filppula (5) Backhand shot - ASST: Alex Killorn (8), Eric Brewer