The potential milestone is still laying right in front of goalie Ben Bishop, with a broad goofy grin on its face and squinted eyes. It wants to be taken, it knows it's going to a good home and meeting with its new man is just a matter of time. Ooh, it's going to be so wonderful!! Yup, that 84th win and becoming the Tampa Bay Lightning's all-time winningest goalie is going to happen for Ben Bishop sometime soon...
...If Lightning special-teams doesn't hinder or obstruct the destined feat, that is. The some-kind-of-wonderful accolade has been pushed back by that some-kind-of-horrible performance against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. That game only served to highlight the fallacy that has been the Lightning penalty kill this season so far. Tampa Bay ranks dead last among all NHL clubs with a - and this is painful to type - 53.3% efficiency in shutting down opposing power plays. Almost half of opponents' power play opportunities result in lamp-lighting antics. That is a debacle that just cannot stand going forward, or all the hype and guaranteed shenanigans of the preseason can be turned into "what could have been" frustration talk.
But it's early, and me suggesting success lies on the penalty kill sort of undermines the extent of the game and how much has to go right in order for the season o go right. But jeez! 53.3% as a kill rate is 20 points lower than a bad penalty kill in most instances! Case in point: the 29th ranked penalty kill unit in the NHL has a 63.6% kill-rate, 10 points higher than Tampa Bay. That team happens to be tonight's opponent in the Buffalo Sabres, who have a single win so far this season and have been forced to utilize Chad Johnson as the team's #1 netminder with thanks to Robin Lehner going down with an injury on opening night. Johnson has a high but sound 2.86 GAA, his save percentage leaves something to be desired (goaltending) though: .892.
It's a work in progress in Buffalo. Only two players (Jake McCabe and Sam Reinhart) have positive plus-minus stats (plus-1 for each) but the season is transition from what was to something new, and the transition doesn't come overnight. It's not like that in Tampa Bay, though one could declare the roster is just warming up to the season... and those first three wins of the year sure made them look warmed up, didn't they? With the talent of the roster and the quality of penalty kill assets like Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, you would not expect the PK in TB to be WTF bad though.
It was an optional morning skate Saturday morning for the Bolts, with Slater Koekkoek participating as well as Ondrej Palat, the suspended Nikita Nesterov and Alex Killorn, who missed Thursday's game but told reporters this morning he's good for tonight.