2016-17 Season Breakdown: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers

Jonathan Marchessault. Brayden Point. Yanni Gourde. A few names came up big in this series.

Raw Charge is breaking down the Tampa Bay Lightning’s past season, team by team, to see who helped and who hurt our playoff chances.


Florida Panthers


October 18, 2016 — Tampa 4, Florida 3, SO

It’s interesting/sad to compare our preview in October to our preview in March.

Preview by Achariya: “Two teams, both alike in possession stats, meet in Tampa tonight to decide which has its opening streak broken. In the Stanley Cup Hangover season (2015-16), Tampa won once and lost four times (once in OT) against the Panthers. With Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette completely recovered from their Stanley Cup Final injuries, will TBL be able to outwork this in-state rival?”

Recap by David: “On a night in which a former Tampa Bay Lightning captain, Vincent Lecavalier, was honored, current captain Steven Stamkos was the hero who extended a game that looked as if it was going to slip away. And fittingly, up-and-coming Lightning forward Brayden Point was the hero who won it in the shootout.”

And who could forget this moment?

November 7, 2016 — Florida 3, Tampa 1

Preview questions answered by Todd Little: “The Panthers have been done in by a lack of scoring, some untimely defensive lapses and a wonky power play. The first of those two things aren't really that surprising when you consider the all new additions made over the offseason and the fact that three (Jonathan Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad) of the team's top seven forwards are out. I expected there to be some growing pains over the first quarter of the season as the new arrivals and incumbent players got use to each other, and this has been exacerbated by the bite of the injury bug. Even with the injuries, the power play should be better. That's an area the Cats need to help them win games, especially until they are at full strength.”

Recap by Loserpoints: “If tonight’s game is an indication of what can be expected when these teams play, then fans of both teams should be excited. The game was well-played on both sides with talented competing to generate offense against well-structured defensive systems. Both teams played at a fast pace and put pressure on each other’s goaltenders, who both performed admirably. The next game between these two will be on January 26th in Sunrise once again.”  — Oh the irony.

January 26, 2017 — Florida 2, Tampa 1, OT

Preview by iActium: “It’s game 50 and the Lightning are five points out of a wild-card spot, and six points out of a divisional playoff spot. Every team ahead of them in the standings have played fewer or the same amount of games except for Boston (the Bruins have played 51 games and have a five-point lead on the Lightning). This Lightning team should’ve been playing with “desperation” a month ago. So the Bolts hitting the very bottom of the Eastern Conference will “wake them up” and get them playing correctly? I’m sorry, but the previous 49 games this season have shown how far this team needs to go.”

Recap by Achariya: Of course Marchessault scored the OT winner. “Let's talk about Overtime first. Bolts entered the game having lost their last two overtime games due to the exact same situation we saw tonight: a Bolts player took a penalty in overtime, and the ensuing power play handed the other team their victory. This season, Bolts are one of the most penalized teams in the league at 10th, and it's probably not a coincidence that both goals against tonight were due to penalties (the first goal against was shorthanded).”

March 11, 2017 — Tampa 3, Florida 2

Preview by loserpoints: By this point, it felt like the longest season on the planet. “The Lightning and Panthers enter tonight’s game in similar positions. Both were expected to make the playoffs before the season. The two Florida teams, along with Montreal, were the favorites from the Atlantic. But hockey in Florida hasn’t gone as planned this year. Neither the Panthers nor Lightning are likely to make the playoffs. Both would need a winning streak and some help from other teams to make it.”

Recap by Justing: “It wouldn’t be the prolific power play that tied the game, but the shorthanded unit. Yanni Gourde, who worked hard all night, scored his first NHL goal shorthanded. Gourde stepped up to pick Vincent Trocheck’s pocket at the Lightning blueline. He then used his speed to get a step on Trocheck, and fought him off long enough to slide the puck between Reimer’s pads for the game-tying goal.”

I just have to mention the penalties in this last game in the season series. Both teams were clearly frustrated, and it boiled over for most of the second period:

2:58 Keith Yandle: 2 Minutes for Roughing (Served by Jonathan Marchessault)

2:58 Keith Yandle: 5 Minute Major for Fighting

2:58 Gabriel Dumont: 5 Minute Major for Fighting

6:17 Alex Petrovic: 10 Minute Misconduct

6:17 Alex Petrovic: 2 Minutes for Roughing (Served by Jonathan Marchessault)

6:17 Alex Petrovic: 10 Minute Misconduct

6:35 Colton Sceviour: 2 Minutes for Roughing

6:35 Ondrej Palat: 2 Minutes for Roughing

9:24 Luke Witkowski: 2 Minutes for Cross checking

10:28 Andrej Sustr: 2 Minutes for High-sticking

19:06 Vincent Trocheck: 2 Minutes for Roughing

19:06 Jake Dotchin: 2 Minutes for Roughing


Goals: Alex Killorn (1), Ondrej Palat (3), Steven Stamkos (1), Nikita Kucherov (2 PPGs), Yanni Gourde (1 SHG)

Shootout goals: Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point

Assists: Nikita Kucherov (1), Steven Stamkos (1), Jonathan Drouin (3), Victor Hedman (2), Valtteri Filppula (1), Alex Killorn (1), Andrej Sustr (1)

Save Percentages:

Ben Bishop:

October 18: 31 saves on 34 shots, .903 SV%

November 7: 31 saves on 33 shots, .935 SV%

Andrei Vasilevskiy:

January 26: 37 saves on 39 shots, .946 SV%

March 11: 34 saves on 36 shots, .941 SV%


Even though it was jarring to see Jonathan Marchessault do so well with Florida this past season, he was not acquired by Florida in a trade. Instead, Yzerman offered him a contract when he became a UFA, but Florida offered him more time and money. Heading to Florida was a smart move for Marchessault and a sad move for Bolts fans.

One of the two moves we did make involving Florida was to acquire Forward Greg McKegg off waivers at the trade deadline on the 27th. This was a “What, why?” moment that we still can’t quite figure out: “He doesn’t appear to offer much that the Lightning would want. Florida performed better with him off the ice than with him on the ice both in terms of shot and goal metrics, and he played fourth line minutes with the Panthers on the occasions when he did play.” And indeed, we’re still not sure what he offered through the rest of the Bolts’ season.

The other move was to do a trade to strengthen the AHL. At first Syracuse fans were a little wary of a move that took Adam Wilcox out of Tampa’s goaltending system and replace him with an excellent but different goaltender. But considering how stalwart Mike McKenna has been in goal during the Crunch’s long cup run, there are now calls to re-sign him next season.

In the words of Steve Yzerman: “Mike has played really well throughout the playoffs. Actually he looks like he’s getting better, looking like he’s getting more comfortable with each game. Pucks are sticking to him, hitting him in the chest. He’s reading the play very well. I think his play has improved with each round, with each playoff game.”

Will we re-sign him? Yzerman says he won’t discuss it until after the playoffs are over.

View from the other bench:

Todd Little of Litterboxcats was kind enough weigh in on our rivalry stalemate.

The Florida Panthers managed to fight their cross-state rival to draw this season, with each team winning twice and picking up five out of a possible eight points.

On 10/18/16, the Lightning handed the undefeated Cats (okay, okay they were only 2-0 at the time) their first loss of the season with a 4-3 shootout win at Amalie Arena. Brayden Point was the hero, scoring the deciding goal in round six of the skills competition.

The teams hooked up again on 11/18/16 in Sunrise and this time the Panthers came away with a hard-fought 3-1 victory. Looking to change his luck, and end a personal four-game losing streak, Roberto Luongo shaved for the first time during the 2016-17 season prior to game and then stopped 34 shots to get the Cats back to .500. Reilly Smith scored the go-ahead goal with 4:28 left in regulation.

Florida posted a 2-1 overtime win at the BB&T Center on 1/26/17 to give the Panthers the lead in the season-series. Jonathan Marchessault's power-play goal, with Tyler Johnson off for interference - oops, ended the tilt 1:49 into the extra session. James Reimer earned first star honors for his 34-save performance, which ended a four-game Florida losing streak.

The Lightning won the fourth and final meeting between the clubs with a 3-2 decision in Tampa on 3/11/17. Florida led 2-0 after twenty minutes before the Bolts rallied to even the game on second period goals from Nikita Kucherov and Yanni Gourde. Gourde's goal was the first of his career and came with his team shorthanded to boot. Ondrej Palat's nifty redirection with 2:23 remaining in the third was the decisive blow for the home team and extended the reeling Panthers' losing streak to five games.

Did the Panthers help or hurt the Lightning this season?

The fault here wasn’t with goaltending — Bishop did fine against the Cats, winning the game with his lower SV% and losing the game with the higher one, ironically. Vasilevskiy did a better than excellent job, while yet winning only one of his two contests. The story of the season is goal support, and in the two losing games, the goalies had little.

It’s interesting to note that special teams played a role in the series, with 2 power-play goals from Kucherov, and one shorthanded goal from Gourde.

Pretty sure if we’d won those other two games against the Panthers, we would’ve made playoffs, so each loss to our in-state rival hurt.