2016-2017 Season Breakdown: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

Or, the rise of Brayden Point!

Opponent:

New Jersey Devils

Did the New Jersey Devils hurt or help the Tampa Bay Lightning this season?

Technically playing New Jersey earned Tampa four points out of six and therefore helped the team in standings, but what was more interesting to me when I looked back through our recaps was the rise of Brayden Point.

We played the Devils early in the season, when everyone was healthy-ish and there was a bit of a debate about whether to keep Point around or kick him out of the top six and play Jonathan Drouin instead. Alan’s preview for the November 5 game is especially telling — Drouin’s injury kept Point in the lineup. By the end of the year, so many people were injured that this no longer was a “point” of contention, but it was fun to see where our minds were at the start of November.

Point did very well against the Devils. Not only was his first goal scored against them, he also had more assists against them than any player except for Nikita Kucherov. Also note that in my recap for the abysmal October 29 loss, Alex Killorn began to show a lot of weakness in his play away from the puck. So many player trends developed early, if we’d only noticed the signs.

Games:

October 15, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 3, New Jersey Devils 2

Preview by @JohnnyFonts -- Second game, second goalie; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New Jersey Devils preview

"As for tonight's game for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy will get his first start of the season for the Bolts. It was life in the crease that raised some concerns among fans for Thursday's opener against the wings; Ben Bishop looked shaky. It's not that Big Ben is injured -€” not that we know of -€” but some saw his effort as starting goalie and thought he was fearful of being hurt. There's no certainty that Thursday contributed to head coach Jon Cooper deciding to go with Vasy instead of Bishop, but the choice does should remind everyone that this season is one of transition in the crease. 2016-17 is Ben Bishop's last under contract and Vasilevskiy, the 2012 1st round draft pick, should be seeing many more starts."

Recap by Devin YangRecap: Devils start off well, then fade away as Tampa Bay wins 3-2

“There were no more incredible chances in the period after that Tampa Bay power play, but you got the feeling that Tampa Bay was beginning to wake up. And wake up, they did. Tampa Bay absolutely dominated the puck, and the Devils didn’t press for the puck or put pressure on the Tampa Bay players. Jonathan Drouin used his speed to dance by the Devils defenders, and then forced Cory Schneider to make a save on his shot to keep the Devils lead. Ondrej Palat then took a penalty, but the Devils did nothing with it, which seemed to give Tampa Bay even more confidence. Brayden Point and Vladislav Namestnikov both then got shots from the slot, but Cory Schneider kept the Devils alive.”

October 29, 2016: New Jersey Devils 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Preview by @loserpoints -- Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils preview: Life without Kucherov

"The season is still young enough that we need a few more games to feel comfortable making meaningful statements based on the shot rates. But one interesting early trend is that both Tampa and New Jersey have generally struggled to create quality scoring chances but have done a great job of limiting scoring chances. So while generating scoring chances is always important, they are likely to be at a premium tonight and both teams will need to convert when they get a shot from a dangerous area."

Recap by @tanyarezak -- Devils lack sympathy, defeat Bolts 3-1

"Killorn stepped onto the ice for a change and was not able to corral the puck. He had the misfortune to run into Adam Henrique, the Devils' strongest player (and playmaker) of the night, and who was looking for his 100th career goal. Henrique sprang the puck from a fumbling Killorn deep in the Bolts' D-zone, and sent it flying toward Andrei Vasilevskiy before he was prepared to stop it, into the expanse of empty net on Vasy's blocker side."

The whole season could probably be summarized by this Steven Stamkos quote, said after this loss:

No one [cares] what you did last year as a team or what you did the previous two years. We have to be better and just come prepared to play. We scored a first-period goal in one game so far. You can have all the skill but if you don't stick to the game plan and the structure and work at it, you're usually not going to win in this league.

November 5, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, New Jersey Devils 1

Preview by @loserpoints -- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils Preview: Another Saturday, another TB-NJ game

Could this be fortelling the future?

"Last Saturday, the Lightning were preparing to play without a dynamic winger and that theme carries over to this week’s game. But the player has changed. Instead of missing Nikita Kucherov as they were in the 3-1 loss to NJ on October 29th, the Lightning will be without Jonathan Drouin for the second consecutive game. Drouin’s absence deprives the Lightning of one of their most creative offensive players but it does make head coach Jon Cooper’s life easier as he doesn’t have to choose between rookie dynamo Brayden Point and Drouin in the top six."

Recap by @dbaldwinusf -- Point gets his first goal, Lightning defeat Devils 4-1

“It seemed like a demoralizing moment for the Lightning, who had to be feeling good about themselves up to that point. But on the ensuing faceoff, Victor Hedman took a heavy blast from the point to make it 2-1. His unassisted goal came at 8:27. The Bolts went on to register a total of 21 shots in the second period.

“The third period was more of the same for the Lightning, save for a few more strong pushes by the Devils offense. And at 5:01, there was a heartwarming moment for Bolts fans everywhere when Brayden Point finally broke through for his first goal of his young NHL career. It took all of about five seconds on the power play and came on a tip from a shot by Nikita Kucherov. Valtteri Filppula notched the second assist.”

And here’s the congrats from an old veteran:

Trades:

Nope.

Boxscore:

Goals: Hedman (1), Boyle (1), Kucherov (1), Point (1), Filppula (1), Stamkos (1), Killorn (1), Johnson (1)

Assists: Stralman (1), Hedman (1), Brown (1), Stamkos (1), Kucherov (2), Filppula (1), Garrison (1), Point (2), Johnson (1), Palat (1), Drouin (1)

Save Percentage:

October 15, Vasilevskiy - .940 SV%

October 29, Vasilevskiy - .870 SV%

November 5, Bishop - .970 SV%