June. Summer is officially here. Two teams are battling it out for the Stanley Cup on catfish-laden ice. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not one of those two teams. In order to fill the empty void for Lightning fans, Raw Charge is breaking down the past season team-by-team in order to see who helped and who hurt their season.
Opponent: Anaheim Ducks
January 17, 2017 at Anaheim - Tampa 1, Anaheim 2 (OT)
February 4, 2017 at Tampa - Tampa 3, Anaheim 2 (SO)
Did Anaheim hurt or help the Lightning?
The Lighting picked up three out of four possible points in their two match-ups with the Anaheim Ducks. If they had been able to pick up all four points they might have sneaked into the playoffs, but there plenty of easier points left on the table throughout the season. Tampa Bay continued its success against Anaheim as they ran their consecutive points streak to 13 games (all hail the pity point!).
It was also on the west coast road trip that Tampa Bay began to put the broken pieces of their season back together again. Playing their second game in two days and without super defender Victor Hedman in the lineup, the Lightning outplayed the Pacific Division-winning Ducks.
Between the two meetings, Tampa Bay made the choice to be a team that is tougher to play against as opposed to one that generates offense from the blue line by dealing Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for a bag of stale ketchup chips. Not only did they deal Nesterov, they chose to keep Luke Witkowski on the roster and call up Jake Dotchin instead of Slater Koekkoek.
Winning in overtime in their second match-up of the season sparked a seven-game points streak that vaulted the Lightning back into the playoff race. The win came on the heels of one of their worst outings of the season, a 5-2 loss on home ice to the Ottawa Senators. For the next ten games, the Lightning would allow 3 goals or fewer, a dramatic difference from their play earlier in the season.
Their play against the Ducks perfectly encapsulate how frustrating the 2016-17 Tampa Bay Lightning team was. Anaheim was a legitimate Western Conference powerhouse and the Lighting outplayed them for the vast majority of their time on the ice. They played like a team that could go far in the playoffs, not a team jockeying for a top three draft pick. Unfortunately, for every hard-fought game like Anaheim there would be an utter failing against Vancouver or Colorado. We’ll get to that in future posts.
In the end, yes, the Ducks helped the Lightning this season.
Goals: 1 - Valterri Filppula, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Killorn
Assists: 2 - Nikita Kucherov
Goals Against: 2.00 - Ben Bishop
Save Percentage: .892 - Ben Bishop (33 saves on 37 shots)
Notes from the Previews:
January 17th - @Waffleboardsave
“But if this is truly the make-it-or-break-it point of the season, before the All-Star break, then the Lightning need to continue to build on this [win against the Kings].”
February 4th - @Bethelhub
“Effort and morale has been at a season low and recent players’ post-game interviews have been bleak.”
Notes from the Recap:
January 17th - @loserpoints
“Less than a minute later, the Ducks tied the game on a strange play. Ben Bishop took a shot off the bottom of his mask and seemed to be having issues with his vision. He appeared to think that the puck had already been cleared and stood up to adjust his mask. Unfortunately, the puck was still in the zone and Ryan Getzlaf stole a bad pass from Cedric Paquette and shot the puck into the open net.”
I don’t want to say this was the worst goal of the season, but it would be pretty high on the list.
February 4th - @IActium
“The line behind the early Bolts surge was the Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin line”. See, Alex Killorn wasn’t horrible all season long.
The Lightning did not consummate any deals with the Ducks this season.
Thoughts from the other side:
John Broadbent from Anaheim Calling was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the Lightning:
I always have a dismal sense of foreboding whenever I see the Lightning are next on the calendar. Maybe it’s because they of recent times have become a measuring stick of team success or maybe it’s because we always seem to lose someone important to injury after an encounter, but this year seemed different.
The first game at the Honda Center was the usual tight checking affair and I believe the Ducks got lucky on both of their goals - bue we don’t get that many regular season OT Wins so we will definitely take that.
The second game in Tampa was special that it featured Brandon Montour’s first career NHL goal, but the rest of the game was essentially the Jonathan Drouin show. The Ducks managed to force OT based on the sheer will of [Ryan] Getzlaf and could have won it were it for [Ryan] Kesler hitting the post before losing in the shootout.
This game reads like a microcosm of the Ducks recent playoff run where the shootout is a metaphor for the Predators - complete with Jonathan Bernier being unable to stop anything.
A loss and an overtime win are pretty harsh results given how much Tampa outplayed Anaheim in their two games this season. They dominated the shot clock and expected goal share throughout the two games and deserved more than two points. Jonathan Drouin was excellent for the Bolts against the Ducks. His line was among the leaders in 5v5 shot differential in both games.