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 void for Lightning fans, Raw Charge is breaking down the past season team by team to see who helped and who hurt the season.
The Calgary Flames
December 14th, 2016 - Tampa 6, Calgary 3
February 23rd, 2017 - Tampa 2, Calgary 3
Goals: Brian Boyle (2), Alex Killorn (2), Braydon Coburn, Andrej Sustr, Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov
Assists: Victor Hedman (4), Valtteri Filppula (4), Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Vlad Namestnikov, Braydon Coburn, Brayden Point
Ben Bishop .864 SV% (allowed 3 goals on 22 shots)
Andrei Vasilevskiy .880 SV% (allowed 3 goals on 25 shots)
Notes from the Previews:
December 14th - Ari Yanover from Flames Nation answering a question from Acha
“Simply put: the Flames weren’t winning when [Brian] Elliott was in net, and they were with [Chad] Johnson. That’s not entirely fair to Elliott - the team was having a difficult time adjusting to [Head Coach Glen] Gulutzan’s systems in the beginning, and Elliott was hurt by it, too - but they’ve just been plain winning with Johnson in the net for the most part. At least to start, the Flames were playing lower event hockey with him in net, too.”
February 23rd - @JustinG.
“As for the Lightning, they are in a precarious position where any loss is a big blow to their chances of making the postseason. If they lose when all the teams ahead of them lose, they fail to take advantage. If they lose when all the teams win, then they lose ground. So they just have to win, and win, and win.”
Notes from the Recap:
December 15, 2016 - @loserpoints:
“In the span of four minutes, the game went from looking like another Bolts loss against an inferior opponent to looking like the team we’ve been waiting to see all season.
New rule for Raw Charge recaps: if the Russian Bieber drops his mitts, it must lead the recap.
February 24th, 2017 - @iActium
“Suddenly waking up in the last two minutes of the game isn’t going to win this team many games, especially with how important points are now.”
Did Calgary help or hurt the Lightning:
The win in December was impressive in that the team scored 6 goals in the game which was equal to the amount of goals they had scored in the previous four games combined. There was hope that the win would stop the skid that they were on (7 losses in the previous 8 games). It didn’t. They lost the next two games.
It was about this time that the injuries were piling up. Steven Stamkos was out. Nikita Kucherov missed the game with a lower body injury, part of a two-week stretch where the Lightning were without their top sniper. Just for fun, Ondrej Palat decided to join them in the training room as he left the game in the second period.
The rematch in February was crucial for the Lightning. With just over a month left in the season they were chasing every point they could get. Following the game with Calgary they were set to enter a grueling stretch against opponents they were chasing in the standings.
A flat performance doomed them from the start and the loss proved costly as Toronto picked up a point in an overtime loss (time for your daily reminder that the Lightning missed the playoffs by one point) and the Islanders beat Montreal. Boston also won their game out on the west coast to leaving Tampa 6 points behind all three of those teams.
The loss also closed the book on the Ben Bishop era in Tampa. A few days after the loss (in which Bishop did not get the start) the big netminder was traded to Los Angeles.
In the end, the loss in February was much more damaging than the win in December. The win was a momentary ray of sunshine in a bleak, miserable December. So yes, the Flames hurt the Lightning.
Speaking of the Ben Bishop trade. While there was no official deal between the two organizations, there was almost a trade - more than once. First, at the draft, Mr. Yzerman had a deal worked out with Calgary (no idea of what the return would be) to deal the goaltender, but the Flames weren’t comfortable with the details of the extension that Bishop wanted to sign as a condition of the deal.
Then, at the trade deadline, there was a rumor that the two teams worked out another deal, most likely for less of a return then what was originally agreed to at the draft, but the Flames didn’t agree to the deal in time for Mr. Yzerman and he flipped the goaltender to Los Angeles for a middling defensive prospect and a mythical, conditional 7th round pick. Just for fun they reportedly tried one more time before the Kings dealt his rights to Dallas, but by that time Calgary had allegedly made their way onto Bishop’s no-trade list.
Had the Lightning and Flames pulled off the original deal at the draft, the team’s season would have been altered drastically. Vasilevskiy would have started the season as the number one, the Lightning would have had a bit more cap room to play with and another young player to add to their roster of prospects (rumors had Calgary’s 6th overall pick as part of the return). Would that have made them a better team? Possibly.
View from the other bench:
Sam over at Matchsticks and Gasoline was kind enough to give us his view of the Lightning this season.
“[They showed] glimpses of the scary team they usually are, but weren’t clicking on their usual level. Kucherov is absolutely lethal and one of the best players in the league. Drouin is a beauty when unchained. Dotchin is gross.”
I would think Lightning fans would agree with about 90% of that assessment. While maybe not on the “gross” level yet, some of Dotchin’s recent antics have definitely dulled the shine of his strong rookie campaign.