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Quick Strikes: Andrei Vasilevskiy puts on a show and Mathieu Joseph injury news

The Lightning beat the Leafs and solidify their place as the best in the east.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts

Last night, the Lightning beat the Maple Leafs 4-1 in a showdown of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. The Bolts played well at 5v5 but took way too many penalties and relied on Andrei Vasilevskiy to keep them in the game. Fortunately, he did. In his first game back, Vasy made multiple highlight reel saves to keep the Leafs off the board.

Check out Matt’s recap to get a full picture of how the game went.

Execution

Tampa Bay overall had no business winning this game. Like Cooper said, “They had 59 minutes, we had one.” That’s quite accurate of tonight’s effort. Luckily, Tampa Bay has limited these kinds of games. The Lightning are far better than what they showed tonight and they still pulled off a victory. If Tampa Bay plays their game in the next three meetings then Toronto is going to be in trouble.

The Lightning can’t play like they did this evening moving forward. Especially with this western Canada trip looming. Winnipeg is good, Calgary is the top team in the west, Vancouver loves playing spoiler, and Edmonton has been on a hot streak. Tampa Bay has to clean it up. The good thing is that this was the only stinker of a game they’ve played over this winning streak. If they play one poor game out of eight and still win, you take it, but they can’t allow bad habits to fester.

Mathieu Joseph missed the game last night due to a lower body injury.

Joseph’s absence opened a spot for Adam Erne. Erne has been great this season and would be in the lineup every night for most teams. The Bolts’ depth has kept him in the press box but with Joseph hurt, he’ll get another chance to make his case for bumping someone from the lineup.

The Prospects

Nolan Valleau recently signed a contract with the Crunch and he discussed his path in an article including time in Orlando with the Solar Bears. He’s a good example of how having a strong relationship with an ECHL team can help create organizational depth.

“Having that stability is great. It’s always nice to have a team like Syracuse support me like this and give me a real good chance to show that I can play,” Valleau said. “I’m just excited for the next chapter in my hockey career and grateful that Syracuse has given me the opportunity.”

At the AHL level, it’s not uncommon for a team to have multiple hockey operations staff available to help improve a player’s development.

“They’re a really professional organization and they treat their players really well,” Valleau explained. “They’re really good at communicating and will tell you exactly what they want from you, what they expect and what you can bring to the table every night for the team.”

In the Crunch’s most recent game, they stomped the Toronto Marlies 8-1. To get the view from the other side, check out Hardev’s recap of the game at Pension Plan Pupppets. It’s worth the click just to watch all the goals.

Sandin showed his youth on this goal. Devil’s advocates could also argue that Alex Barre-Bouletjust deked both defenders out of their jocks. Either way, Tampa bay’s free agent signing out of the QMJHL use incredible speed and skill to push Sandin and LoVerde back before beating McAdam with a shot to the top corner.

The Game

Ivan Provorov is struggling this season. That’s disappointing for Flyers fans looking at him as a building block for the future of the franchise. But why has his performance dropped so much this year? Turns out he’s facing some incredibly difficult usage and maybe the coaching staff is asking too much of him.

This season, however, has not been kind to young Ivan. We’ve seen him struggle to handle the puck and maybe worse, and we’ve seen him struggle with his decision-making, a trait for which Provorov had been lauded in his young career to date. So what is going on with Ivan Provorov? While I obviously cannot say I know definitively, I can say I know something that certainly isn’t helping.

The Rangers have started to fall off after an unexpected strong start that had them in a playoff position. Blueshirt Banter took a deep dive into their defensive pairs including a look at a former Lightning prospect.

One pair that seems to have clicked for the Rangers is Skjei and Tony DeAngelo. They are by far the best Rangers pairing in regards to penalty differential and are second on the team with a 0.56 Rel CF%. Offensively, they click; among the Rangers’ D-pairs who have played 100 minutes or more together, Skjei-DeAngelo lead the way with an adjusted expected goals for rate. They are not necessarily stalwart in their own zone though, but they can still be fun to watch.

Mat Barzal hasn’t put up the same kind of numbers this year that he did last year in his rookie season. New Islanders coach Barry Trotz seems to be trying to get him to play a more well-rounded game.

Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang — yes, different level, but very much applies to him too — don’t need to be Valtteri Filppula or Leo Komarov, heavens no, but they do need to make sure they do enough of the reliable and predictable things that such “wily veterans” do, so that their on-ice teammates can trust in their decision-making and their coaches trust them enough to put them there.

Usually, a superior talent has to dial back on the freelancing at least to the point where he’s pulling his own weight in his defensive responsibilities (in all three zones) and to the point that his teammates aren’t constantly guessing what he’ll do or whether they’ll have to cover for him.

Highlight of the Night

You already know what it is.