The Tampa Bay Lightning headed to the West Coast yesterday to begin their road swing out there. The Lightning started their trip at Winnipeg yesterday. They move onto Vancouver on Tuesday, Calgary on Thursday, and Edmonton on Saturday.
The big news yesterday prior to the game was that Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, who had been out with injury, was ready to return.
On returning tonight: "It's going to take time to get back into game shape and everything that comes with it. Just going to try and keep it simple and do my job as best I can."#TBLvsWPG | Anton Stralman: pic.twitter.com/az3rlb8Wvo— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 16, 2018
As great as this was, it also created a bit of a logjam for Tampa. Defenseman Erik Cernak has done everything the team has asked of him during his first NHL recall, proving to be ahead of his time in terms of development.
With Mathieu Joseph on IR (though eligible to return on trip), it offers TB flexibility to keep Cernak up for now. Cooper said Cernak will play on four-game trip. “Not a situation where guys are going to be sitting out multiple games.” Joseph did light skate, but not close yet https://t.co/RfAHjAIa8K— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) December 16, 2018
Clearly, he will remain with the Lightning through this trip. However, once the Bolts are healthy again, a choice will certainly have to be made.
As expected, the game was action-packed. The reaction on Twitter was intense; despite the Lightning losing in OT, many fans agreed with Alan’s recap summary: “That was fun. Who even cares what the score was.”
This was the best game I’ve seen in the NHL this season. Of course a win would have been great. But a point on the road against one of the best teams in the league is an accomplishment. The winning streak might be over but the Lightning should head to Vancouver on Tuesday confident that tonight’s performance would get them a win on most nights.
With the rolling on of the holiday season, we are reminded that All-Star season is right around the corner. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Lightning player for Atlantic captaincy!
With the recent news that the Seattle expansion is a go, talk has also begun on that team’s AHL connection. Patrick Williams wrote a comprehensive, informative article for EP Rinkside yesterday, within which he broke down current AHL partnerships and markets - including Syracuse’s partnership with Tampa - and speculated on what Seattle will be keeping in mind as they form their own organization.
Of course, there is another incentive for investing in player development as well – it has a strong track record if done well. Sure, you could venture into the free-agent market each summer, but that runs the very real risk of wrecking your team’s salary-cap picture. Or you could take a look at how the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals have built successful organizations via the draft-and-develop model.
Speaking of Syracuse and the Crunch, the team is having an autograph signing for fans tonight. Nolan Valleau, Dennis Yan, and Dominik Masin will be at a local Tully’s location.
In another organizational story, the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL welcomed back forward Hunter Fejes from AHL Rockford yesterday. Fejes was on a professional tryout contract with the AHL team. Meanwhile, the Lightning’s former ECHL team, the Adirondack Thunder, rocked some awesome Black Panther-inspired jerseys at their game Saturday night.
The hockey world was rocked a bit yesterday with a “scoop” that the Philadelphia Flyers were firing Dave Hakstol, but not long after a conflicting report emerged that claimed the opposite. Steph Driver of Broad Street Hockey broke down the chaos and reminded us all of the personal toll that events like this take on those involved.
Well, we don’t think Hakstol has been officially fired at this point. Quite honestly, this is unfair to him. I have my issues with Dave Hakstol the hockey coach, but as a person I rather like him. He was at least given some type of warning that this was going to happen earlier this weekend, I believe this to be true. But there has been no official word from the team; in fact, they are denying it. This isn’t fair to him or his family.
Amazing as it sounds, the Stars were actually fortunate to only be down 3-0 after the first period.
One of the reasons Colorado is doing so well is of course due to winger Mikko Rantanen. Tom Hunter argues that the forward is “having the best season since Mario Lemiuex and Wayne Gretzky were dominating the league.”
Through the first 33 games of the season Rantanen doesn’t only lead the NHL in scoring, he is on a 1.697 points per game pace. If that continues over the remainder of the season, the 22-year old Finn will end the season with 139 points. That would be the highest total since Mario Lemieux put up 161 in the 1994-95 season.
The Rochester Americans, farm team of the Buffalo Sabres, is joining the throngs of teams donning ugly sweater jerseys this holiday season. Their mascot was happy to model.
#Amerks will wear these 'ugly sweaters' (but they're awesome) at home on Dec 21 & 22, auctioned off at the game on Dec 22. A source said, "You can try to make the Amerks jersey ugly but it will never look ugly." pic.twitter.com/vP6NQhsNJu— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) December 16, 2018
The Hockey Classic in Saint Petersburg yesterday. was certainly well attended.
Here’s a baby goalie scoring a goal! Paul Tucek of the PJHL scored the first goal by a goalie in the league’s history.
Here’s another Phil Esposito memory for you! The current Lightning owner is featured in this tweet from the account 1968 Hockey Tweets:
Phil Esposito scored 3 times to lead the Bruins to a 5-3 win over the Pittsburg Penguins at Boston Garden. Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge also scored for the Bruins, who outshot the Penguins 39-21. Keith McCreary had 2 goals for the Pens, with Earl Ingarfield getting the other. pic.twitter.com/7kDw5GC1Mj— 1968 Hockey Tweets (@1968NHLtweets) December 16, 2018