There was a sliver of thought among some that the Tampa Bay Lightning would be a bit deflated after their 16-game point streak was ended in San Jose over the weekend. Those thoughts were dispelled after an impressive 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Aside from a putrid second period, the Lightning were never in trouble of losing tonight. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov stood out this evening as the Lightning jumped out to 2-0 lead after the first period and never looked back.
Tampa Bay controlled 19 of the opening 20 minutes and did whatever they pleased in the offensive zone. Interestingly, the Lightning appeared to be calm and collected in their approach this evening compared to their other dominating performances. There wasn’t a flurry of bodies flying into the offensive zone, rather, a concerted effort to control the puck and only chase when it was necessary.
This was apparent in all three zones this evening. Where Tampa Bay occasionally looks a bit discombobulated in the defensive zone, they managed to keep Columbus on the perimeter for the majority of the night. As previously mentioned, Columbus did have full control for 60 seconds around the four minute mark of the period, but didn’t manage to get anything dangerous on Vasilevskiy.
Once Tampa Bay evaded that pressure, it was back to dominating the Blue Jackets. Wave after wave of Lightning forwards came at Columbus and even the early heroics of Sergei Bobrovsky (who made three fantastic saves in the first 10 minutes) could only stem the tide for so long.
Mathieu Joseph gets the goal, but the appreciation is going to Mikhail Sergachev. We’ve seen the young Russian defender make his blueline move repeatedly over his year and a half with the organization and it never gets old; however, we’ve never named it. So, I’m putting forward this possible term to name Sergachev’s blueline move—’Le Magnifique’. Why? Because it sounds fantastic and it’s a troll jab at Montreal, because of course it is.
Jokes aside, Sergachev makes this whole sequence happen. From ‘Le Magnifique’ to the perfectly placed backhanded pass to Joseph, it was pure bliss to see him create this out of thing air.
The Lightning controlled the period and deserved their lead, but then came a rather awkward sequence of events that led to the 2-0 goal.
Sometimes the bounces go against you and sometimes they go for you. Chalk this one up to the hockey gods saying, “yea sure, we’ll let you have this one.” The hilarious thing about this goal is that Point almost “McDavid’d” the initial chance. Remember when McDavid tipped a puck over Martin Jones for a goal? Well, Point attempted it here, but put a little too much ‘oomph’ on it. Then Nikita Kucherov just shoots it toward the net and gets a fortuitous bounce off Point’s shin and in it goes. I honestly feel bad for Bobrovsky on this one. The hell is he supposed to do here?
Once the opening period closed, Tampa Bay controlled 59% of the shots at 5v5 and had the quality comfortably in their favor—79% xGF.
Columbus took offense to the shellacking that Tampa Bay put on them and completely flipped the ice here.
Shot share in the second period was 91% in Columbus’ favor. They out-shot Tampa Bay 17-3 on the standard shot clock. Controlled 87.5% of the scoring chances and 75% of the high danger scoring chances. However, even after a period that dominant, the Lightning still led in xGF% at 55% through 40 minutes.
If it weren’t for the heroics of Vasilevskiy, especially on a one-timer from Artemi Panarin at 13:01, then the entire game goes in a different direction. To the team’s credit, they did keep most of Columbus’ chances to the outside. The high-slot saw far less traffic that what is normally there for the Lightning. Combine that with Vasilevskiy being zeroed in and you have a recipe for shutting opposing offenses down.
Aside from that, Tampa Bay’s best offensive chance was an Alex Killorn shot while shorthanded. They didn’t generate much of a heartbeat this period and Jon Cooper lamented fatigue from the road trip and travel as factors to the team’s poor play in the second frame.
Tampa Bay reasserted itself in the third to double their goal lead and ultimately chase Bobrovsky from the net.
Don’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone against the Lightning, folks—bad things can happen.
I’m pretty sure this was 100% on accident on Point’s behalf. I think he was trying to get it over to Kucherov, but due to the hook, the puck kind of just rolled off his stick, hit Bobrovsky’s leg and into the net. You can tell by Bobrovsky’s reation that the entire situation caught him off guard. Regardless, to the locker room Bobrovsky went after this one.
Columbus pressed the attack as regulation wound down, but the Lightning refused to make life easy as they continued to keep the Blue Jackets on the perimeter and force them into low percentage shots. It added up on the shot clock, but did little to alter the quality. Once the final buzzer rang the shot share showed Columbus controlling 61% of the shots, but losing the quality battle with an xGF% of 43%.
After a long road trip and travel the Lightning put forth an overall strong effort this evening. Their ugliest period was the second, but a dominant first and a resurgent third helped stem the Columbus attack that ensued. If the Lightning can replicate the defensive play from the past few games (think the California road trip and omit the San Jose game) and tonight, combined with their offensive talent, then their annual January slump could be avoided—could (I’m really stressing the ‘could’ here).
Vasilevskiy Slowly Returning to Form
I’ll be publishing a more in depth piece on Vasilevskiy on Friday, but let’s focus on the positive here real quick. He’s been solid over the past few games. The California road trip was largely a success for Vasilevskiy with only the San Jose game being the ugly duckling. Over his last four games (including tonight), Vasilevskiy has a .938 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.00. He’s slowly returning to the form from last year.
However, it should be noted that Vasilevskiy’s overall save percentage is bolstered by his stellar play on the penalty kill this year. His 5v5 numbers, and especially his high danger percentage, have not been impressive. Tonight might be the game he needs to straighten out his game moving forward (or at a minimum, not have his defensive corps leave him out to dry often).
The Real Folk Blues of the 2nd
The Lightning looked slow and out of sorts in the second. Jon Cooper worried the long road trip and travel would affect their play and for a period it definitely did. Luckily, they bounced back and played a strong third, but if Columbus wasn’t snake bitten this evening, this game could’ve been a doozey.
Come on folks, let’s hear what you have to say!
Nikita Kucherov is the 10th different player in NHL history to accumulate 50 assists within his team's first 43 games of a season.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 9, 2019
This is the first such occurrence since 1995-96 when Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis all did so. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/UDB3gLfxMx
After being named to the #NHLAllStar Game earlier today, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 31 saves to move into a tie for second place on the @TBLightning's all-time shutouts list:— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 9, 2019
17 - Ben Bishop
14 - Andrei Vasilevskiy
14 - Nikolai Khabibulin#NHLStats pic.twitter.com/V1kAUteolq
- Cooper mentioned that Ryan Callahan had re-aggravated a previous injury and would know more at a later date during his post-game press conference.
- Mikhail Sergachev has nine points (1 goal 8 assists) in his last 16 games.