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.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will replace Carey Price as the goalie for the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game. That makes him the third Lightning player on the team with Brayden Point still in contention for the last spot.
While having more Bolts in the game is always fun, making a case that Vasilevskiy deserved this selection tough. Sure he has a save percentage of .920 and has racked up some wins but much of that is due to the play in front of him.
If we use a better stat like goals saved above expected from Evolving-Hockey, Jaroslav Halak in Boston and Carter Hutton in Buffalo have been better this season. In Vasy’s own words after last night’s game, “I think I got lucky on that one. Obviously, our team’s playing really well this season. That’s probably the only reason why I got it.”
All of that said, Vasy celebrated his selection in style tonight with one of his best games of the season. Seeing him against the game’s best in San Jose later this month will be fun.
Joe Smith wrote about Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin before the game last night for The Athletic. The two are friends with some similarities in their games. The piece has some good quotes if you have a subscription.
Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde said Panarin and Kucherov are similar in that way, how they think and read the game.
“Those guys have world-class hockey sense, anticipation. They see the game on a different level,” Lalonde said. “Today’s NHL, it’s a positive in that it really sets up well for those skilled players, the vision, making plays and the coaching staff allowing those guys to make plays. (Coach Jon Cooper) does a great job managing that. He knows he’s got a world-class player and world-class thinker, and he gives him some rope to do that. I see that in both of these players.”
Also at The Athletic, all the hockey writers got together to release a new power ranking. The Lightning were the unanimous best team in the NHL so far.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (100 percent of first-place votes)
Previous Ranking: 2
The Lightning’s remarkable 16-game points streak was snapped Saturday, but they appear the team to beat. Only issues are potential injuries and their goals against (2.95, 16th in NHL), which is too high for a team with this caliber goaltending. There is really only one question left with this team: Is this the year they take the final step from contender to champion? — Joe Smith
Former Lightning coach John Tortorella had some interesting comments prior to the game last night regarding the Lightning’s recent point streak.
“For me, I think you need to go through some tough times during the regular season,” Tortorella said. “How do you get out of it to get back to where you want to be? I think come playoff time, you are going to go through some momentum swings as you go through this. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have some bad runs during the regular season.”
At first glance this seems a little silly but his full comments were more thoughtful. He talked about coaching the Jackets through a sixteen game winning streak a couple years ago. He said that he struggled with knowing how hard to coach. The mood in the room was great and he was unsure of whether he should be tough on mistakes and risk disrupting things or just let it ride. He decided to let it ride but said that with hindsight, he wished he had addressed some of the problems that arose during that streak earlier instead of letting the streak run its course.
Slater Koekkoek will stay in Syracuse this week through the end of his conditioning stint on the 11th.
BriseBois confirmed that plan remains for Koekkoek to remain with Crunch on Wednesday and Friday— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) January 8, 2019
Syracuse.com talked with Crunch head coach Ben Groulx about what he’s looking for from Oleg Sosunov is his return to the team from a stint in with the Orlando Solare Bears in the ECHL.
“It’s tough because he’s not ahead of the other guys. And we have no injuries,’’ Groulx said. “So it’s tough for him to gain confidence and get into his groove because he did not play. Now, we want to see where he’s at in terms of progression. And we’ve got to see that in the game.
”Sometimes you evaluate a player and you never had the chance to see him play with confidence. To have confidence, you’ve got to play. So it’s a vicious circle. It’s a tough evaluation, but he’s a guy that is like any other rookie. He’s young. He’s got a lot to learn. It’s a process. It’s for him to impress us enough to crack the lineup sooner than later.’’
Shayna Goldman wrote an excellent article for Hockey Graphs about how tax rates affect NHL player earnings. Kikkerlaika helped out with some visuals that helped tell the story. If you’re interested in the financial part of the game, this is one of the best articles you’ll read all year.
Looking at the top 15 NHL salaries for the 2018-19 season and their net salaries for the year after taxes can show just how different those values can be. John Tavares headlines the list with a $15.9 million salary and a 53.3 percent tax rate, so his take-home pay after taxes is less than half of his salary, at just $7.4 million. On the low end, there’s Jamie Benn and P.K. Subban who only face federal tax rates, as they play in states without an income tax. Of the six players on this list with a $10 million salary for the season, Subban takes home the most after taxes ($6,334,310) since his effective tax rate of 36.66 is the lowest.
Greg Wyshinski wrote a good piece about minor league hockey in Alabama. It highlights the passion of the fans and the unique culture around hockey in parts of the southern US that the NHL ignores. Some of that culture is endearing. And some is the lingering remnants of the worst parts of bygone eras.
Who are Havoc fans?
”I’m going to say there’s two kinds,” said Balch, the team president. “I’m going to say it’s your person that grew up watching the game, and they know the game. They’re not going to be from here. They’re going to be transplants. But they’re coming because they know and play the game. And then you have your fan who is from here. Who is coming to see the physical side of it. To see if there’s going to be a fight. To experience our entertainment, and our giveaways.”