For the second time this season, the Lightning are on a losing streak. It’s only two games, but the fact still remains. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in overtime after Brayden Schenn squeaked a wrist shot through Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy made 38 saves on the night while Jordon Binnington became the first goaltender to shut the Lightning out this season with 32 saves. Overall, the Lightning played solid. The first period and half of the second was largely messy from the Bolts, but after a string of penalty kills they tilted the ice in their favor for the remainder of the game.
Early on both teams traded zone time but struggled to generate shots on net. It wasn’t until three minutes in where the Braydon Coburn-Mikhail Sergachev pairing was caught out of position that St. Louis generated the first dangerous scoring chance. That chance appeared to give the Blues life as they began to pin the Lightning in the defensive zone and pressure Vasilevskiy. The Lightning struggled to keep the slot clear of Blues players as St. Louis repeatedly generated shot after shot from there. Vasilevskiy managed to thwart every chance, but it wasn’t until the Point line re-established offensive pressure where the Lightning got their first break with Alex Pietrangelo being penalized for holding the stick at 4:14.
Tampa Bay established control on the power-play quickly, but St. Louis aggressively pressured the puck carrier wherever they were. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman did their best to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but wasted a lot of time simply trying to keep the puck alive. They did manage to get a few shots toward the net, but the Blues penalty kill did a fantastic job blocking shots or forcing shots wide.
Once 5v5 play resumed, it was all Blues. Specifically, it was the line of Ryan O’Reilly-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko that caused most of the pressure. O’Reilly’s cycle game was downright dominant this period and he repeatedly kept the puck alive along the boards or down low in order to set up Schenn and Tarasenko for chances. The Lightning struggled to contain the O’Reilly line all period and if it weren’t for the play of Vasilevskiy the score would’ve been radically different.
Case in point.
This is still Schenn’s fault since he got very little leverage on this shot, but still, Vasilevskiy did everything he could to stop it.
The Lightning did managed to push back, thanks to the Point line once again, but it was short lived as St. Louis went right back down the ice and worked their cycle game. St. Louis forced the Lightning to play more of a dump and chase style compared to the controlled entry that they’ve been more accustom to this season. Tampa Bay struggled to recover loose pucks due to the Blues defenders simply cycling the puck up the boards or winning puck battles with ease.
It wasn’t until the 13-14 minute mark that Tampa Bay started to show some flashes of life when the Paquette and Stamkos lines pushed St. Louis into the offensive zone. They put some pressure on Binnington, but there were many moments where Tampa Bay appeared to make the extra pass too often. This negated most of their pressure in the first period and is something that has crept back into their style over the past several games.
After 20, St. Louis controlled 62% of the shots at 5v5 and 76% of the scoring chances. One of the more lopsided periods for the Lightning in terms of being pressured.
The opening 20 seconds saw the Cirelli line push play into the offensive zone and make the Blues defend more, but the pressure dissipated once the first line changes came. St. Louis continued to dictate the pace of play and force Vasilevskiy to make an array of saves to keep the score knotted at zero. Ryan McDonagh was called for hooking at 4:31 on a play that, in my opinion, wasn’t hooking. McDonagh pushed the Blues player down and his stick never did any kind of hooking motion, so, I’m unsure what the official saw here. Nonetheless, to the penalty kill the Lightning went.
What everyone witnessed was one of the best penalty kills a team can do. The Blues managed roughly 30 seconds of zone time before a clearing attempt got through. First, Anthony Cirelli outraced Pietrangelo to gain a partial breakaway chance that went off the shoulder of Binnington. Then, Yanni Gourde and Cedric Paquette went to work pinning the Blues in the offensive zone where they cycled the puck around to burn as much time as possible. St. Louis managed to regain control with roughly 25 seconds left on the man advantage, but Adam Erne and Mathieu Joseph proceeded to do the same thing that Paquette and Gourde did—steal the puck and pin them in their own zone.
Shortly after McDonagh’s penalty expired, Kucherov was called for hi-sticking Brayden Schenn at 7:49. On this man advantage, St. Louis managed to maintain control in the offensive zone, but didn’t generate many dangerous opportunities. Alex Killorn had a shorthanded breakaway that Binnington managed to stop as well. Tampa Bay’s penalty troubles continued immediately following the expiration of this penalty as Coburn was called for holding at 9:56. Tampa Bay continued to give St. Louis fits as they pushed play back into the Blues zone where McDonagh had a chance that went wide of the net. St. Louis did manged to generate a few shots on this advantage, but nothing especially threatening.
Once 5v5 play resumed, it was all Tampa Bay. Prior to committing three penalties in a span of nine minutes the Lightning had controlled 30% of the shot attempts at 5v5. Tampa Bay finished the period controlling 54% of the shot attempts. Their forecheck and zone entries started to force the Blues into awkward positions and the ice started to open up for them. Tampa Bay managed to pin the Blues for the remainder of the period and had all of the momentum entering the third.
Tampa Bay controlled the entirety of the closing period. They finished the period controlling 71% of the shot attempts and 70% of the scoring chances. St. Louis had small spurts where they managed to push back, but they were largely on their heels. All four lines from the Lightning pinned the Blues at some point in the period, and specifically the Stamkos line generated some of the best opportunities of the game. Anton Stralman was set up for a shot that rang off the post. Yanni Gourde was set up with a gorgeous pass by Stamkos that saw the shot sail wide. Stamkos himself had a shot in close that Binnginton managed to push toward the outside after dashing over to re-position himself. It was all Lightning this period and it felt as though there would be a goal at any moment.
Patrick Maroon took a delay of game penatly at 11:11 to give Tampa Bay their best chance to take the lead, but Binnington stood tall whenever a shot did manage to get through (which, by the way, is only one. Yes, the Lightning only registered one shot on the power-play). Every other shot Tampa Bay took was either blocked, deflected, or sailed wide. For a team with the shooting talent that Lightning have, this was a frustrating performance.
The Stamkos line generated another chance in the final minutes of the period, but Binnington stood tall for the Blues yet again. Once again, the Lightning would head to overtime for the third time in their last four games.
The Lightning had St. Louis scrambling for much of the overtime period. St. Louis generated one shot, which was all they needed to steal a point this evening. Prior to that shot, Brayden Point was blatantly interfered with by Vince Dunn, who was penalized, but Point was also sent to the box for embellishment. How he embellished I’m unsure, but the replay showed the interference and Point getting an arm to the face that threw him off balance. The Lightning bench was furious at the call, but were even more incensed a few moments later when a Blues player took Vasilevskiy out behind the play with an official staring right at them.
Then, this happened.
That’s hockey sometimes. I had a feeling a wonky goal was going to seal this game and out of all the shots Vasilevskiy stopped, this one squeaks past him. Vasilevskiy was clearly upset after the game.
5v5 offense hasn't been especially good recently, but TB is generating a good amount of chances. This is more than likely a small slump, but Vasilevskiy has carried the team over the past few games. https://t.co/go9oqojDe9— Matthew Esteves (@mattestevesSBN) February 8, 2019
This is the time of year where teams bunker down and scrape for every point they can get. Tampa Bay played well for the second half, but still failed to get past Binnington. Part of the is the Lightning’s fault for overpassing, part of it is Binnington being outstanding this evening, and the last part is St. Louis doing a good job limiting the amount of dangerous chances he saw. If Tampa Bay continues to play like they did in the second half of the game then they’ll be fine moving forward. If they play like they did during the first half they’re going to be in trouble.
This was the best unit of the evening. Better than the power-play and better than their 5v5 play. It turned the game for the Lightning and propelled them to dictate the pace of the game from them on. It’s a shame they lost the game when this unit played outstanding. Compared to last season, this penalty kill has been a revelation. They are currently the second best unit in the league at 84.3%.
The Big Cat was spectacular this evening and deserved a win. The game winning goal leaves a sour taste, but he’s been outstanding for the team since the All-Star break. His early season struggles at 5v5 have appeared to turn and that’s good news for the Lightning moving forward.
Too Much Passing
Jon Cooper mentioned during his presser that the team had some bad habits creep back into their game. “We try to pass it into the net”, was the quote he provided when he explained the first half troubles this evening. It’s a minor thing since this team has shown the ability to right the ship quite well this season, but it’s always something to keep an eye on moving forward.
I don’t hate the new thirds. I just find them rather uninspired. They are better than the previous thirds the team rolled out, but I was secretly hoping they’d do a revamp of the original logo. That said, the sleeves on these jerseys are pretty stylish and they have an overall sleek look on the ice. I was just hoping for something other than, “our jersey, but black with a gradient” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.