Let’s celebrate the Tampa Bay Lightning’s place in our city for a moment, and celebrate the best owner in all hockey, Mr. Jeff Vinik — especially his commitment to growing the sport in Tampa Bay. Just yesterday, the Sadie Park community hockey rink was unveiled in our city, one of ten ball hockey courts that the Lightning have pledged to open this year. These courts will support the Lightning’s Ball Hockey league, which has training programs and recreational teams for adults as well as kids.
These rinks bring hockey to the community in an incredibly accessible way, because there is no need for specialized equipment to play the game on ice, yet the court provides access to enough equipment to make the game feel real. This kind of growth of the game is exactly the right approach to hockey outreach in a warm climate, multi-ethnic city; and this SHOULD HAVE been enough to put the team on the radar of a certain article that came out yesterday.
I mean this ESPN piece by Greg Wyshynski, in which he posed a few questions about where the “center of the hockey universe” is in the US, and also pinpointed the location of new “hockey hotbeds, markets that are slightly cooler and regions that generate the most gravity in the U.S. hockey universe.” I wasn’t looking for Tampa to be one of the teams at the center of the hockey universe, but given the team’s success on ice and how solid the franchise is (didn’t ESPN name us the best franchise in ALL SPORTS in 2016?), I expected us to make the list of “hockey hotbeds heating up.”
But did Tampa make the list of “hockey hotbeds heating up”? Nope. Those cities were Seattle, Nashville, Washington, Anaheim, and Las Vegas. SEATTLE? Just because Tyler Johnson is going to “go home” next expansion draft and be their 1C doesn’t mean we have to praise the city before its time. And Nashville made the ESPN list because of this criteria: “Nashville is growing because it’s adding more facilities,” Kelleher said. “That’s it. It’s about access.”
Mr. Vinik, on the other hand, has been doing sustained work in community outreach ever since he bought the franchise, especially through the five-year-old Build the Thunder program that has found different ways to bring hockey to all parts of the Tampa Bay community. There’s also the work of the Lightning Made sled hockey program, in existence since 2006, to bring hockey to sled-using players. And we haven’t even talked about the upgrades to the practice facility in Brandon that Vinik has made to grow the on-ice game.
... Anyway. That’s why we as a fanbase have to pause to feel thankful that whether or not the league or the rest of the country or the rest of the hockey world will recognize us as a hockey hotbed, we know that the love of hockey is deep and strong in our town, and only growing. (Suck it, ESPN.)
The NHL seems determined as a whole to get their business done ahead of the trade deadline this season. And to that end, multiple trades got done yesterday. Here’s a quick rundown of the deals.
GeoFitz broke down ways in which the Blake Coleman trade will help our cap crunch this coming summer. [Raw Charge]
While Coleman costs about a million more on the salary cap than the prospect options, he is likely bringing far more value at $1.8 million than any unrestricted free agent that might be available this summer. BriseBois has locked in one of those open spots with a cost effective player. According to CapFriendly.com, Coleman has the 27th lowest Cost Per Point and 13th lowest Cost Per Goal among forwards on standard player contracts this season. And that doesn’t even factor in his defensive impacts to the game.
This is the Coleman trade from the perspective of a Devil’s fan [Puck Prose]
No question that Tampa Bay overpaid by quite a lot to acquire Coleman, giving up a first-round pick from the Vancouver Canucks acquired in the J.T. Miller trade (conditionally either the 2020 or 2021 draft) and their top prospect in Nolan Foote. While Coleman was a fan favorite, the return softened the blow. New Jersey could have three first-round picks in the 2020 draft.
Justin wrote about how the Crunch are finally getting their poop together and making a run for the playoffs. [Raw Charge]
The Syracuse Crunch had their points streak snapped on Monday, but overall it was another solid as they picked up five out of a possible eight points in the four games they played. Early in the week it was their defense coming up strong (despite being a tad short staffed) and they battled a tough Rochester team to a shootout loss on Saturday. The 5-2 loss to Belleville on Monday afternoon shows that they still have a little ways to go to contend with the top teams in the league, but any improvement at this point is welcome.
So, you’ve probably noticed that our Morning-After Thoughts (MAT for short) have become a place where whichever blogger gets to cut loose about their thoughts & feelings about the team, the game, and the league in general. Matt’s MAT tends to be in his wheelhouse, which is player interviews (since he is our arena reporter) and in-depth reviews of plays. Alan’s on the other hand tend to go off on interesting tangents into statistics or the state of the division or whatever else is on his mind. Yesterday’s was about something fascinating — the statistics behind “stealing” a game. [Raw Charge]
That got me wondering how often during this win streak have the Lightning needed to steal games as opposed to outplaying their opponents in terms of shot metrics. The following plot shows four metrics for all eleven games in the streak: goal differential, expected goal differential, goals scored above expected, and goals saved above expected. All the data here is all situations and comes from Evolving Hockey using their game log tool.
This is a fun piece: What’s in a number? [Tampa Bay Lightning]
“When I got here for my first training camp they asked me for three numbers, so I put down 14, 44, and 81. They gave me No. 81, and I made my first goal when I got called up last year, so I stuck with that. It worked out pretty well, so that’s why I kept it.”
Midway through the second period, star winger Mikko Rantanen was breaking to the net at full speed when he was tripped by Lightning defender Erik Cernak. Rantanen went into the boards shoulder-first and was in obvious pain. He went directly to the team’s dressing room and didn’t return to the game.
Dave Mishkin had interesting words about the Lightning’s penalty kill. [Tampa Bay Lightning]
The Lightning’s penalty kill had allowed two goals against the Flyers on Saturday. It marked the first time since late November that the Lightning had yielded two opposition power play goals in the same game. Then they gave up a power play goal to Andre Burakovsky early in this game. But they came up with three successful kills after that. Yes, the Avs scored a goal in the third period 14 seconds after a Lightning penalty ended, tying the game at three. But the Lightning came up with a potentially game-saving kill in the closing minutes, preserving the 3-3 tie.
You know the Lightning must be kinda good when the Boston Herald puts them in front of the Bruins in their weekly power rankings. And we also top CBS’s power rankings. So why aren’t we a hockey hotbed already?
This is going to bother me ALL DAY.
After last night's W, the @TBLightning are the first team to 40 wins in each of the last three seasons.— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) February 18, 2020
The only other teams to reach 40 wins first in three or more consecutive seasons are the Oilers and Canadiens. pic.twitter.com/ZXwx4g2459