36-year-old goaltender Curtis McElhinney stopped all 30 shots he faced from the San Jose Sharks in a 3-0 Tampa Bay Lightning victory on Saturday night for his first shutout of the season and 11th of his career. Steven Stamkos got the game-winning goal in the second, while Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat provided the insurance markers in the third. I encourage watching the Kucherov marker, it was sweet.
Hockey fans used to describe the California road trip with words like “dreaded”, “challenging”, and “bone-aching” but considering what the Lightning just did to the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks, it was anything but.
All three teams used to be filled with big, strong, heavy, and talented players that defined the Western Conference in the 2000s and 2010s. Those players are now no longer what they were and the dynasties in California are nothing more than capped out teams looking to rebuild. And it turns out capped out old teams are exactly what the Lighting feast on as they completed the three-game sweep, outscoring their opponents 11-5.
Captain Stamkos extended his point streak to seven games with a two-point night. He now has six goals and six assists in his most recent hot stretch. Fun fact, all six of his goals have come at even strength, despite showing how much of a lethal force he is on the power play every night. In fact, Stamkos has 15 shot attempts on the power play in his last seven games, nine of which hit the net, none of which went in. That just shows how productive Stamkos has been recently, he doesn’t even need the power play to be 1.2 points per game.
The Lightning were nothing short of dominant in the first period by the stats. To be honestly, they didn’t look anything special in terms of their play, but the Sharks were so bad up and down the lineup at winning battles and making things difficult for the Lightning that it seemed like the Bolts had spent the entire 20 minutes in the offensive zone.
It felt like the Sharks didn’t even show up in the first, they only accumulated three shot attempts at 5v5 in the period, while the Lightning had 24. Yeah, eight times as many shots. Should the Sharks have played at this pace the entire game, they would’ve ended the game with eight shots on goal and 21 shot attempts in all situations, which would’ve beaten their previous season low of 17 shots and 34 shot attempts against the Boston Bruins back in October. They also only took 17 shots against the Maple Leafs in October.
The Lightning earned three power plays throughout the frame with Carter Verhaeghe, Ondrej Palat, and Yanni Gourde all drawing calls. The Sharks got one back, with Cedric Paquette getting called for roughing. The Lightning had two shots on net in three attempts during their three power plays, while the Sharks got three in their one, but none on goal. The power play in the middle of the period was the only time when the Sharks actually got near the front of the net.
Backchecking. This was the key to the Lightning’s play in the first. They did a great job of breaking up passes, and catching up to the Sharks in the neutral zone to negate rushes against. They didn’t give them a chance. Each of Erik Cernak, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov had a good moment where they were able to get their stick on the puck or their body on their opponent to stop what could’ve been a decent chance. Frankly, all the Lightning were doing this really well.
Sharks fans were mad about this hit in the first period because Joel Kellman lay on the ice hurt after, but watching the video Kevin Shattenkirk is nowhere near where he should’ve been if he did in fact drive Kellman into the boards. He pushed him, yes, but the thing that ended up being the most unfortunate for Kellman was that he lost his balance. There was no slew-footing or Shattenkirk’s stick in his legs so I doubt he can be blamed for that either.
Shattenkirk pushes vulnerable Kellman, Kellman leaves game pic.twitter.com/tbYm9Q5aGJ— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 2, 2020
The second was very much not like the first in that the San Jose Sharks actually showed up. They more than showed up, they in fact gave the Lightning a real run for their money and out-shot them pretty badly. 5v5 shots in the second were 16-23 in favor of the Sharks. It was even worse in all situations as the Sharks got nine shots (four on goal) on two power plays in the second.
The Lightning felt really scrambly in the second period, running around in their own zone way too much. It felt like the Sharks were able to get in the offensive zone much more easily and work the cycle for a long sustained period. The Lightning were letting them hunt pucks down and shoot from virtually everywhere. The 5v5 heat map showed a lot of shots from the side of the net and from the top of the right circle.
I know the broadcast praised Mikhail Sergachev a lot after the second period, but he and Shattenkirk actually ended up with the worst shot differential after two periods among all Lightning players. Sergachev did a lot of good things in the defensive zone in the period, including some really good hits and physical plays that earned him the puck.
I think he had some great moments but also bad moments. He and Shattenkirk got hemmed three times out of four shifts in the second. The first one the third pair gave up four shots, but came back at the end of the shift and scored. I think they gave up six or seven on their next shift, but that led to a power play drawn by the next group. The third shift was at the end of the power play and shots were about even then. And on their last shift of the period, they gave up a rifling of five shots in a row before getting three back.
Visually, they looked good in some highlight moments, but those two need to not get caught off guard when they suddenly are hemmed in their own zone and can’t break up the cycle.
However, Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning a well-deserved lead with a patented one-timer from the wing that pounded off Aaron Dell’s blocker and in. Kevin Shattenkirk set up the goal with a brilliant cross-ice pass that hit Stamkos right in his wheelhouse from distance.
Midsection means what you’re afraid it does here. McDonagh stayed in the play after falling to the ice in pain and got checked out on the bench. I don’t think he missed a shift so crisis averted.
You know what, I’m just going to show you the video. McDonagh is fine so I don’t feel bad for slightly giggling at his expense. Also the phrasing of the tweet is class.
Ryan McDonagh takes a Kevin Labanc shot directly to the beans pic.twitter.com/IK3jm4j9wZ— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 2, 2020
The Sharks kept up their momentum from the second into the third, but they quickly ran out of steam and the Lightning took over. The Lightning had a couple successive shifts where they kemmed the Sharks in their own zone and globe-trotted for a while as the clock wound down until this:
What else can you say other than Brayden Point, to Steven Stamkos, to Nikita Kucherov, into the back of the net. The 40-goal trio sifted through the neutral and offensive zones like a bolt of lightning through butter, each moving across each other to confuse the defense and open up gaps. Kucherov has had a couple sweet backhand goals this week, and this one goes right up top with the rest of them. Who said the art of the backhand went extinct?
And finally, Palat sealed the game and McElhinney’s shut out with an empty netter right at the end.