In part two of our of our First Goal series, we flip the number 17 on the back of Alex Killorn’s jersey to the number 71 of Anthony “Rocco” Cirelli. It didn’t take long for Cirelli to endear himself to Lightning fans as he scored in his very first game in a Tampa Bay uniform.
The play starts, as so many of the Lightning’s goals do, in the defensive zone. Victor Hedman chips the puck past Tyler Sequin and Cirelli picks it up just past the blueline. The key to this part of the play is that he gets the puck and is already at full stride. Cirelli doesn’t have to reach behind him or slow down as he gathers it in.
Ryan Callahan is skating in the opposite direction, but he sees that his teammate has corralled the puck so the veteran turns up ice for a possible two-on-two attack.
Lightning fans get the first hint at Cirelli’s speed on this play as he easily pulls away from Alex Radulov. The Russian gives a half-hearted attempt at a stick check and realizes there is no way he’s catching Cirelli.
That leaves defenseman John Klingberg, a pretty good blueliner, to deal with the rookie. The Stars defender knows his partner is back and able to cover the middle of the ice, so all Klingberg has to do is cut off Cirelli before he gets into a shooting position. Or at the very least, force him wide and out of a good shooting position. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Well, not really. Cirelli beats him to the red dot and is in position to start. One thing you’ll notice in the next picture is that Cirelli has actually skated himself out of the possible two-on-two. Callahan isn’t even in the picture (well his stick is at the right edge of the screen). So, in essence, Cirelli outskated Radulov, Klingberg, and Callahan on this play. Not bad for a rookie.
With the advantage on Klingberg and no one to pass to, Cirelli snaps a shot off. As you can see in the next photo, there is a lot of space between the post and Bishop’s stick/blocker just after Cirelli releases the shot. The goaltender is squared up fairly well on the shot, but he’s a little too far back in the crease. If Bishop had been out on the edge of the crease, all of that room disappears and most likely he bats the puck into the corner.
The shot sneaks past Bishop’s blocker and stick and just inside the post. Should Bishop have made the save? Probably, but I think he was a little surprised by Cirelli’s speed and the shot was in a perfect location.
It was a highlight of things to come for Lightning fans. While he’s come to be known for his relentless defensive play for Tampa Bay, this goal shows that he has the offensive instincts and shot to be a consistent 20+ goal scorer in the league.
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