The Tampa Bay Lightning.
The fourth longest game in NHL history. And the Lightning were a part of it. It was a long, hard game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hats off to Jonas Korpisalo for keeping it going as long as he did. Ultimately, it took a couple of flukes for the Lightning to take the 3-2 win and the 1-0 series lead on Columbus.
So here’s my thoughts on the game for the day after.
Victor Hedman is a BEAST!
After Hedman got hurt in the Philadelphia Flyers game, I was worried. The Lightning are already without Steven Stamkos and Jan Rutta. To not have Hedman on the ice, even with the Lightning’s depth on the blue line, was a scary proposition. He played though, even though it seemed like it would be a game time decision with Luke Schenn also taking the warm ups. He also didn’t show any signs of his injury.
Here’s a few stats that illustrate how much of a horse and a star and a performer that he was in last night’s game.
- 57:38 TOI - A new Lightning franchise record, and the 7th most all time (Seth Jones set a new record with 65:06)
- 9 Shots on Goal - Tied Alex Killorn’s franchise record and is the most by a Lightning defenseman in a playoff game
- 23 Shot Attempts - Hedman had a shot attempt once every 2.5 minutes on the ice and had the most of any player in the game.
- 71.28% Corsi For %, 64.98% Fenwick For %, 68.71% Expected Goals For % - These are insane numbers even in a 60 minute game, but to keep it up over a 150 minute game is even more insane.
- Held Columbus to 19.47% xGF when Seth Jones was on the ice - Jones is the player that maybe the Lightning should have taken with the third overall pick in 2013 instead of Jonathan Drouin. He is without a doubt one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. And Columbus did basically nothing when Jones and Hedman were both on the ice.
- Was over 50% xGF against all but two Blue Jackets - Alexander Wennberg (11:55 TOI against) and Alexandre Texier (15:19 TOI against) were the only players that Hedman was below 50% for xGF against.
Also, have to give a lot of credit to Zach Bogosian here. I, like many others, was not terribly excited when the Lightning signed him, but recognized that he was necessary for depth at the time. I was less happy to see him being paired up with Victor Hedman. But, you know what? He was perfectly fine in this game.
Maybe it was Hedman carrying him around, but it really felt like Bogosian was playing smart more often than not. A number of times, I’d watch him start going up ice, see that Hedman was moving up with more speed, and hand it off to him. You don’t stick around in the NHL for over 600 games averaging over 21 minutes of a game without learning a little bit about where to be and how to play with different partners. He showed that he could adapt to playing with Hedman and being a solid partner for him.
Limited the Blue Jackets Quality
The Lightning overall did a really good job of limiting the quality of shots for Columbus while still getting their own chances. Only four Blue Jackets players finished with a better than 50% xGF; defensemen Dean Kukan and Ryan Murray, and forwards Alexander Wennberg and Alexandre Texier.
When taken as three man units, all four of the Lightning’s lines were above water in CF%, FF%, SF%, and xGF%. The Cirelli line perhaps had the toughest time and still ended up with a 55.2% xGF%, the worst mark of the four lines. But the reason for that was that they took the hardest match ups. They played over 20 minutes against Liam Foudy and Pierre-Luc Dubois, easily the Blue Jackets two most talented forwards. They also got matched a lot against Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, as well as Olivier Bjorkstrand and Alexandre Texier.
Jonas Korpisalo Stood On His Head
Korpisalo was just insane. He played out of his mind. He made save, after save, after save and stymied the Lightning’s offense. It ended up taking a couple of flukes to beat him. First was Gourde’s goal where Gourde got it into the crease, knocked the puck around, and it ended up sliding into the goal after Korpisalo kicked it with his pad while sprawled out trying to find and cover the puck. Second was the game winner where Kucherov scuffed a shot and it hit off of Vladislav Gavrikov’s face, taking him out of the play, while the puck bounced straight to Point and laid down just enough for him to scoop the puck up for a shot that found the top corner to finally end the game.
The Lightning will need to figure out how to beat him as this series goes on though. Maybe he can’t keep it up, but with the way goalies go in the playoffs, I don’t want to bet on it. I want the Lightning to figure out what they need to do to beat him more consistently. One of those things to figure out is getting unblocked shots through and on the net.
Some of this should be taken with a grain of salt since many of these stats were accumulated while both teams were exhausted, but the Lightning ended up having 62 shots blocked in all situations out of 187 shot attempts: 33% of their shot attempts were blocked, which is a pretty high number and 20% of their shots missed the net, which is a little it closer to the norm.
The Blue Jackets always seemed to be in the lane, either with sticks or body parts. Sneaking some more shots through or being able to make a small move to get the defenders out of position so that they can get the puck through will help them to solve the Blue Jackets and Korpisalo.
Solid Start to the Series
Obviously the talk coming into this series was going to be what happened last year. As the overtimes continued to go on, it felt more and more like the I was going to be disappointed with the Blue Jackets scoring on some fluky goal or off a huge Lightning mental mistake. But it didn’t happen. It ended up being the Lightning that capitalized on the fluke. They also did that by just being good through the majority of the game and when they weren’t as good, Vasilevskiy was there to bail them out.
You have to hope that they’ve really learned their lesson from last year and will be more resilient. Practice should be canceled tomorrow. Everyone should be getting treatment done and just doing everything they can to recover. The good thing is that the Blue Jackets are in the same boat, and possibly even in a bit worse shape because they have played two more games than the Lightning and two of those games went to overtime.
We’ll see tomorrow how much energy there is for both teams and what kind of game we get with two teams that will surely still be feeling the effect of basically playing a double header.