The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2, securing their fifth win of the season and in doing so,
swept the two-game season series took the first two games of their three-game season series.
Poor starts have permeated the first nine games of the Lightning season. In some instances, Tampa Bay managed to overcome them. In others, they fell deeper and deeper into a hole. Tonight showcased a Lightning team that fell behind once again but managed to scrap their way into a win through sheer force of will. This isn’t the same Lightning team as the previous two years. They’re a lesser talented team with championship DNA that is still figuring out what kind of team they are. Tonight, they were a gritty team that eeked out a win over a strong Washington team, but what is this team exactly?
Are they the team that got skated around for the first 10 minutes of the game? Are they the team that dictated the pace in the second period once they tied the game? Are they a dominant 5v5 team? A middling 5v5 team that has superior shooting talent? Tonight didn’t provide any concrete answers, and there are still patches that need to be corrected. It’s unclear what is the identity of this Lightning team, and because of that, I’m left questioning what exactly the 2021-2022 season has in store for Tampa Bay.
The penalty kill stood tall for most of the game, highlighted by Erik Cernak blocking two Alex Ovechkin shots in a matter of seconds during a first-period penalty kill. The offense chipped in with three opportunistic goals, but too often the Lightning seemed content to pass out of shooting opportunities or sit back with a lead, and it created a tilted final period that saw the Capitals dominate in shot attempts.
Nevertheless, Tampa Bay overcame an early deficit to secure their fifth win of the season, and second over the Washington Capitals, to give themselves a proper winning streak of three games. Goals from Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, and Brayden Point provided the offense while Andrei Vasilevskiy made a bevy of impressive saves to keep Washington’s goal scorers to Brett Leason and Conor Sheary.
It wasn’t a pretty game for the Lightning, and it’d be difficult to state it was an effective game. Puck management was an issue, as was decision-making in the offensive zone. Yet, thanks to a strong performance from Vasilevskiy they managed to secure points at a crucial point of the season.
- It’s unclear what Tampa Bay is this season. Clearly, they know how to succeed in situational hockey, but the overall execution still leaves a lot to be desired. The line shuffling through the first nine games signifies that the coaching staff believes the same thing. Obviously, missing Nikita Kucherov is a huge issue, but the team’s identity is in flux.
- Taylor Raddysh’s assist on Point’s goal was nice to see. The young forward hasn’t looked particularly great in the early going, but I feel as though he’s starting to find some kind of footing.
- Alex Barre-Boulet has to find consistency in his game if he wants to stay in the NHL, especially with the Lightning. His skill set is perfect for the power-play and was on display for Cirelli’s goal, but he has to get better at 5v5. Here’s to hoping he finds his groove and forces the coaching staff to play him higher in the lineup.
- Winning 194 of your first 300 NHL games is ridiculous. That’s a 64.7% win percentage! Vasilevskiy has the second-most wins for a goaltender in his first 300 games. The top spot? Ken Dryden. We’re witnessing a generational goaltender here, folks. Don’t let that fact fall by the wayside. We better hope he never wears another sweater in the NHL, because goalies like him shouldn’t play for other franchises.