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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay is off to a strong start

They sit atop the Central Division after eight games.

NHL: FEB 03 Red Wings at Lightning Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Prior to the season starting, Coach Jon Cooper spoke about how important it was for his team to get off to a strong start. With a 6-1-1 record after 8 games, the Lightning have done just that. The schedule has played in their favor a bit as they’ve started out against some of the teams in the Central Division that will struggle to make the playoffs. Still, you can only play the games that are on the schedule.

Stocking up on wins and not letting any games slip away is important in a shortened season. Even more so in a season where every game is against a team in your own division. They’ve managed to pick up points in seven of their eight games with a 5-2 loss against Columbus on January 23rd the only game where they didn’t.

That was the one game where they left points on the table as they should have taken advantage of and beaten a Blue Jackets team that had just traded their captain and best offensive player in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Other than that game, this has to be the start Coach Cooper was envisioning during training camp.

The Lightning have faltered from time to time within games, most notably after building multi-goal leads against Nashville in their most recent meetings. They’ve bent, but not broken and held on to win those games. Offense definitely has not been a problem as they’ve scored at least four goals in five of their six wins. Carolina did manage to shut them out in their only meeting so far this season, but the Hurricanes have been rather stingy in that department all season, allowing just thirteen goals in seven games.

After Tampa Bay plays Detroit on Friday and then a two-game series in Nashville next week, things become a little more competitive. Their next ten games will be against Florida (5-0-1), Dallas (5-1-1) and Carolina (6-1). If they can pull off six or seven wins during that stretch, they should be in a pretty good place for the season. Falter, and they could be playing catch-up for the next couple of months.

Lightning News:

The Lightning defeated the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 5-1 Wednesday night. The Bolts jumped out to an early lead and held on, suffocating the Red Wings’ offense for most of the early evening. [Raw Charge]

The Red Wings had their hands full dealing with the Lightning forwards, so when the defenseman became involved on the offense they were lost. For the Lightning’s third goal Blake Coleman won a puck battle along the boards and hit a wide open Ryan McDonagh in the middle of the ice. McDonagh slotted the puck home for his first goal of the season and the rout was on.

Things weren’t quite as rosy from the other side of the ice. [Winging it in Motown]

Calvin Pickard enters as tribute. I assume [Thomas] Greiss has gone to smash some crates and throw some barrels. To be clear, Greiss did nothing wrong other than show up. The poor fool.

Good news, we are halfway through the period and it is still 3-0. We only have 2 shots on goal. Ken and Mick [Daniels and Redmond, Detroit’s broadcast team] are already telling stories instead of commenting on the game.

Some facts about the game courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning:

  • The Lightning are 17-0-1 against the Red Wings in their last 18 games. That includes 15 straight wins at home against Detroit. The recent domination has allowed them to bring their all-time record above .500 (29-28-2 with 2 ties).
  • As you can imagine that also means that Andrei Vasilevskiy has never lost to the Red Wings as he is now 9-0 against them.
  • Nineteen of twenty players that have skated for the Lightning this season have recorded at least one point. The lone holdout - Patrick Maroon.

Mikhail Sergachev picked up an assist on Alex Killorn’s goal. He know has 112 career points which ties him with Steve Downie for 32nd all time in franchise history. #MikhailMilestone

Congratulations to Blake Coleman who picked up his 100th career point on Wednesday night when he notched his second assist of the evening. Of those 100 markers, 6 (2 goals, 4 assists) have come with the Lightning during his 16 regular season games in the blue and white.

Due to some of the extra health protocols the league has instilled this season, the players have some extra time on their hands, especially on road trips. Ryan McDonagh is putting that time to good use as he works to earning his degree in personal finance from the University of Wisconsin, the school he attended before signing to play professionally. [Tampa Bay Times]

McDonagh said getting his degree is something he’s been wanting to complete for a few years, but he hadn’t been able to get back to Madison to resume classes. When his old college roommate told him the university was offering a wider variety of online courses because of the pandemic, his hope became a reality.

Hockey News:

Old friend Braydon Coburn has been placed on waivers by the Ottawa Senators. If he clears the Senators can either place him on the taxi squad or assign him to the AHL. They can also try and find a trade for him. It appears that the Senators have decided that if they are going to lose, they’re going to do so with younger players as they also called up 21-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom on Wednesday. [Sportsnet]

The Senators acquired Coburn, 35, in a Dec. 27 trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning along with forward Cedric Paquette and a 2022 second-round pick.

In eight games for the Senators this season, Coburn has an assist and four penalty minutes.

In Pittsburgh, the Penguins are on the hunt for a new GM. After being rebuffed by New York Rangers Assistant GM Chris Drury, it appears they are turning their eyes toward Los Angeles and a former cross-state rival. Reports are that they have requested permission to speak with former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall who is currently an advisor to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Minnesota Wild have become the latest NHL team to temporarily suspend operations due to a COVID outbreak. Six players from the team have been placed into protocol and the league announced that their next four games have been postponed. [Hockey Wilderness]

In addition to Marcus Foligno who was placed in the COVID protocol on January 31st, five additional players were added on Wednesday: Nick Bjugstad, Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, and Jared Spurgeon. The Avalanche also announced that Tyler Jost had been placed in the protocol after playing in all three games between the two teams this past week.

Speaking of hockey management, Team Canada has announced their executive team in charge of putting Brayden Point in the 2022 Olympics constructing the 2022 Men’s Hockey team that will compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. [TSN Hockey]

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been named general manager, leading a group that includes Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis, Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney, Florida Panthers executive Roberto Luongo and Senior VP of national teams Scott Salmond.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice had some choice words for the media on Wednesday while also taking a swipe at analytics as well. It was quite a show of staunch support for his captain. [Sportsnet]

“You’ll do your deep dives and your analytics and boy do they do a horses**** job of telling you what five guys do... I’m sensitive to it because I’ve been in awe of this guy since I got here,” Maurice said to reporters. “His work level, he’s unimpeachable in his character and how he runs that room and how he plays, he’s got 11 points and 10 games.

There is some unfortunate news from the NWHL. Just as they were planning on starting their semi-final round in Lake Placid, the league announced that they would, instead, be shutting down due to positive COVID tests inside the bubble. Earlier this week the Connecticut Whale became the second team to withdraw from the tournament following the New York Riveters. [The Ice Garden]

As painful as this may be to fans and players, there really was no choice to make here. The tournament had to be shut down if things were getting out of hand — and it appears that is what has happened in Lake Placid. Needless to say, there is no knowing if and when the Isobel Cup Semifinals and Isobel Cup Final will be played, let alone if they will be on NBCSN.

Gritty is simply living their best life despite the empty arenas.