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Lightning Round: Some thoughts on Tuesday’s loss to the Blue Jackets

There was some positive in the negative

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s easy to look at five losses in seven games as a cause for doom and gloom. While it’s unnerving for sure, it’s not the end of the world. There is too much talent on the team for it not to happen. So they are at the point where they just need to work through it and as Steven Stamkos said after their latest loss, “don’t cheat the game”.

Coach Cooper preaches process over results and that’s what the team has to focus on right now. The 4-2 loss to Columbus shows that even when you dedicate yourself to the process, the result might not follow. For the majority of the game, the Lightning stuck to their game plan and controlled the flow of play. They got the chances but either the puck didn’t bounce their way or Joonas Korpisalo made the save.

When that happens it’s easy to get frustrated and “cheat” for offense. Players don’t backcheck as hard, leave the defensive zone early, try to make a risky offensive play instead of dumping the puck in safely. All that usually does is magnify the problem. So it’s good to see the Lightning work hard against Columbus and create their chances.

It’s doubly frustrating when it seems that the other team converts the limited opportunities that you allow them. It was a “messed up play” that led to the first Columbus goal as the Lightning were caught on a line change and not able to set up their coverage. The second goal came off of a fumbled puck exchange, while the third came off of a deflected stick.

The Lightning have been through this before (remember the slump before The Pause last season?) They know that it won’t last forever and if they stick with the game plan they will work their way out of the team wide funk. Despite the loss on Tuesday there were still some positives that emerged.

  • They are getting their chances, but they need to work on getting some better opportunities. During this little slump they have still be generating shots, but they are not coming from dangerous areas. In their last two game they’ve only combined for 11 High Danger Chances at 5v5. That would indicate that most of the shots are coming from the perimeter or point areas and they aren’t getting to the rebounds or deflections.

Detroit and Columbus both collapsed down around the crease. That allowed them to block a lot of shots and outnumber the Lightning for rebounds when the shots did get through. They’ve gone through similar slumps in the past and they usually get out of it by moving the puck quicker and more accurately while focusing on making sure the point shots make it through the first layer of defense.

  • Ben Thomas has been...okay. I’ve watched a lot of Ben Thomas over the last few years while covering the Syracuse Crunch for this site. During that time I wasn’t sure if he would be able to make the transition to the NHL. For all of the skill he displayed at times, there was a struggle with inconsistency and some questionable decision making (not to mention a Killornian ability to fall down at random times).

As he’s shown over two games, he has the footspeed and offensive instincts to compete in the NHL and (small sample size warning) the results are encouraging. The underlying numbers are stellar - 66.67 CF%, 78.86 xGF%, and just 19.85 shots against/60.

Instead of assigning Victor Hedman or Ryan McDonagh as his partner to cover for any mistakes Thomas might make, Coach Cooper and Rob Zettler have paired him with Mikhail Sergachev for the majority of his time on the ice (19:52 out of 27:12). Two mobile defensemen on the ice at the same time helps them move the puck out of their zone and through the neutral zone. With both geared towards getting the puck on net it’s not a surprise that they have combined for 25 shot attempts while only surrendering 5 against during their time together.

Now he just has to show that he can do it every night if he wants to stay in the line-up and help solve the Lightning’s issue with depth on the right side of the defense.

  • Ross Colton scored again. He now has five goals in thirteen career NHL games. He didn’t make it to the NHL because of his offense so it’s a nice little surprise that he’s found a way to put the puck in the net at such an effective rate. Will he keep at a .385 goals per game pace (trailing only Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point) for the rest of his career? No, that’s quite unlikely.

For one thing he’s shooting 31.3%. That’s pretty amazing. In 131 AHL games his shooting percentage was 9.9% and that was against defenses and goaltenders that were vastly inferior to what he’s faced in his brief NHL career. His individual expected goals is only 1.67 according to Natural Stat Trick so that would indicate that he’s outperforming his stats a little and is due for a little regression.

The good news is that he doesn’t need to be a sniper to keep his spot on the roster. Just keep winning face-offs (currently at 56.44 at 5v5), stay on the right side of shot attempts (54.75 CF%), and limit scoring chances against (20.05/60, third-lowest on the team). That’s more than enough to earn playing time as a fourth-line center.

Lightning Links

Lightning start road trip with loss

It was a solid game with plenty of chances, the puck just didn’t go into the net when it mattered. Oh, and Joonas Korpisalo was pretty good.

Jackets Deliver, Lightning Falter

Those red Retro Reverse jerseys in Columbus are really, really nice.

Syracuse Crunch Wrap

Mitchell Stephens is ready to go according to Hardev. The other Stephens, Devante, is playing well enough to get a look with the Lightning as well.

Orlando Solar Bears Recap

So many games against the Florida Everblades

Lightning recall Daniel Walcott

The most popular man in Syracuse not named Boeheim was called up by the Lightning and assigned to the taxi squad. It will be interesting to see if he gets into any games. He’ll bring a lot of energy to the line-up if he does.

Hockey Highlights

Taylor Hall sitting prior to Trade Deadline

As expected, Taylor Hall’s time in Buffalo most likely won’t last an entire season. Despite his struggles there is interest in him on the trade market. So the Sabres are benching him to keep him from getting hurt (which would be a total Buffalo thing to happen) prior to the deadline. In unrelated news, the Sabres have a five-game point streak.

Bruins win

Jeremy Swayman is apparently a goaltender in the Boston organization. On Tuesday he made 40 saves in the Bruins 4-2 win over Philadelphia. The 22-year-old was drafted 111th overall in the 2017 draft and was playing in just his 10th professional game.