The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off the 2020-21 season with a convincing victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. There were a lot of good things that happened in the game. Steven Stamkos had 3 points, and now has points in the last 17 games he’s played in, the second line provided some offense, and Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid in net with the only goal he allowed coming from behind the net and bouncing off of a skate. Another positive - the debut of Cal Foote.
With his parents in the stands, the 22-year-old defensman appeared in his first NHL game. In doing so he became the first Lightning first round pick to appear in a game since Jonathon Drouin in October of 2014. Even with Tampa Bay’s nebulous relationship with first round picks it’s kind of shocking to realize Foote and Vasilevskiy are the only ones from the last decade that are still in the organization.
How did the young blueliner fare in his first game? Not too bad, not too great. There were times you didn’t notice he was on the ice, which isn’t always a bad thing. As Coach Cooper said after the game, “When you look back on the “D” side and you really don’t notice them, it’s probably a good night for them.”
It reminded me a lot of his debut with the Syracuse Crunch a few seasons ago. He didn’t force anything, didn’t make any egregious mistakes, but had a play or two that in the future he would do differently. There were two or three really nice break out passes from his own zone as well and he made a nice play on a one-on-one that forced a Chicago player to shoot earlier than he wanted to.
In the end he was on the ice for 10:46, mostly at even strength, but he did have 39 seconds on the penalty kill. He started the game with Ryan McDonagh but ended it with Mikhail Sergachev. He also skated with Victor Hedman for 1:18 throughout the night. He had the most action with Sergachev as they were on the ice together for six shot attempts by the Lightning.
Personally he didn’t have any shots on goal (his one attempt was sent wide in hopes of a friendly carom), but was on the ice for two Lightning goals and made a nice read on Brayden Point’s goal.
When Foote slides to the middle of the ice, he clears out the ice for Stamkos to move in and set up Point. The Chicago defenders were caught looking at Schenn and mucked up their coverage leaving all of that empty space for Stamkos.
All in all, a solid debut for the young kid. With Luke Schenn eligible to play next game, Foote may be scratched or sent to the taxi squad. Or Coach Cooper might choose to keep him in the line-up considering Chicago doesn’t have much depth past their first line and the Lightning can control his match-ups.
If history is any indication, Foote will rapidly adjust to the pace of the NHL and open his style of play a little more. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him pulling regular shifts on the right side by the end of the season.
Once the Lightning found their rhythm they made the game look quite easy. It’s tough to judge a season by one game, but if they continue to score on their power play, and the second line chips in with goals, they are going to be tough to beat. [Raw Charge]
Forechecking and puck retrieval. A hallmark of the modern day Tampa Bay Lightning. What the replay doesn’t show was how the initial forecheck of Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli established this play. Without it, this goal doesn’t happen. Yes, the goal was more due to Malcom Subban losing track of the puck and scoring on himself, but it’s the process that we need to focus on.
The view from up north was a little more bleak. [Second City Hockey]
The Blackhawks were run out of the building tonight. The charts below from Natural Stat Trick are barely indicative of how one-sided this affair was. It can be treated as an anomaly if it remains the exception and not the rule in Blackhawks games this season. But if Chicago gets thrashed by teams that aren’t the defending champions, like the Panthers or Blue Jackets or — God help us — the Red Wings, then the calls for front office firings that never really calmed down are only going to get louder.
Well now, isn’t that a sight to behold.
From Around the League:
Joel Quenneville’s glorious mustache. Jon Cooper chomping away at a piece of gum. Some things will be missing this year because coaches will be masked up on the bench this year. [AP Sports]
One of the new challenges for NHL coaches this season is the requirement to wear a mask behind the bench during games and on the ice for practices. Now that goaltenders won’t be the only masked men around the rink, coaches will learn and adjust on the fly like those in other sports have had to in recent months.
Thirty-one teams, thirty-one predictions [TSN]
15. Brent Burns will be the biggest name exposed in the 2021 Expansion Draft. But the Kraken’s best pickup will come from either Carolina’s blueline or one of the Lightning’s salary cap casualties left exposed.
It appears the NHL will be releasing daily updates of the players who aren’t available due to Covid protocols. This doesn’t meant that the player has tested positive, just that something triggered the process. It could be that the player isn’t feeling well or contract tracing identified someone close to them as having the virus. On Wednesday there were several players, none on the Lightning [SportsNet]
Other players [in addition to James Neal, JT Miller, and Nikolaj Ehlers] listed as unavailable Wednesday include: Lawson Crouse, Karson Kuhlman, Erik Johnson, Mikko Koivu, Darren Helm, Christian Djoos, Gaetan Haas, Markus Nutivaara, Cal Petersen, Kurtis MacDermid, Sean Walker, Alex Stalock, Mikael Granlund, Luca Sbisa, Justin Richards, Shayne Gostisbehere, Kasperi Kapanen, Max Letunov and Jordie Benn.
Covid-19 hasn’t just affected players and team staff, it’s also hit the executive ranks of the league itself. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley contracted and recovered from the virus earlier this year.
Flyers 6, Penguins 3
Joel Farabee is going to score 200 points this season. That would be something, huh? It’s unlikely he’ll keep the pace going, but what a way to start the season. The second-year forward had a goal and three assists as the Flyers scored three times in roughly seven minutes in the third period to blow open a close game.
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)
The battle for the soul of Canada began with a fun overtime game that featured Toronto battling back multiple times before Morgan Reilly ended it in the extra frame. Former Bolt Jonathan Drouin had three assists for the Habs while William Nylander had three points (2 goals, 1 assist) for the Leafs.
Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Two goals from Oskar Sundqvist and 26 saves from Jordan Binnington were enough to propel the Blues over the presumptive favorites for the Western Division crown. New Blue Torey Krug played 22:10.
Canucks 5, Oilers 3
Brock Boeser scored twice in the third period and the Canucks held Connor McDavid off the scoreboard. Vancouver exposed Edmonton’s biggest worries (goaltending and defense) in the first game of the season as Mikko Koskinen allowed 5 goals on 35 shots.