Posts tagged “Lightning”

Wings 4, Lightning

I missed a chunk of the game recording a segment for TP:60, so this’ll mostly be thoughts on the first period and first half of the second.

1-3-1: The Lightning wasted no time falling into the 1-3-1, which quite frankly I find to be embarrassing for a team run by Steve Yzerman and consisting of such offensively skilled guy as Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier. A 1-3-1 to protect a lead is one thing. A 1-3-1 to kick off a game is another. For everybody’s sake, the Lightning should clearly start every game down a goal or two, because once the Wings got ahead, Tampa Bay started playing actual hockey. And the resultant product was a lot better.

Sure, they still lost, but at least it was entertaining. If I were a Lightning fan, I’d rather be entertained in a loss than bored in one.

The Wings’ Response To It: Anyway, I thought the Wings did a pretty good job of dealing with the 1-3-1. They had fairly good movement through center and most of the time I noticed the three Lightning stacked at the blueline, it wasn’t for very long as the Wings mostly managed to break through. So that was good. They mostly owned the first period.

No Flow: One thing that was bothersome about this one was the lack of flow early. It felt like there were constant whistles in the first. Things opened up in the second, thanks to the Lightning coming out of their shell, but that first period was frustrating.

Jimmy: Another very strong game from him. He looked especially good late in the game as the Lightning came on.

Ericsson: Scored a goal and set the world off kilter. Then took a penalty and put it back on.

Kronwall: Was active offensively. In the second, there was one power play where he had three separate scoring chances, though two were blocked.

Six: It’s the longest winning streak of the season and the Wings are playing pretty well. Friday’s matchup against the Sabres will be a good test of their focus against unfamiliar teams. If this game against Tampa was a preview, they should be in good shape.

Game Day: vs. Tampa Bay

… Today is the long-awaited return of Steve Yzerman to Detroit after leaving the organization to run the Tampa Bay Trap Trapping Trappers, I mean, Lightning. The Wings ventured into the trapping grounds of Tampa Bay last year and came out on top 6-2. This year, the Lightning will be trapping on the Wings’ turf, where such a style is generally reserved for lead maintenance rather than lead generation.

… The Lightning have trapped their way to a sterling 11-10-2 record, which is good for third in the Southeast Division.

… They’re coming off a loss to the Wild Monday night, but had a pair of wins prior to that.

… Hey, did you know the Lightning play the trap a lot? The Detroit media would like you to know. There is at least as much talk about that as there is about Yzerman’s return. Trap (beware autoplay videos), trap, trap.

… Steven Stamkos shoots and scores, to the tune of 9 goals in his past 11 games. The Wings’ Stamkos shutdown strategy will be interesting to see.

… They’re without Mattias Ohlund and Steve Downie, which is good news for the Wings on both fronts.

… Dwayne Roloson will be in net for the Lightning. He’s posted a 3.46 goals-against and .887 save-percentage. Which means he’ll have a shutout tonight or something.

… The Wings are 14-7-1, which puts them at third in the Central and fifth in the Conference.

… They’ve won five in a row, including a 3-2 shootout match against Boston on Friday. They’re on a good stretch, but will look to extend it into six in a row for the first time after stopping at 5 and 4 two separate times.

… Fabian Brunnstrom is back with the team after going up and down the past few week or so. He’ll play instead of Cory Emmerton.

… Patrick Eaves is out with a broken jaw after taking a puck to the side of his head on Saturday. Franzen had a “maintenance day”  yesterday for a lower body injury, but is supposed to play.

… Jimmy Howard will get the start tonight.

… The Lightning are a team with skill and a defensive system that they’re committed to so they present a challenge to the Wings. They’ll need to be at their puck-moving best and keep their feet moving to beat the Tampa Bay structure that could be set up early. The trap hasn’t done great things for the Lightning this year, but if the Wings play to the script they sometimes fall into, it could work for them tonight. Here’s hoping the Wings are in the statement-making business tonight.

Wings 6, Lightning 2

That Was Fun: Between the arena atmosphere and the way the Wings handled the Lightning, this was an entertaining game. I’m liking the trajectory this team is on right now.

Jimmy: Just last week, there was concern about Howard and the Wings’ goaltending in general. I thought that while he could probably use some rest, he mainly needed his team to play around him. I think the past three games have borne that theory out. Granted, the Wings gave up 40 shots to the Lightning, so it doesn’t seem like Jimmy got a lot of support. But I’d argue the team has improved in their own end, forcing more shots from the outside than in sweeter spots, and it’s showing in Jimmy’s play. He looks much sharper and more poised.

I’d like to see the Wings get the shot totals down still, but I’m not as concerned about Jimmy these days.

The Lightning: Okay, so they got 40 shots, but overall I was unimpressed. They looked jittery in the first and like they just weren’t ready. They progressed as the game went on, but they just weren’t all that threatening, apart from that brief span in which they stormed back. It may be that they felt a bit more pressure than the Wings because of their boss, but whatever the reason, they were mostly underwhelming.

Stamkos: A disappointment. He had a few bright spots, but I was expecting more from the premier offensive player in the League. Yes, the.

Lecavalier: I noticed him a lot, but rarely was it because something good he was doing. He was victimized a lot.

Datsyuk: His second was a thing of beauty, but shouldn’t happen, Lightning stumble at center notwithstanding. How does anyone let Pavel Datsyuk get that open ever?

Also: who needs the Eurotwins united when you’ve got Hudler and Datsyuk? Okay, just kidding. Eurotwins > Huds and Pavel, but still: it’s working out pretty nicely.

Bertuzzi: Didn’t get on the board and finished -2. So not his best night, but he had a glorious doorstep chance that I hope means he’s not going back into his shell.

Stuart: I hardly noticed him, which is great. It’s good to have him back.

Osgood: Came on during the second period in the booth and chatted for a while. Good to hear he’s getting close to returning. Also good to hear he’s probably sticking around.

Yzerman: Definitely a lot of Stevie Y laid on thick, but that was to be expected. I’m happy to see the progress he’s made already, but happier to see they still have a ways to go.

Next: Another road  game against, this time against Florida. They should beat them and beat them easily, but that probably means they’ll have trouble.

Joey’s in net, so that should be interesting.

Game Day Notes: @ Tampa Bay

Update (1:23 PM): No Ruslan Salei tonight, as he is in California spending time with family. He’ll join the team tomorrow. Skipping over the minor annoyance of not icing the best lineup tonight, I have point out that this is pretty cool of the Wings. Best organization in sports.

Kindl will remain in the lineup as a result. - Matt

… This is the first meeting of the post-Yzerman Red Wings and the Now With 100% More Yzerman Lightning. So it’s kind of a big game.

… But not a big deal to Mr. Yzerman himself. Though he’d like to see a Tampa Bay overtime/shootout win so the Wings get a point.

… The Wings shut out the Lightning last year, but the Tampa Bay organization has taken a full U-turn in the interim. They now have new ownership, a new GM and a new coach. Those three things add up to a new organizational attitude. You’ve got new guys on the ice, but maybe more importantly, you’ve got the old guys stepping up. Filling those three high profile upper level positions with the right people was huge: they’ve got an owner that’s committed to winning and waiting to do it right, a GM that brings experence from the ultimate franchise rebuild and sustained excellence management, and a great young coach. I’m a little surprise that it all added up this well this quickly, but I won’t be surprised when the Lightning become a perennial powerhouse.

… The Lightning have made their way to a 34-17-6 record and second place overall in the East (though Pittsburgh has 2 more points).

… They’ve won three of six February games thus far, lost two in regulation and another in a shootout.

… They’re coming off that shootout loss, which came Tuesday at home against Philadelphia.

… Ryan Malone and Mike Lundin are out, Randy Jones is questionable, and Nate Thompson is probable.

… Ridiculous stud Steven Stamkos leads the league with 40 goals right now. 15 of them came on the power play.

… Dwayne Roloson should be in net for the Lightning. His team headshot looks like something out of the mug shot archives. Scary.

… The Wings are coming off a successful weekend running over bears: they blew out the Bruins Friday night and then managed a win at home Sunday. They’ve been off since then and are now on the first leg of their annual dads trip.

… Their 34-16-6 record is ridiculously similar to the Lightning’s, further upholding the idea that it’s okay to have Tampa Bay be your alternate team.

… The Wings get a big return to the lineup tonight with Brad Stuart, who’ll make his first appearance since taking a Tom Kostopoulos elbow to the face six weeks ago tomorrow. He’ll be wearing protection for his jaw and won’t be full-go right away, but getting back the team’s top defensive defenseman is a great thing, especially against a team with a guy like the Lightning.

… They’ll still be without Filppula, Modano and Osgood.

… Jimmy Howard will get another start tonight.

… The Wings rebounded nicely from their embarrassing loss to the Predators last week with two strong games against Boston. They need to pick up where they left off and own the Lightning.

Wings 4, Bruins 2

Briefly due to a time shortage at work:

Continued Progress: The start wasn’t the best (though not as bad as NBC would have its viewers believe), but the Wings collected themselves and managed to take out a highly-motivated Bruins squad that was looking to exact its pound of flesh for the drubbing it took Friday night. As far as afternoon nationally-broadcast games against vengeful opponents go, there isn’t much  to complain about here, apart from the somewhat sluggish start.

Bertuzzi: Not sure what about the Bruins brings out the goal scorer in him, but I hope he can bring that kind of play to the Wings’ upcoming games. Bert fades in an out of usefulness, generally, so I hope he’s on a long fade in for a while.

Jimmy: Looked solid overall. Not much he could have done on either goal. @mserven did note in the first that he seemed to be a little over-aggressive, but either he toned it down or it didn’t hurt the team. I honestly didn’t think about it after that.

Kindl/Salei: Not their best game. Kindl’s taken a few steps backward lately and he’s taking Salei down with him. It may be some of the pressure of playing in the NHL is getting to Jakub, but some relief may be coming soon as Stuart’s scheduled back this month.

Hudler and Datsyuk: I’m liking that combination. It’s just too bad tying Pavel to Hudler is the only way to get Jiri going, apparently.

Draper: That play couldn’t have gone better. The Bruins made the goofy choice of converging on Eaves and letting Draper sneak in behind, setting up a great dish for a Thomas victimization. Not sure about that decision to freak out at Eaves’ presence, but I’ll take it.

Late: The Bruins were still in it and I was thinking after one particularly dangerous chance, “the Wings could use an insurance goal here…”. Then Bert scored. That worked out nicely.

Next: The Wings have a couple days to rest up for the big meeting with Steve Yzerman’s club, which you know’s going to be a night of mixed emotions. The Lightning will no doubt be pumped to go and if the Wings can build on what they started with the Boston games, it should be a fun night.

It’ll be interesting to see who  gets the shutdown assignment on Stamkos.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Stevie Y

Well, after the initial shock wore off, I’ve come to terms with this. And I’ll say to The Captain up front, with more feeling this time: good luck in Tampa. You’re going to do great things there (with one qualifier I’ll get to in a minute). You’ve studied at the best hockey management school in the business and I know you have it in you to turn a bad situation into a great one for the Lightning. I’ve never really been one to spare fanship for a team other than the Wings, but I’ll be keeping on eye on Tampa Bay from now on for sure.

And I hope to see a stable ownership situation. The foundation on which the Wings’ success is built is the stability of the ownership situation. Of course, plenty of teams have stable ownership and don’t get anywhere (see Chicago prior to the passing of Bill Wirtz), so it’s not everything. But the best hockey minds in the business are going to have a hard time doing their jobs if the name on the boss’s door keeps changing.

I know nothing about Jeff Vinik beyond what little I’ve picked up from reading about the process behind Yzerman’s job change, but if he can offer anything like the longevity or stability the Illitches have provided the Wings over the years, Steve’s job of building a contender out of a team that often helps put the least in Southleast becomes that much easier.

It’s just as important that Vinik gives Yzerman the time and leash to do what he needs to do. If they’re really going to get the Lightning off the ground, the owner fiddling with operations isn’t going to do the trick. So it’s good that the question of direction has been settled at the onset. Of course, you never hear of a hire like this being told he won’t have the reins, but you can bet Yzerman wouldn’t have left if he wasn’t sure the arrangement would stick.

And The Captain’s going to have a fair starting point. Once I got past the initial visceral reaction of “Tampa Bay?! Haha teh suck,” I remembered guys like Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Vincent Lecavalier (assuming he’s not dealt somehow), and Martin St. Louis. He doesn’t have a lot of players signed going in, but with over $21 million in cap space, he’ll have some room to bring guys over, even in a weak market. They don’t have the world’s greatest development system, it seems, but that can come.

The first big thing, obviously, is to find the right coach. There are a bunch of names out there, and it’s impossible to really know what he’s thinking. But I’m just going to throw Barry Smith’s name out there. They have a history, theoretically Smith would use an Yzerman-approved system (presumably, he wants something like the Wings have used and what he shot for with Team Canada), and, most importantly, he’s available. And maybe interested in working in a warmer environment than Russia. Who knows?

Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting to watch. I just hope he’s given the time needed to form the team he needs. The Wings’ success didn’t come immediately and neither will the Lightning’s. Here’s hoping expectations in Tampa Bay are set accordingly. If given the time and leash, and if backed by stable ownership, I think we can expect great things of Steve Yzerman in this new role. He won’t be the GM to Wayne Gretzky’s coach.

Thanks for everything, Steve. It’s hard to imagine you as no longer a member of the Wings in a formal capacity, but we’ll deal. Good luck. We’ll be watching.

Steve Yzerman, The New Tampa Bay GM

Wow. I had really hoped this wouldn’t happen, but there it is: Stevie’s leaving Detroit. I didn’t want to believe it possible, but it is.

I’m amazed. With his family still tied up in Detroit and Tampa Bay being such a mess, I never thought he’d leave now. Surely other opportunities in the next year or two would have opened up with other teams. Why Tampa, Steve? Why now? He had more power to choose his time and place than practically anybody, and the decision is Tampa Bay? I’m stunned.

That said, Stevie, I wish you luck and success and know you’ll prove your managerial mettle to the hockey world big time. Thank you for everything—you really are the best.

This news has thrown off my orbit for the day. More tonight.