Marty, Richie move on to Round 2 thanks to Pouliot

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Were you betting that Benoit Pouliot would have been your former Bolt Game Seven Hero?

I wasn’t either.

Pouliot was the only former Lightning player to register a point in Game Seven between the loaded Lightning rosters of the Rangers and Flyers. He scored a pretty goal in the second period to put the Rangers up 2-0 by bursting down the slot for a quick shot. He didn’t believe it either, yelling “What?” to his buddies.

With that, Dominic Moore, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Pouliot move on, leaving behind Vincent Lecavalier, Adam Hall and Steve Downie from Round 1, focusing on former Bolt Jussi Jokinen and the Penguins. I’m not joking either on the focusing on Jokinen part. Until Evgeni Malkin decided to wake up and score a hat trick, Jokinen was the hottest player for the Pens.

Here’s the breakdown on the Bygone Bolts scoring race:

Player Team Games Played Goals Assists Points +/- TOI/G PIM
Martin St. Louis NYR 7 2 4 6 0 19:45 0
Brad Richards NYR 7 2 4 6 +1 17:21 0
Jussi Jokinen PIT 6 3 2 5 +2 16:20 6
Benoit Pouliot NYR 7 2 2 4 +2 14:20 8
Dan Boyle SJS 7 0 4 4 -1 21:09 8
Dominic Moore NYR 7 2 1 3 0 11:17 6
Vincent Lecavalier PHI 7 1 1 2 -5 10:41 2
Adam Hall PHI 7 0 1 1 0 10:01 7
Stephane Veilleux MIN 3 0 0 0 +1 6:73 4
Andrej Meszaros BOS 2 0 0 0 +1 18:11 0

Scoring wise, Marty and Richie seemed to have found themselves again and Dominic Moore had a pretty good series along with Pouliot, too.

Stephane Veilleux managed to get into Game Seven against the Avalanche despite only playing three games in the series, picking up a minor penalty as the Wild stunned the Avs in overtime. The Wild will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

On the losing side of the ledger, where did Vinny go? A negative 5? The advanced stats even show that playing on the fourth line and playing mostly against weaker competition hurt Lecavalier. I don’t know how much he’s going to like being a fourth line guy this early in his Philadelphia tour. He’s not at Yzerman stage yet. Let’s hope for his sake it was mainly from a long season filled with injury.

Dan Boyle as always, steady in San Jose, but the team could not get over the hump again and became a footnote in hockey history becoming the first team since the 2010 Boston Bruins to lose a series after leading 3-0, and the fourth team in NHL history to do so. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter of the Kings were also on the 2010 Flyers team to claim that feat, making them super special, I guess.

In comparison to Vinny’s minus-5 and losing a Game Seven to New York, I’d take that over losing a Game Seven by 5-1 and being the fourth team in history to give up a 3-0 series lead.

Sure makes being swept feel better.

Who do you got for Round 2?

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Lightning Links: Phil Esposito is Frank Reynolds

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I’m a big fan of both Phil Esposito and Danny DeVito’s character Frank Reynolds on “It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia.”

I realized last summer after binging on the series on Netflix that Espo and Frank are one and the same.

They lack a filter, they are a hyperbole of themselves and just really don’t give a shit anymore. And vocally, they sound the same. The speech pattern is eerily similar.

Michael Kruse shared some tidbits from Florida Trend’s new “Florida Icon” feature on Espo that pretty much confirms all of this:

5. I’m one of these guys when I put my mind to something, I’m going to get it done. I’m going to keep on going until I’ve exhausted every avenue and then I’ll cheat and lie a little to get it done. I guess I get that from my grandfather on my mother’s side. When I was growing up, this son of a bitch would put dollar bills on a clothesline and he’d pull it up and my brother and I would try to reach up and grab the money and he’d pull it up a little higher. But I kept trying, boy.

Lie and cheat to get the job done? Classic Frank. Classic Espo.

I mean, Espo did have to embellish a little to convince Japanese investors to buy a hockey team in Florida because of course all of those things go together:

“The more we drank, the more it made sense. I said “hockey.” They thought I said “sake.”

It’s too bad the full feature isn’t up online yet. It’s in the new issue, which is available at Barnes & Noble, and it looks like I’ll be purchasing my first copy of the magazine. The site will eventually put the whole feature online, but paid access is required for the entirety of the article.

In the same interview he says hockey was orgasmic.

And other less climatic Lightning links:

Success! Ben Bishop’s right wrist was repaired on the Cleveland Clinic and now had 3-4 months of rehab...and then has to work on that left elbow. This seems so less exciting than a betting line on Stamkos’ return from a broken leg.  Tampa Bay Lightning

Jonathan Drouin’s season, and likely junior career, is over after the Halifax Mooseheads lost Game 7. Welcome to Tampa! Geordon Omand | Metro

Vincent Lecavalier will face off against Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis in a Game 7 on Wednesday night. Weird. Richards and Benoit Pouliot each had a helper in the Rangers loss while Vinny was a -1 and Adam Hall had a fight. NHL.com

The Lightning has a bright future, according to one of The Hockey Writers. William GIlbert | The Hockey Writers

Tampa’s J.T. Brown is one of the many great black NHL players making a name for himself that LA Times columnist Sandy Banks woefully ignored. William Douglas | Color of Hockey

Never good when you visit a team’s website and it says Thank You Fans. Playoffs over for Orlando Solar Bears, losing series 4-2. OrlandoSolarBearsHockey.com

And finally, 15-year-old Dillon Simmons, a former Junior Florida Everblades and Florida Eels defenseman, lost his battle against brain cancer on Friday. Damn shame. June Fletcher | Naples Daily News

Link

Great post from a blog I stumbled upon today called Color of Hockey. The author, William Douglas, also works for McClatchy Co., in the Washington bureau and loves playing hockey as much as I do.  He also knows that the sport has no room for racist stereotypes–especially from a clueless Los Angeles Times columnist. READ MORE: L.A. Clippers’ Donald Sterling could escape blacks by owning a hockey team. Really?.

Ben Bishop wrist surgery set for April 29

Good luck on the surgery, Bish!

Erlendsson also tweeted that the surgery will be performed in Cleveland, assuming it’ll be at the renowned Cleveland Clinic. Hopefully it’ll be a speedy recovery because he has an elbow on the other arm that needs some attention, too. I hope he doesn’t lose the ability to use both arms at the same time.

Sorry I’m not sorry, but what comes to mind is the difficulties Capitals forward Joel Ward had um, reaching for things, post-hernia surgery.

Lightning Links: Former Bolts racking it up

News about the Tampa Bay Lightning will trickle now for the next five months now that the season is done. Let that sink in for a moment.

A short burst about the draft and free agency, maybe a couple posts about development camp and two stories on court coverage for Ryan Malone. That’s about it.

In that time, about 50 bloggers and reporters, myself included, will write a dissertation on the 2013-14 season and playoffs by the time the season opener comes around. Headlines and links will likely be focusing instead on the former Lightning left in the playoffs, especially Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier who are all in the same series with former Bolts Dominic Moore, Adam Hall and Benoit Pouliot. (Steve Downie is out indefinitely.)

Enjoy it while you can.

“The Lightning had a league-leading 12 penalties for too many men on the ice.” More amazing stats tell the story. Damian Cristodero | Tampa Bay Times

Former Bolt Dominic Moore is absolute bangerz right now. Allan Kreda | New York Times

A two-part series on the AHLers who didn’t see time as Black Aces thanks to early playoff exits for the Bolts and Crunch. Allokago | Raw Charge

Former Bolt Jussi Jokinen is money right now, scoring the GWG for the Pens the other night. He has 3 goals, 1 assist in the series, leading Pittsburgh in goal scoring. NHL.com

AAA is booking a 2015 Lightning Fan Cruise now. It’s July 12-19, 2015, where you get to be tanked with the players and alumni. Sounds great except instead of leaving from Channelside, the cruise departs from Cape Liberty, N.J. AAA.com

Bolts TV and radio guys give their take on the season. Tampa Bay Lightning

J.T. Brown’s two-minute exit interview is released. Tampa Bay Lightning

Ondrej Palat’s also-brief exit interview. He’s going to Vegas…for the NHL Awards Show. Tampa Bay Lightning

Elliotte Friedman revisiting Lindback and other Bolts bits in 30 Thoughts. Elliotte Friedman | CBC

Playoff hockey is still alive in Florida. ECHL Orlando Solar Bears, the Wild and Leafs affiliate, have Game Six at the Amway Center on Tuesday. OrlandoSolarBearsHockey.com

Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon is being linked to interested buyers of the New York Islanders. Lindsay Kramer | Syracuse.com

Lightning’s year-end stats: What to improve upon for 2014-15

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A four-game sweep in the playoffs means that the Tampa Bay Lightning have some evaluations and work to do for next season.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman wouldn’t divulge what he wants to fix and improve upon other than grit, but he did tell reporters Thursday that he’ll look over stats with head coach Jon Cooper:

“Our plan is next week is to sit down and kind of go over our team. Look at where we were statically throughout the season, our goals against, goals for, power play, penalty killing–kind of go over everything and decide what we really need to do. I have some thoughts, I prefer to keep those to myself for the time being. We do have to improve in certain areas. Over the course of time, change our team a little bit. I prefer not to say that at this time.”

Let’s pause for a second and check in on Yzerman’s areas of review that he identified. The critical areas for improvement are highlighted in red:

  • Goals scored per game: 2.83 (9th place)
  • Goals against per game: 2.55 (11th place)
  • 5-on-5 goals for/against per game: 1.16 (7th place)
  • Power play: 18.5 percent effectiveness (13th place)
  • Penalty kill: 80.7 percent effectiveness (23rd place)
  • Shots for per game: 29.8 (18th place)
  • Shots against per game: 29.2 (13th place)
  • Winning when scoring first: 73.8 percent (12th place)
  • Winning when trailing first: 37.5 percent (5th place)
  • Winning when leading after first period: 72 percent (21st place)
  • Winning when leading after second period: 84.8 percent (16th place)
  • Winning when outshooting opponent: 57.8 percent (7th place)
  • Winning when being outshot: 58.8 percent (10th place)
  • Faceoff win percentage: 49.2 percent (19th place)

What  does this mean?

The most disturbing stats above involve losing the game after the Lightning take a first period lead and a second period lead. The team gave up the first goal more often than not, showing why they were able to be fifth in the league when trailing first. The Lightning were more comfortable winning when they were losing and not keeping a lead.

Some of that can be explained in the shots per game stat. That’s now shots against, that’s shots for. Martin St. Louis was leading the team, and finished with 204 when he reached New York. Still, that was only good enough to be 61st in the league with other teams having multiple leaders rank higher. Tyler Johnson’s team leading 181 shots was only good enough for 92nd in the league with Alex Kiilorn next at 107th with 173 shots.

There were 10 defenseman who had more shots than Johnson this season. Victor Hedman had the 18th most shots for defencemen in the league. LA, Washington and Phoenix had two defenseman reach rank higher than Hedman. That’s not to place the blame on Hedman, who ranked 9th in goals by a defenseman with 13. Other defencemen need to get shots through, instead they were opting to pass the puck instead to a forward, especially Radko Gudas with his heavy shot.

Throughout the season, Bobby “The Chief” Taylor would gripe, gasp and groan over the players, especially young ones, passing up an opportunity to shoot in favor of a perfect chance, a perfect shot. They were waiting for the Grade A scoring chance on the first try and sometimes when they hesitated, chance A disappears and so does B and C. When that happens, they end up over-passing the puck and now now scoring chance presents itself.

Instead, put the puck on net, and then you’ll get rebounds and deflections that would produce multiple B, C chances that end up in the net.

That has to be nipped in the bud immediately. When the Washington Capitals came up reloaded with then-young talent Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green, the team was called the “Comeback Caps” because they could somehow claw out a win when trailing in a game, especially late. The theme evolved that while the Caps were a comeback team, players kept saying how they had difficulty closing out a team in a game and not allowing them to come back in. The team would relax with a lead or try too much offensively instead of going into a defensive shutdown mode that dominant teams were able to do.  Hire a sports psychologist–do whatever you need to do, but learn the mental tools to fix this.

It’s exciting hockey when they’re able to comeback, but it’s even more exciting when you see those wins pile up because you didn’t let teams come back into the game.

Getting back to basics, let’s look at face-offs. The play starts at the face-off dots. You lose the puck, you lose possession, thus you give up goals.

Only Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson really shined, with Filppula checking in at No. 19 for most face-offs won in the league. Tyler Johnson led all rookies in face-offs, wins and percentages and won the 34th most faceoffs in the league for any player, signaling some promise for the future. Tom Pyatt led the team in percentage, but only took 101 face-offs. Only him, Nate Thompson and Filppula were above 50 percent.

A healthy Stamkos should improve this, but it doesn’t take care of the bottom six. Alex Killorn has bounced from wing to center and of all the forwards, his face-off winning percentage at 43 percent is pretty bad for how much he was used.. The team will have to work on winning the face-offs as a team, getting good position in the circle while the center tries to legally tie up his man and use his skates to knock the puck back.

The face-off issues could explain some of the reasons why the penalty kill is so bad in 23rd place, but when it’s that bad, more needs changed than winning the face-off. Somebody is drawing up a new PK in the offseason. That can be guaranteed.

The powerplay was pretty good at 13th, but the mark teams aim for is 20 percent effectiveness. It will be interesting to see where that number trends next year. This team was able to maintain that mark without Steven Stamkos, thanks in part to Martin St. Louis, but then when Marty left, Stamkos was just kind of there caught looking for that perfect pass that rarely came on the PP.

On the positive side, not only did the team scored enough goals to be in the top 10, but also was 11th in goals against average. Room for improvement? Sure, but it’s not something to be overly concerned about when 16 teams make the playoffs and you’re 11th in that category. The goals surrendered this season hasn’t been an issue of how many but instead, when they were surrendered as the stats showed above.

Let it ago about Lindback

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In the much-loved 30 Thoughts by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, the Hockey Night in Canada reporter drops a good bit of nuggets on Tampa Bay Lightning matters this week. Three of the thoughts focus on video review, so you know, that’s all Lightning right there.

His leading thought on the Lightning’s Anders Lindback is the most interesting out of them:

17. It’s too late to do anything about it now, but was Anders Lindback’s development hurt most by lack of North American playing time? He came over from Sweden in 2010 and played 102 games (including playoffs) in four years. That includes just 27 appearances his rookie season and never was an AHL starter. Look at the other goalies in these playoffs who came from overseas. Sergei Bobrovsky played 60 NHL games his first year; Henrik Lundqvist, 56. Guys who were in both the NHL and AHL included Tuukka Rask (59), Kari Lehtonen (53), Frederik Andersen (47), Ilya Bryzgalov & Semyon Varlamov (46) and Antti Niemi (43). Jimmy Howard played more than 200 AHL games before snaring Detroit’s net.

That thought has been bandied about quite a bit ever since he signed in Tampa, and I’m sure Nashville Predators fans felt the same way. I’m not quite sure why David Poile didn’t have Lindback take the helm for the Milwaukee Admirals to push him through a whole season or two. The Caps have done well at this for not only Varlamov, has Friedman points out, but correctly conditioned Michal Neuvirth and now Philipp Grubauer, who in 2012-13 played in the ECHL, AHL and NHL.

What I disagree with is that there is a notion that there is a problem with his rushed development as an European goalie. North American goalies need minor league seasoning, too, before they’re ready. Goalies don’t jump from juniors to the NHL anymore. The Pittsburgh Penguins found that out with Marc-Andre Fleury lucked out that the 21 games he played in 2003-04 as a 19-year-old on the Pens, the lockout came and he was sent to Wilkes Barre-Scranton for development. Fleury was still on a struggling team and he himself struggled to find his game for a few years.

Getting back to Lindback, the most games he had in a season in the NHL are 24, 23 and 22.. The two highest came with his two years in Tampa. That 22-game season was his first in the NHL with Nashville.

Friedman is right saying it’s too late to send him back to the AHL. Unless his confidence is completely shot like Rick DiPietro after numerous injuries, you’re not going to do that now. Lindback is being bred into an elite back-up if that is such a thing, getting few starts.

Lindback didn’t have a meltdown as some think, during the Montreal playoffs. If you saw that many shots and had horrendous defensive coverage, you might let in a couple bad goals, too.

What Lindback needs on work on is fixable. Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild reviewed at length in 2012 what Lindback should think about when he came to Tampa:

The rest of those potential downgrades are technically based, and get fairly complicated. In a nutshell, I think he still displays various levels of excess tension and rigidness in his posture, and I think he needs to improve his ability to read plays, track pucks, manage shots through traffic, and control rebounds.

But that’s the case for most 24-year-old goalies with limited NHL experience, and ultimately, I understand that Lindback is still miles away from reaching his true upside. There’s plenty of maturing, improving, and learning to be done, and how this process unfolds in Tampa Bay (compared to Nashville) is the true burning question in my mind.

Goldman kept up on the technical side on Lindback’s play during the playoffs, pointing out how Lindback uses the delayed head turn to track pucks behind the net:

However, his teammates never had the man in front. So there’s that.

I’d like to see Lindback on his feet more covering the post. He uses what’s called a Reverse-VH, or Reverse Vertical Horizontal, where his leading pad is against the ice in a half-butterfly, and the trailing leg is up. This causes his six-foot-six frame to shrink as he leans, and leaves a lot of room above his shoulders and places Lindback in a vulnerable position for a one-timer or feed to the slot. Lindback has a narrow butterfly, so I don’t even know why he’s using that because his groin isn’t that flexible to seal the far post if he quickly needs to move laterally and cover the bottom.  I’m only 5’11” and when I’m in goal, I have to use every inch of my legs and arms to cover the places my torso can’t get to. What kills me is that Lindback is so tall and he becomes so small when he wants to seal off the ice. 

As the crucial goals he let by against the Canadiens showed, he was off his angle a few inches when he challenges. This is more teachable and fixable than the Reverse-VH issue. Reverse-VH includes a series of mechanical moves to be in that position and read through a play and make the correct follow-up move. His angle is crease positioning and being able to read the play.

I give Lindback credit because he did elevate his game during the final stretch of the season and in the playoffs. He was saving shots he would not have saved before with his glove, body, knees and stick. For the most part, he sealed the holes. His reaction time was noticeably faster, too. His footwork and reactionary saves looked two steps too slow for the most part of the last two seasons.

Lindback suffers from Still’s diseases, which causes inflammation and joint pain, and that always stayed in the back of my mind for an explanation of why he just looked slower than other goaltenders–as if his fastest reaction was always two seconds slower than anyone else’s. He says it doesn’t affect him on the ice, but I would think that would be in terms of pain.

We could much easily be talking about Ben Bishop’s flaws here, too, if it wasn’t for his injury. Bishop’s mechanics became sloppy over the final half of the season, especially leaving his left leg up off the ice, but we’ll save that for the summer.

Goaltending is a position of constant tweaking–in game and in practice–to give shooters something different. Lindback has shown that he can up his game, and whether it’s here or somewhere else, he can continue to show that he belongs in the NHL.

Ellenton Reebok outlet has hockey shirts, jerseys on sale

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Ellenton Reebok outlet has hockey shirts, jerseys on sale

I checked out the Ellenton Premium Outlets today and in the Reebok store, they had about three racks of hockey shirts including the unsold and short-lived 2014 Lightning playoff apparel. They actually had a few jerseys, but only the Leafs thirds, including a couple Dion Phaneuf sweaters. Those are 40% off along with most shirts, except for Lightning shirts.

There are plenty of Canadiens, Senators, Panthers, Rangers and Islanders shirts, too at 40% off.

Cally Come Back: Callahan is open to returning to Tampa

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Smart players like Ryan Callahan keep their options open. When a player hits unrestricted free agency and was traded to a team, you don’t burn bridges or your pending value. Certainly Callahan told assembled media that he is open to coming back. It’s not as demonstrative as saying you want to come back, or definitely returning.

He’s still chasing his first championship, and 30 teams will throw money at him. Except maybe the Rangers if Glen Sather is still playing poker. How soon can he win now? How much will he paid to win? How much ice time will he get? Will his family move with him?

Callahan has a lot to think about and so does Steve Yzerman, who already saw that the Rangers wouldn’t pay between $6.3 million and $6.5 million. You’d think that given the trade scenario, you wouldn’t give up Martin St. Louis’ offense in exchange for a pricey power forward you couldn’t afford to sign.

Fortunately, Yzerman can see if he can get a reduced price on Callahan. Not for a new hometown discount. Florida lacks a state income tax, putting more in your paycheck.

Callahan’s exit interview, or what was available, was the shortest one so far, clocking in around three minutes instead of 10. Here’s Callahan addressing the assembled media, via the Lightning.

Cally come back

“It was great right from day one. As I said all along, they accepted me right away–the guys in the room, the organization–it was a tough trade where they lost a key part of their room, a key part of their organization. I never felt as an outsider, which was nice.

“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you. Season just ended-kind of trying to get everything organized I had back home. So, I’m sure they’ll be in contact in the near future.

“I enjoyed it here. I really enjoyed my time here. It’s a very good team, great city, great organization, so I’m definitely open to that.

“Over the next couple days, weeks, that’s when you’ll start focusing on your future and where you’ll end up”.

“You want to be on a team that the organization is going in the right direction. You can definitely see that they’re doing this here with the amount of young talent. The future does look bright, so that’s a huge part of it.

“There’s a lot of things that weigh into it: your family life, how your family likes it, how good the team is like you said, and obviously there’s that financial part of it, too. There’s different things that weigh on it, different things weigh more than others, and that’s something I have to decide.

What he liked about the Lightning

“The guys in the room–how close they are off the ice and on the ice– how good of a group we have, how young we are. The future definitely looks very bright. And as an organization, how they treated me as I came in.”

What he would change

My own production. I don’t think I had the playoffs that I wanted, personally. With the team losing four in a row, that falls on me, too. I think I could have produced more, created more opportunities. I’m not happy with the way I played in the playoffs.

What’s missing

A little bit of experience. I think we saw a little bit of that in the playoffs. Like I said, it’s a talented group, the more you stay together, the more you’ll learn and the better you’re going to be.

Link

Test new hockey gear in South Florida

On Saturday May 3, the Panthers Ice Den, 3299 Sportsplex Drive, Coral Springs, will host the 4th annual South Florida Hockey Fest. Gear reps from Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Warrior will be on hand to allow players to try on new gear coming out this year before you can buy it. Giveaways, raffles and Panther appearances, too. Hours: 10 am to 4 pm all ages; 4 to 5 pm for adults 18+