Monday, October 19, 2015

Game 6 - Bishop Bails out Lightning against Buffalo

Game: 6
Opponent: Buffalo
Did I watch Live?: Nope
Why Not?: Cubs playoff/Date with the Duchess
Did I watch on replay?: Yup
Three Stars: 3. Ramus Ristolainen 2. Alex Killorn 1. Ben Bishop
Worst Play: The entire first period
The biggest question coming into the game involved how the Lightning would play with two of their defensemen on the sidelines. Victor Hedman (skull bounced off the glass) is the heart and soul of the defense while Nikita Nesterov (suspended) is proving to be an offensive spark. Luckily for Tampa Bay, their replacements (Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr) played pretty well. And when they didn't they had Ben Bishop to bail them out.

Bishop bounced back from two straight losses with his strongest outing of the season. Unlike in Dallas, the rebounds were limited and the ones that he did allow didn't drift out into dangerous areas. The Lightning needed him to be on his game as they were outplayed for all of the first period and portions of the third by the Sabres. Despite the lackluster/uninterested/lackadaisical/uninspired play the Lightning managed to pull of the 2-1 win with goals by Vlad Namestnikov and Alex Killorn (on the power play!).

Along with the strong play by Bishop, the special teams were actually one of the areas the Lightning were successful. They didn't score until their fourth power play, but at least the first three didn't kill the little momentum they had built up during the game. On the other side, whatever tweaks they made to the penalty kill paid off as they kept Buffalo off of the scoreboard while they had the man advantage.

With the win, Bishop surpasses Nikolai Khabibulin as the goaltender with the most wins in franchise history with 84.  I guess that makes Bishop the best goalie in Tampa history, right?  Or the goalie that's had the best teammates?  Whatever it means, congratulations to Big Ben.

While the defense was the question going into the game, after the game, the offense was the story coming out. After watching his team generate just 3 shots in the first period and score their only goal on a breakaway in the second, Coach Cooper through his player's name in the blender and mixed up the lines. The third period saw Stamkos skating with Valterri Filppula and Ondrej Palat while Alex Killorn moved up to a line with Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callahan. The third Triplet, Nikita Kucherov found himself paired with Vlad Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette.

Noticeably absent from those line combinations was Johnathan Drouin. The second year winger did not enjoy his best game of the season. He looked a little tired and out of step for most of the game committing several turnovers and taking a bad penalty in the second period. Perhaps a little time on the bench will be a wake up call for him.

The Lightning have a few days off before staring a road trip that takes them through the Central Division with games against Nashville, Winnipeg, Chicago and St. Louis. This will not be an easy trip as three of the four teams sport winning records and the one that doesn't is the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Lightning cannot afford to play the 40 minute hockey games that they have been prone to through the first two weeks of the season.

Jo or Johnny:
The Flames are starting to actually play games so Gaudreau's games played are starting to catch up. Unfortunately he's not scoring as he's been shut out the last two times on the ice. Through five he has 5 points (1 goal and 4 assists). Jonathan Drouin saw his 3-game point streak snapped as he logged only 12 minutes of ice time – his lowest total of the season. He still leads Gaudreau by one point (1 goal and 5 assists).

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