Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Game 35: The One With All The Power Plays

Game: 35
Opponent: Vancouver
Did I watch Live?: Yes
Three Stars: 3. The penalty time keeper 2. Jonathan Marchessault 1. Jacob Markstrom

It's ten minutes after the game ended and I'm still trying to figure out how the Tampa Bay Lightning managed to lose this one. Did they outshoot the Cancucks? Yup 27-19. Did they win more faceoffs? Yup 35-17. More possession time? Yup.

What's that you say? They went 1-10 on the power play? The Lightning missed on 9 power play chances? They had a man-advantage for over 18 minutes and only scored ONE power play goal? Well, that's just not good. Not good at all.

There isn't much more to say about the game. They were playing a struggling team at the end of a long road trip and didn't take advantage. One of the weird things is that most of the penalties were legit. There wasn't too much tickey-tack calling by referees Fredrick L'Ecuyer or Dean Morton. Vancouver was taking tired-team penalties. The Lightning kept their feet moving and earned the hookings, holdings and trippings.

The problems started once they had the advantage. Tampa Bay made it way too easy to defend. For the first half of the game, at no point was Vancouver worried about the Lightning driving the net. The Canucks quickly figured out a remedy for the Lightning strategy of gaining the blue line and then dropping the pass back to a point man.

Instead of pressing a tired team, the Lightning had a very passive start to the game and found themselves down 1-0 heading into the second period. Despite having 3 power plays, they only managed 4 total shots in the period. That is inexcusable and indicative as to how they've played all season. Too much time spent setting up plays and not enough focus on driving to the net.

They played a little better in the second as they did start to put some pressure on the Canucks. They drew three straight penalties and finally got a couple of shots on net. Jonathan Marchessault continued his bid to stay on the team as he fired the puck past Jacob Markstrom with two seconds left in the period. It was Marchessault's fifth goal of the season and third on the power play (he only trails Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in power play tallies despite playing in only 18 games).

The third period marked the long, sustained march to the penalty box for the Canucks as they found themselves short-handed four times in the final 20 minutes. The Lightning got their chances, including Stamkos ringing one off of the post, but they couldn't get the puck behind Markstrom. Then in the blink of the eye where the teams were at even strength Daniel Sedin fired a wrist shot that looked like it deflected off of Anton Stralman and past Ben Bishop. That was all she wrote.

Yup. That's a 1 for 10 power play look. Photo by Scott Audette/ NHLI Getty

This game more than any of the other 34 games this season showed how much the Lightning miss their skill players. If Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat were healthy, they don't go 1-10 on the power play. It's that simple. With Boston, Montreal, Detroit and Ottawa all losing, it would have been a great chance for the Lightning to make up some ground in the standings. Instead they tread water and head into the Christmas break six points behind Montreal in the Atlantic.

Time is starting to run out for the Lightning to make a move in the standings.

Did Matt Carle Record a Point:

No. He played 9:31 almost all of it even strength. He blocked one shot and had 3 giveaways. Despite the Lightning having 656 minutes of power play time, Mr. Carle did not see a second of it (he has 21 career power play goals).

He has now gone 31 games this season without recording a point. Overall he has one point in his last 40 regular season games (having picked up an assist in the final game of the 2014-15 regular season).

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