Welcome to this edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stock Up and Stock Down, a weekly column detailing the highs and lows of the team’s performance.
We start by using the same opening used last week but for a different reason: What a difference a week makes. After winning three straight games the previous week, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost all three of their games this week. Prior to their 7-4 loss on Saturday night (April 8), they fell on back-to-back nights to the New York Rangers (April 5) and the New York Islanders (April 6).
While all three of the losses were on the road, some all-too-familiar issues once again led to the Lightning not playing to the level they are capable of. Similar to what happened in their most recent losing streak, they were badly out-possessed during five-on-five action while making too many turnovers and being outplayed in their own end. With only two games remaining in the regular season, many wonder if the team can turn things around and head into their playoff matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a positive note.
Stock Down: Lightning Team Effort
These are not my words but rather those of head coach Jon Cooper. “It was an extremely disappointing road trip,” he said after Saturday’s loss to the Senators. “We’re playing like the season ended when we clinched a playoff spot like there was no season left, so I’m surprised. I’ve been with this group a long time. I’m extremely surprised that this is how it’s happening.” This situation needs to be rectified very quickly, or the Lightning’s trip to the postseason will be short.
Stock Down: Lightning Team Composure
Something that may have been lost in Victor Hedman’s three-point performance against the Senators was his untimely dismissal from the game. Shortly after a Mark Kastelic goal gave the Senators a 6-4 lead, Hedman apparently had too many choice words for the officials and was given a 10-minute misconduct, sending him to the locker room for the rest of the night. While Hedman probably was rightly frustrated about being interfered with during the rush that led to the Kastleic score, his actions left the Lightning defense shorthanded, especially on the power play, as Mikhail Sergachev was back home as his wife is expecting to give birth very soon.
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Another situation in which a Lightning player overreacted and lost substantial time in a game came in the loss to the Rangers when Ross Colton received a two-minute instigating minor, a five-minute fighting major, and a ten-minute misconduct for jumping the Rangers’ Brandon Schneider. Colton was defending teammate Nicholas Paul, who just took a check from Schneider. The issue is that the check was a perfectly timed and legal shoulder-to-chest blow. There are much more productive ways to show your displeasure with what an opponent does than putting your team on the penalty kill while the player spends some extended time in the penalty box.
Stock Up: Michael Eyssimont
The 26-year-old probably had his best game since joining the Lightning after they acquired him from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. He not only registered his first point as a Lightning when he picked up an assist on Brayden Point’s third-period goal but his drive and determination also drew a penalty late in the third period that gave his team a chance to get back into the game. Eyssimont’s energy and effort could be valuable in the playoffs if Tanner Jeannot’s injury keeps him out for an extended period of time.
Stock Up: Steven Stamkos
In Thursday’s game against the Islanders, Stamkos joined 378 other NHL skaters to hit the 1,000-game milestone. It has not been easy for the 33-year-old, who has missed significant time in his career due to injuries such as a broken leg, core muscle surgery, a torn lateral meniscus, and surgery to remove a blood clot. He has certainly lived up to his expectations and more after being drafted first overall by the Lightning in 2008.
During his long and storied career, he has two Rocket Richard Trophies, two Stanley Cup rings, and seven appearances at the NHL All-Star Game to go along with reaching career milestones of 1,000 points, 500 goals, and 500 assists. Let’s also not forget his 60-goal performance in the 2011-12 season, which only 21 other players have reached. Stamkos has certainly joined the likes of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier as part of the “Mount Rushmore” of Lightning greats.
Stock Down: Lightning Road Record
With the loss to the Senators, the Lightning finish the season with a road record of 18-22-1. This marks the worst record for the team since the 2012-13 season. The combination of age, injuries, and some NHL schedule quirkiness have all contributed to some struggles on the road. With the Lightning not having a home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they will need to fix many of the issues that have hindered them this season on the road.
The Lightning finish the regular season with two games at home. Before they conclude the season against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday (April 13), they will host their first-round playoff opponent, the Maple Leafs, on Tuesday (April 11). This will prove to be an interesting contest to see if the Lightning can turn things around and set a positive tone before the two teams meet in their first-round matchup.