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.
The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided going 0-for-3 on the week by using an inspired first period to defeat the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Sunday night (Nov. 13). They atoned for their loss on Friday night (Nov.11), a game in which they played poorly, and a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers. In the victory, the Lightning stormed out to a 4-0 first-period lead, as Mikhail Sergachev scored two goals and assisted on the other two. Cole Koepke also picked up his first career NHL goal in the contest.
What was even more special about Sunday night’s win was how the team responded to poor play in losing to the Capitals. “Today was a step in the right direction, but it’s just one game,” head coach Jon Cooper said after the game. “We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s definitely something that’s been on the mind of the guys. I like the way we responded tonight.” In addition to the poor play, part of the response was about the illegal hit to the head that knocked defenseman Cal Foote out of Friday’s game. On Saturday (Nov. 12), the NHL announced that Nicolas Aube-Kubel had been suspended for three games for that hit.
Stock Down: Special Teams
It was a nice response to some well-documented issues the Lightning had on special teams. They scored on their first two power-play opportunities Sunday after going 0-for-8 with the man advantage over their previous two games and 5-for-35 over their last nine. They also killed all 12 of its penalties in the two games against the hapless Capitals’ power play. And they prevented the Capitals from getting a shorthanded goal, which had happened for the fourth time this season on Tuesday against the Oilers.
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Stock Up: Rudolf Balcers
In a very quiet move over the weekend, the Lightning claimed forward Rudolfs Balcers off of waivers from the Florida Panthers. The native of Latvia became available as the Panthers had to run him through waivers in order to activate top defenseman, Aaron Ekblad. His $750,000 minimum salary kept the Lightning under the salary cap due to the long-term injury exemptions for Anthony Cirelli and Zach Bogosian. In signing Balcers, the team quietly has let the players know that they will not stand pat with their roster. While Koepke has been mentioned as someone who may lose ice time, the Lightning haven’t received much offensive contribution from their bottom-six forwards. This is a subtle but strong message to the entire team.
Stock Down: Lack of Support for the Goaltenders
Throughout the season, the Lightning have had issues that have led to both of their goaltenders getting exposed too much. From giving up way too many shorthanded goals to poor clearing attempts in their own end and not closing out games, the Lightning have not made life easy for their netminders. During last night’s broadcast on ESPN, Cooper was visibly upset on the bench and gave an explanation for it after the game. “I wasn’t happy with the last three minutes of the game. Again, we’re going to learn things as the season goes along. We didn’t close out the game the way we should’ve tonight, and the guy who gets stung is the goaltender.”
Stock Up: Pat Maroon
Whether you are a fan of fighting or not, you should probably be happy that Pat Maroon stood up for his teammates. On Friday, Maroon tangled with Garrett Hathaway after the hit on Foote. He also squared off against defenseman Matt Irwin at the first-period horn on Sunday and didn’t like Hathaway’s hit on Koepke near the Washington bench in the final minutes of the second. While it should be noted that the 34-year-old and Hathaway were fined the maximum allowed by the NHL Department of Player Safety, it is good to know that there are players on the team that will stick up for their teammates. As Cooper noted after Sunday’s game: “You just don’t want anybody to be able to take liberties with your team.”
Stock Up: Brandon Hagel
After struggling last season, Brandon Hagel has continued to play well for the Lightning, especially after being placed on the first line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Over his last 10 games, the 24-year-old has registered at least one point on eight separate occasions and racked up 12 points with five goals and seven assists. He has not only helped his team on the scoresheet, but his ability to play both ends has also been a valuable asset for the Lightning.
The Lightning looks to keep the momentum going this week after Sunday’s decisive victory. The Dallas Stars come to town on Tuesday, followed by the Calgary Flames on Thursday. They will then head on a quick one-game road trip to Nashville to face the Predators on Saturday night and a reunion with their former teammate, Ryan McDonagh.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)