After starting their week with an impressive 5-4 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday (Feb. 14), the Tampa Bay Lightning finished up the week and their four-game road trip with a 1-0 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday (Feb. 15) and a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday (Feb. 18). Despite the last two results, the Lightning did manage to go 2-1-1 on the road trip.
In both losses, the team struggled in the third period, which frustrated head coach Jon Cooper noting after Saturday night’s game that, “we didn’t push the way we normally do. That’s the disappointing part.” Combine that with the fact that the Lightning could only muster five shots on goal in the loss to the Coyotes, and the Lightning have suddenly developed an inability to make an impact late in games.
Stock Down: Shutout by Arizona
It is well known that the Lightning did arrive in town at 3:30 a.m. of game day and that former Lightning prospect Conner Ingram did play very well. But when you have 37 shots on goal in the first two periods alone and go 0-5 on the power play, you need to do some soul-searching. Fatigue was probably a factor, but this contest was still very winnable. The road power play continues to be an issue, as the team had gone 0-24 in their previous eight games before the loss to Arizona. While fatigue was a definite factor, other factors about the team’s performance in this loss were worrisome.
Stock Up: Steven Stamkos
With his goal against the Golden Knights, Stamkos has points in 16 of his past 22 games (nine goals, 21 assists). The captain also had a 14-game scoring streak earlier in the season, falling only four games short of matching his franchise record of 18 consecutive games with at least one point. He recorded his first 100-point campaign last season and looks to be on track to reach the plateau again in 2022-23.
The goal on Saturday night was classic Stamkos, as he rifled a power-play attempt from his home office off the left circle, courtesy of a fine Victor Hedman feed. He also provided the only goal in the shootout victory over the Coyotes. Hopefully, the captain can help pull the team out of the little funk they acquired during their last two games.
Stock Up: Brian Elliot
You can’t ask for much more from your backup goaltender than to come into a game and shut out your opponent. Unfortunately for Elliot and the Lightning, this effort only resulted in one point for the team in the shoot-out loss to the Coyotes. The 37-year-old made 26 saves in the loss, including some very big saves in the third period, and is now at 9-3-2 with a 2.90 goals-against average (GAA), and a .904 save percentage (SV%) through 14 appearances this season. He continues to be a valuable asset for the team, especially relieving starter Andrei Vasilevskiy when the Lightning has back-to-back games.
Stock Down: Andrei Vasilevskiy
On Saturday, the 28-year-old did something that has never happened: he allowed more goals in the first-period loss to the Golden Knights than he ever had in his illustrious career. Even if you remove the Jonathan Marchessault goal that the Toronto replay office somehow upheld, he still struggled mightily in that first frame. He shut Vegas down the rest of the way, but his play in the first period is troubling.
In the month of February, the former Vezina Trophy winner is 3-2-0 with a 2.96 GAA, and a .916 SV%. The two losses have been troubling, including the seven goals allowed in the loss to the Florida Panthers right after the All-Star Break. As bad as those losses were, he was equally brilliant in the games that he led the team to three straight victories after that loss. Vasilevskiy needs to take advantage of the return home this week to regain that top form, as he may have been suffering the effects of having a four-game road trip shortly after appearing in the All-Star Game.
Stock Up: Vladislav Namestnikov
The 30-year-old scored a goal and an assist on one shot in the loss to the Golden Knights. He also scored a game-tying goal in the third period to help the Lightning force overtime in last Tuesday’s win against the Avalanche. He has six goals and 14 points in 53 games on the season. His contribution in the bottom six will be a key factor in keeping the Lightning in a prime playoff position.
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The Lightning return home this week with games against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (Feb. 21) and the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (Feb. 23). They finish the week with a trip to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Saturday (Feb. 25), followed by another road contest on Sunday (Feb. 26) against the Pittsburgh Penguins.