Lightning Stock Up, Stock Down: Kucherov, Jeannot & More

It was a very busy and interesting week for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they played four games with some good and poor play on the ice. After thrashing the Anaheim Ducks 6-1 on Tuesday (Feb. 21), they followed that up with an error-filled game on Thursday (Feb. 23), resulting in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL schedule maker then blessed the team with back-to-back road games over the weekend. On Saturday (Feb. 25), the Lightning shut out the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 before falling 7-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (Feb. 26).

Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down
Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down (The Hockey Writers)

If you put aside the lopsided win against the struggling Ducks, the Lightning’s next three games saw a mixed bag in the quality of play and results on the scoreboard. The team has now lost four of its last six games and has played poorly in those contests, giving up too many breakaways and allowing its opponents to have too many good attempts in front of the net.

Stock Down: Many Miscues In the Loss to Buffalo

While some tried to focus on the team’s resiliency, the main focus should be on the quality of play displayed in the loss against the Sabres. While it was nice that they rallied from some deficits, the fact is that they should never have been that far behind anyway. In a game that saw Tage Thompson net a hat trick, the Lightning surrendered goals on three breakaways and a fourth on a 3-on-1 rush. Inexcusable. This kind of play should not happen on an NHL team with a Stanley Cup pedigree.

Let us also not forget how the game ended. During a Lightning 4-on-3 power play to start overtime courtesy of a Sabres’ delay of game penalty, Nikita Kucherov rang the post on one attempt, but a Steven Stamkos turnover resulted in a breakaway game-winning goal for Ilya Lyubushkin. It was the defenseman’s first goal of the season in the 43 games he has played. It was also the Lightning’s league-leading tenth shorthanded goal given up this season.

Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Also, in the Sabres games, the Lightning had a few plays in which they lost their composure which proved costly in different ways. The first came in the second period when Nick Paul took an “interference” penalty against Rasmus Dahlin. The generous call may have saved Paul from extra time in the penalty box, but the resulting Sabres’ goal seemed to turn the tide. Toward the end of the game, Erik Cernak elbowed Kyle Okposo in the head. While he, fortunately, did not get whistled for the call, he was suspended two games for that hit.

Stock Up: Nikita Kucherov

The former Hart Memorial Trophy winner scored his 23rd goal of the season in the first period in the loss to the Penguins, which saw him become the fastest to 700 career points in franchise history. Before that goal, Kucherov was held pointless in five straight games. Brayden Point also scored a goal against the Penguins and is on a four-game point streak.

Stock Up: Andrei Vasilevskiy

After facing breakaways and odd-man rushes in the loss to the Sabres, Vasilevskiy rebounded with a shutout win over the Red Wings. In addition to stopping 45 shots, the shutout victory was the 30th of his career. The All-Star netminder has had great success against Detroit, raising his career mark against them to 12-2 (from ‘Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning blank Red Wings,’ Gwinnett Daily Post, Feb. 25, 2023).

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Vezina Trophy winner is now 28-14-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 44 outings this season. In the win, it was not so much that he made 45 saves but also that many of them were eye-popping and game-changers. He kept the Lightning in the contest and allowed them to win even though his teammates were outskated most of the night by their opponents.

Stock Down: Six Goals Allowed in a Period

While sluggish play can usually be expected on the second night of back-to-back games, allowing six goals to the Penguins in the second period of their contest, including five straight goals over the final 4:32 of the second period, is embarrassing. Too many turnovers and losing battles down low led to this onslaught, which will hopefully be corrected soon.

Stock Undecided: The Tanner Jeannot Trade

The decision on this acquisition can only come at the end of the season when we see how far the Lightning advance in the playoffs and how much Jeannot was a part of it. It was a hefty price to pay, giving up Cal Foote, a 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected), a 2024 second-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick, a 2023 fourth-round pick, and a 2023 fifth-round pick. However, in Jeannot, the Lightning get a player who has been a bit down offensively this season but is still one of the top heavy/hard forwards in the league, as well as someone who kills penalties.

Related: Grading the Lightning’s Trade for Tanner Jeannot

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Coming off this very busy week, the Lightning return home on Tuesday (Feb. 28) to face their cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. On Thursday, March 2, the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town for a rematch. The Lightning will then travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres on Saturday, March 5, a game rescheduled to this date when a large winter storm hit the Buffalo area just before Christmas. The Lightning will conclude another busy week by traveling to Raleigh, N.C. to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, March 6.

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