The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the week with a 2-1 record, scoring 11 goals while giving up just 7. After starting the week with a disappointing loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Bolts rolled out convincing wins against the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. They are now 4-1 in December and have moved within 8 points of the division-leading Boston Bruins.
The Ian Cole/Erik Cernak pairing
3 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 38:48 combined ice time, 68.09% scoring chances for (5v5)
Has the Lightning finally found their defensive pairings? It seems they might have, for the most part. Nick Perbix has moved up to join Victor Hedman while Cal Foote has skated with Mikhail Sergachev over the past two games. That has meant that the veteran duo of Ian Cole and Erik Cernak have paired up, and they’ve done quite well.
Over the last three games, they have led all pairs in 5-on-5 ice time with 38:48 minutes. At that time, they were not on the ice for a goal against while the Lightning scored 4 times. More importantly, they allowed just 6 high-danger chances against and just 31 unblocked shot attempts against.
It will be interesting to see if Coach Cooper keeps them together and starts deploying them against some of the opposition’s top lines going forward. Their strong interplay allows him to largely balance the ice time of all three pairings. Last week, this pairing averaged 12:55 of 5v5 ice time while Sergy and Foote averaged 13:00 and the Hedman/Perbix duo averaged 11:36.
Cernak and Cole also played quite a bit together shorthanded (5:22 ice time) without allowing a goal. That means Coach Cooper doesn’t have to mix and match his pairings as much after a penalty, and allows for some consistency throughout the game.
3 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 20 iCF, 2.06 iXG, 51.52% Face-Off %
What a welcome site Cirelli has been for Lightning fans. He has strengthened the third line and given Coach Cooper another center who can take important face-offs and win them. Although he didn’t find the back of the net last week, Cirelli led the team in expected goals and individual high-danger shot attempts. He was also on the ice for four goals while only seeing two goals go into the Lightning net during his ice time.
3 GP, 4 goals, 0 assists, 21 iCF, 1.61 iXG, 50:52 ice time
Watch out NHL, Brayden Point is heating up. Yes, it’s probably a weird thing to say about someone who averages more than a point per game over the course of the season, but he’s kind of played second (or third) fiddle to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov so far this season.
Nevertheless, he is the lynchpin for the top line and the power play. Kucherov may be the playmaker, but Point provides the speed that creates room for Kuch to work his magic. He scored in all three games last week after scoring in just two games over the previous twelve.
If he continues to score consistently, that’s just one more player for opponents to worry about.
Lightning / NHL News:
The first Lightning players had an important side gig as hockey ambassadors [Tampa Bay Times]
How do you sell hockey to a fan base that maybe didn’t know much about it? Cheap tickets and lots of interactions with the players.
Brayden Point to meet fans at toy drive [NHL.com]
Speaking of hanging out with fans, Brayden Point is going to be at the Westshore Blue Center today from 5:30 to 6:30 today. The point will be to sign items and take photos in exchange for a donation of Christmas toys.
Vasy never really left, but he’s definitely back [Lightning Insider]
“This is a vintage Vasy game where he made some incredible saves,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “It might not be the story of that game because it ended 4-1, but we know in this room that it was a big reason why we won.”
Don’t forget – EE is running a promotion for Raw Charge readers. If you haven’t signed up for Lightning Insider yet, do so today and use promo code “Raw Charge” for 35% off your first year. The offer is valid until 26 December. It’s Boxing Day!
Syracuse speaks: Walcott has what Lightning value is [Podcasts everywhere]
The Auntie Alex blog is back with another episode of Syracuse Speaks. She chats with AHL guru Patrick Williams.
What Sammy Walker’s debut could mean for the Wild [The Athletic]
Sammy Walker had a decision to make. He could sign an AHL deal with the Lightning, the team that drafted him, or he could bet on himself in free agency. He chose the latter option.
‘He’s incredible’: Bedard turns heads at Canada’s WJC camp [CBC]
The Connor Bedard Invitational Tournament, aka World Juniors, is still a couple of weeks away, but training camps have started. The 17-year-old presumptive number one pick in the next NHL draft is taking a break from an outstanding WHL season to represent his country in this year’s tournament featuring the best under-20 players in the world.
Eeli Tolvanen was on exemptions [On the Forecheck]
A strong defensive player who has not been put in the best offensive positions is on waivers. He also has a reasonable contract and will remain an RFA after this season. Yes, there is a very good chance that someone will claim him today.
The NHL’s best and worst of the week [Yahoo.com]
Nikita Kucherov made the list, unfortunately it wasn’t for one of his goals.
Jaromir Jagr will never enter the Hall of Fame. Simply because he will never stop playing professional hockey.
Jaromir Jagr, the timeless wonder
Kladno Knights from the Czech Extraliga had an illness throughout the team. Jagr, the team’s owner, jumped into the lineup and picked up two assists … at the age of 50
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) 11 December 2022