Stamkos, Power Play Unit & More
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.
It was a busy week for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they played four games in their five-game road trip, which concluded with a 6-3 defeat against the Calgary Flames on Saturday (Jan. 19). Prior to that, they had defeated the Seattle Kraken on Monday (Jan. 16) and the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday (Jan. 17). On the second of their back-to-back games, they played well but fell to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday (Jan. 18). In going 3-2 on the road trip, the team achieved head coach Jon Cooper’s goal of earning the same or more points than their games played.
The most impressive win of the trip came against the Kraken, who had been on an eight-game winning streak, which included seven wins on the road. In what Cooper described as the team “playing a complete game”, the Lightning received offensive help from their bottom six as they got goals from centers Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Nick Paul. In the 4-1 victory, the defense clamped down on the Kraken’s offense by only allowing five high-danger scoring chances for the entire game.
Stock Up: Steven Stamkos
Not only did Stamkos pick up his 500th goal against the Canucks, but he also did it in a memorable fashion as he netted a hat trick on the night, the 11th of his career. He now joins the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby as the only other active players to have reached that milestone. Even more importantly, he helped the Lightning win their third game on the road trip.
Stock Up: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
It is only fair that Bellemare, who was listed as a stock down in a previous article, receives mention for his recent excellent play. In Monday’s win over the Kraken, he deflected an Ian Cole shot past goaltender Philipp Grubauer with 1:17 left in the first period, giving the Lightning an early lead they never relinquished. It was just the 37-year-old’s second goal of the year, but he also helped the team in other ways.
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Bellemare not only skated 2:34 on a penalty kill that was a perfect 3-for-3, but he also led the fourth line that was able to dominate in zone time and had more shot attempts (nine) than it allowed (seven). Also, in that game, the native of France stopped a breakaway, blocking a pass when an errant Victor Hedman feed found its way to the stick of a Kraken player. Throughout the entire road trip, Bellemare and the fourth line have been key factors in the Lightning’s success.
Stock Down: Road Trip Power Play
The Lightning were unable to score a power-play goal in the last four games of the road trip and went 1-13 overall. The biggest struggle for this unit came in the last game against the Flames, where they went 0-6 and were unable to generate much offense when they had a four-minute power play courtesy of a Blake Coleman high stick. In that game, they could only manage one shot on goal and had just seven shots total over all of their power plays. This was very disappointing as the Lightning had started the road trip as the second-best power-play unit in the league.
Stock Up: Anthony Cirelli
The 25-year-old is starting to get his scoring groove back, as he scored two of his three goals on the season, and four points in total, over the last eight games. His most recent goal came against the Flames when he banged in the rebound on a Hedman point shot late in the third period, bringing the Lightning to within one goal. He currently has three goals and eight assists on the season.
Cirelli struggled a little bit at the end of December with a seven-game point drought. After playing through a shoulder injury he sustained during the Eastern Conference Final, the former third-round draft pick went through a lengthy recovery after shoulder surgery. After 22 games since his return to the lineup, Cirelli is starting to look like the solid two-way player the team relied on during their run to three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances.
Related: Steven Stamkos’ Journey to 500 Goals
After a difficult road trip that saw the Lightning play five games in eight days over three different time zones, they have three games at home before the All-Star break. However, these games will be quite challenging as they are set to face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, Jan. 24, before the team with the most points in the league, the Boston Bruins, come to town on Jan. 26. The final game of the homestand will see the Los Angeles Kings come to town on Saturday, Jan. 28, for their only appearance in Tampa this season.
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)