It’s Still Early, Don’t Hit the Panic Button on the Bolts Just Yet?

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Last night the Lightning began their 2nd road trip of the season, facing off against a young New York Rangers team. After a close call loss to the Predators Saturday night, most would have predicted the Bolts to win this game. Although the Lightning hit ice with early mis footings and lack of connections, they were the first on the board after Point showed his speed coming up the ice to connect a pass to Kucherov. This was a hopeful early sign, especially because Kucherov scoring wise has been silent for the past 6 games.

As Brayden Point put it in an interview this morning, “We’ve got a lot of skill and sometimes we’re just not using it. Passes are a little bit off right now.” Tampa Bay is a very skilled team, but the connection is still lost upon the lines. It’s still early in the season and consistency right now is the best bet to see what chemistry strikes up. Coach Cooper is not short sided on this, hints his constant shuffling of the lines and D-pairings. Coach Cooper says that he’s not upset with the how the guys are playing right now.

It’s a frustrating loss to fall to a re-building Rangers team, but according to defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, “they won more battles than us last night”. The Bolts must continue working on minimizing turnovers and maximizing on their offensive zone time. It’s going to be a long season if the team is relying on Vasy to make many big saves every game. It didn’t help that they played without key player, Anthony Cirelli, then lost Victor Hedman and pat Maroon in the 1st period. They loss of those players ended up putting more pressure on the rest of the Lightning players and their legs.

Sources say that this morning Tampa Bay called up Cory Conacher and Alex Volkov to the Lightning roster, possibility that we will see both guys on the roster tonight as the Bolts face the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have had some strong surges against good opponents, so they are not to be over looked in the potential performance they can serve up tonight, but they don’t have a goalie who’s shoulders they can rest the game on. If the Lightning show up in the offensive zone tonight and really place shots on goal, they can head to Long Island with a victory and confidence.

2 days of practice, did the Bolts good! Point makes his season debut and Hedman plays in his 700th game

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Last night’s game was a highly anticipated one for a couple of reasons. First the return of Brayden Point after his double hip surgery and second Victor Hedman playing in his 700th game. Both players hit the ice with determination that helped the Bolts carry a different tune. The electricity of the 1st line combo for the Lightning set the tone for the night, Stamkos, Point, and Kucherov, came out skating fast and hard really attacking the Maple Leafs’ net, not even 2 minutes into the 1st period, Point scored his 1st goal of the season. Reminding us of his relentlessness in front of opponents’ nets. Moments after Point’s goal, Hedman who started off paired with Sergachev for the night, hit the penalty box for a cross check call, placing the Maple Leafs player in a power play where A. Johnsson positioned himself to get a goal.

As the pace of the game remained quick, 7:46 into the 1st period Maple Leafs, Johnathan Tavares put the Leafs up 2-1 with a tip in shot and less than 3 minutes later the Bolts responded as Hedman assisted Kucherov with a snap shot goal to tie the game 2-2. Lightning’s new defensive player, Shattenkirk showed a beautiful read on the Maple Leafs’ defense, skating central up the ice to get an unassisted goal, his 3rd goal already for the season, putting the Lightning up, 3-2. Auston Matthews had been skating hard at the Bolts goal the whole 1st period and finally got a wrist shot in, putting the score at 3-3. Seconds before the 1st period ended Cirelli finds Stamkos for a power play goal closing the 1st period with the Bolts in the lead, 4-3.

The 2nd period we saw a lot of defense, both teams playing fast hockey. The Lightning’s defense pairings kept switching up and continued rotating in Coburn, which increased the pace of Tampa’s defense. The Bolts defense not being so heavily relied on with a quicker offense in motioned allowed the guys to move up and down the ice more and even be more involved offensively. Both defenses were in the zone, but finally the only goal of the 2nd period was scored by the Lightning’s 1st line combo. Stamkos to Kucherov and Kucherov to Point for a tip in goal, lighting up the score board for a 5-3 lead. Another line combo to be recognized for its efforts of the night, Palat, Cirelli, Killorn. Cirelli really knows how to use his body to create space to maneuver the puck. He helped set up his teammates significantly, so much so that 3:56 into the 3rd period, Cirelli gets a pass of to Palat, which Palat deflects off a Maple Leafs skate to score a goal. With the Bolts ahead, 6-3, Kucherov gets a holding penalty, putting the Maple Leafs in a power play that they hoped to maximize on, but the Leafs struggled against the Lightning’s defense and Vasy’s saves. As the power play clock ran out, the Leafs let up enough to allow Kucherov to rush out of the penalty box on to the ice for another goal, sealing the game for Tampa Bay 7-3.

Point showed that he brings a pace to this game that his teammates were excited to match and the Lightning as a whole playing with more structure and a faster execution of the puck, made for quite a game. The Lightning will look to carry this momentum into their continued road trip, Saturday in Ottawa versus the Senators at 4pm ET.

The Lightning’s extended road trip have the Bolts still striving for a win as they fall to the Hurricanes in OT

The Lightning and the Hurricanes were both coming off road games the night before meeting in Carolina for their first regular season match up. At the start of the 1st period, Carolina came out skating fast and applying the offensive pressure to their former teammate. Curtis McElhinney, who split playing time in the goal for the Hurricanes last season.

Although Gemel Smith won the faceoff against Lucas Wallmark, 1:54 into the first period, the Hurricanes got on the board when Brett Pesce shot off a pass from Brock McGinn. A little over a minute later, Victor Hedman passed the puck to Tyler Johnson who responded to Carolina’s goal with a slap shot tying up the game 1-1. The Hurricanes are have already shown that they are a fast-paced team that can cause opposing teams to lose composure and fail to set their own rhythm, but the Bolts minutes into the 1st realized that they would have to pick up the pace.

As the period continued, Sergachev found Shattenkirk to assist with a needed goal placing Tampa Bay ahead 2-1. Then 2:16 before the period ended Stamkos netted an unassisted goal. From the pick up in the 1st period the Bolts looked to be in control of the game and managing the Hurricanes rapid pace. The Lightning continued to carry their momentum into the 2nd period until Erik Haula backhand in a power play goal. The 2nd consisted a lot of pressure on the Bolts defensive men and goalie. The Lightning struggled to get shots off on goal which the Hurricanes made an example of all nearly tripling Tampa’s shots on goal. With 7:12 left in the 3rd period, Dougie Hamilton puts a slap shot in the Bolts goal, tying up the game.

As the Lightning fought to not let this game go into overtime, they still struggled to pick up offensively or set up any plays to execute. The frustration continued as the Lighting and the Hurricanes took the game into overtime. Carolina forced their first two games into OT which ended in their favor and last night was no exception as the Hurricanes were first the board in OT securing them the win. Tough loss for Tampa, but Tyler Johnson and Curtis McElhinney had similar post-game comments regarding their struggle to score and create offensive opportunities. Although the Bolts will still be awarded 1pt, they now have their eyes set on Toronto as they continue to their extended on the road schedule.

Lightning Home Opener Victory

Palat LRAfter a tough close out to the 2018-2019 season, The Bolts bounce back with a 5-3 home opener victory versus in state rivals, the Florida Panthers! In Thursday night’s home opener, not only did we see many new faces, Carter Verhaeghe, Pat Maroon, and Kevin Shattenkirk, but we saw a new Lightning mentality on the ice, a more defensive mentality.

Early in the 1st period you saw the bolts taking a focus to playing defensively, Coach Cooper mentioned in an earlier press conference that after last season, they were going to focus on defense. It’s a benefit that the Lightning have a Vezina Trophy winning goalie in Vasy, but they can’t over work or rely on him, they must do better protecting him. In terms of giving Vasy a break, backup goalie, McElhinney has shown to be a talent in the net as well during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Palat came out very physical removing guys from plays and helping the Bolts have extended offense time. As the Lightning relentlessly attacked the Panthers goal, eventually Sergachev positioned himself to get a pass off the Kucherov for the 1st goal of the night.

Heading into the 2nd period, Panthers, Mike Hoffman tied up the game, but that didn’t last long, Sergachev was not done making his point to the Panthers, at the halfway point of the 2nd period, Sergachev set up new comer, Shattenkirk to land his first goal as a Bolt, putting the Lightning up, 2-1. Florida kept at the Lightning net, but the defense was consistent in their prevention of any further goals that period.

3rd period for a moment could have been anyone’s game as the Panthers, Vincent Trocheck put a wrist shot on goal. Not too long after Palat responded with a tip-in and in then Hedman found Pat Maroon at the head of the crease to assist him in his NHL debut goal, putting the Bolts up 4-2. Then in the final face-off of the night defensive player, Erik Cernak, shot off of a pass from Cirelli to score an empty netter, officially closing out the home opener, Lightning 5, Panthers 2. In post-game interviews Palat mentioned how everyone wants to win their home opener and the momentum it will give at the Bolts head out for their two-week road trip starting with another game versus the Panthers, Saturday October 5th at BB&T Center.

Stay up to date with all Lightning coverage and updates at Floridanationalnews.com!

Lightning Updates Leading into the Home Opener

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The Lightning wasted no time Monday morning making many changes to solidify their roster. This pre-season, the name Carter Verhaeghe stuck out a lot to say the least and we should look forward to hearing it more as Verhaeghe not only officially made the Lightning roster yesterday, but will be making his NHL debut wearing jersey number 23 at the home opener Thursday night against the Panthers. Saturday night, after the pre-season finale, Verhaeghe said that he felt like did everything that he can do and that he had a good game and something he could build off. Verhaeghe’s focus was to just keep on improving, which was confirmed noticeable by coach Cooper in Saturday’s press conference, Cooper said ” Verhaeghe has been impressive, he’s come along a lot in the last 2 years”. The Lightning have been known to see the right kind of spark in athletes and present opportunities for them to take off in their career.

In other good news, Brayden Point was back in a regular jersey for Monday’s morning skate, indicating that we can expect to see him sooner rather than later in the season. Point is finally pain free after managing to push through a torn labrum in his hips and hip surgery this past spring. The ability to be versatile is in full effect as well with Luke Witkowski, an original defensive player now rostered at wing, he’ll bring a needed physicality up front.

Unfortunately as much as we heard Volkov’s name and some strong skating out of him this pre-season, Volkov was waived and sent up North. As for some questionable players heading into Thursday’s home opener, Paquette more than likely will not play and Johnson, and Hedman will be a day to day evaluation. The potentially fitting line up for the home opener is looking to be:

Palat-Cirelli-Killorn
Joseph-Gourde-Verhaeghe
Maroon-Smith-Witkowski

McDonagh-Cernak
Sergachev-Shattenkirk
Coburn-Rutta

Lightning Pre-season Finale

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A chippy scoreless pre-season game that led to shoot outs, put the Panthers up 1-0 to top the Lightning in the pre-season finale. Last night was an unexpected neck and neck match up. The Panthers and the Lightning battled it out just to get on the board, the Panthers with 28 shots on goal to the Lightning’s 26, kept the score 0-0. In the first period, the Panthers looked to set up and maintain more puck possession than the Lightning, displaying Tampa’s defensemen’s strengths and of course it helps to have one of the best goalies in the net, Vasilevskiy.

The second period the Bolts came out skating a bit harder, we saw more play set ups and shooting, but seemed as if they Lightning were taking too much time to set up for goals. Early in the second period, Cedric Paquette got tangled up with a couple Panther players, causing an undisclosed injury. Shortly after Paquette left the game, Tyler Johnson got pulled, later Coach Jon Cooper said that he pulled Johnson for more precautionary measures rather than a worrisome injury. The loss of Paquette and Johnson was unfortunate, but we saw a lot of talent out of Verhaeghe with his skating and puck handling, Coach Cooper said that Verhaeghe has come a long way in the past two years and it’s been impressive to watch, he has good hockey smarts and we caught many glimpses of that in the game. As for Verhaeghe sealing a spot on the roaster, coach says we will see what takes course over the next couple days as they make their final cuts. Verhaeghe said that he’s played hard and at this point it’s not up to him if he makes the roster, so we will see what takes place soon.

Tampa Bay showed a lot of physicality through out the whole game, which will be a force in the coming season. An advantage that the Bolts are marinating is that they their defensive players are not afraid to take offensive opportunities. Defensive player, Luke Witkowski, has played Forward in the last two games, which can bring a versatility to this team. Another defense player stepping into a combination role is Erik Cernak, a physical defensive player who took 5 shots on goal. He’s not afraid to go for the slap shots on the perimeter.

Cooper said that regardless of the loss that he liked what he saw in the game, his players played very well and now it’s time to finalize the roster over the next couple of days and focus on the home opener. The Lightning will host the Panthers again Thursday night to officially begin the 2019-2020 NHL season.

Stay tune with Florida National News for this season’s Bolts coverage!

Lightning at Panthers Pre-season Game 5

LP_1We are heading into the final week of pre-season games, as the Lighting reside down south for the week and then play their last pre-season game at home Saturday, September 28th. The roster has trimmed day by day and as of late there has been some not too surprising, yet somewhat shocking cuts such as, Mitchell Stephens, Alex Barre-Boulet, Ross Colton, Cory Conacher, Nolan Foote, Callan Foote, Chris Mueller, Otto Somppi, Spencer Martin. While, Cameron Gaunce, Dominik Masin, Ben Thomas, Scott Wedgewood have been placed on waivers.

The roster will potentially leave a little wiggle room seeing as how the Lightning and centremen, Brayden Point came to contract terms with a 3 year/ 20.25M deal but Point most likely will still be out the first couple games of the season, due to hip surgery in the spring. Point says he is pain free and almost back to normal. The Lightning has shown to be consistent contenders for the past 2 seasons being division champions in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons and a 2014-2015 Stanley Cup Finals appearance. A 2018-2019 Tampa Bay made it to the playoffs yet again but got knocked out earlier than expected by St. Louis. With the Lightning’s many close calls to being in the Stanley Cup or almost winning the cup, crafting a specific roster will be crucial for the Bolts to help not only get them back to playoffs, but potentially another Stanley Cup appearance!

These are the last few games for the guys to own their spots, heading into tonight’s match up, you see more familiar faces in the lineup. Tonight’s line up: Forwards; Cirelli, Gourde, Joseph, Killorn, Kucherov, Maroon, Palat, Smith, Stamkos, Verhaeghe, Volkov. Defense; Cernak, Coburn, Hedman, McDonagh, Sergachev, Shattenkirk, Witkowski. Goalies; McElhinney, Vasilevskiy. We’ll see who continues on the roster after tonight’s game.

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