Red Robin Game 1: Point and Kuch Lead the Charge

Lightning had an auspicious performance versus the Panthers in the exhibition game last week and some of the momentum carried over to their Red Robin game against the Capitals. The Bolts are a skilled unit and Cooper is a logistical coach, which is combination that takes Tampa far. Where the Lightning get shaken up is against physical teams like Washington and this match up was nothing short of physical, but the Bolts came to play.

Tampa hit the ice controlling most of the 1st period, displaying strong neutral zone play and the top line was at it again. Point had game, skating with speed and precision, applying plenty pressure to the Caps. With roughly 7 minutes left in the 1st period, Washington lost control of their offensive progression up the ice and Point took full advantage of it, charging after the puck, getting a pass off to Kucherov to do what he does best, using his unique puck handling skills to seal and unstoppable goal on Holtby.

Blake Coleman answered a few questions during the 1st intermission and mentioned that Point and Kucherov were leading the charge in the 1st period and the team needed to follow their lead. Coleman and Goodrow are working well on the 3rd line and beginning to build some chemistry. Goodrow had a decent amount of ice time and made his presence known in some keys plays. But the 2nd period performance goes to the Capitals. Although Bolts, Stephens scored first about 8 minutes into the period. The Caps upped the physicality to make a comeback with 2:36 left in the 2nd, Panik finished off a goal the slide between Vasy’s pads making the game 2-1. Then with just 27.1 seconds left in the period, Lefty shooter, Evgeny Kuznetsov tied up the game.

3rd period went 0-0 in goals, but the guys battled it out trying to avoid overtime. New addition to the Lightning, Zach Bogosian played a good game and was a strong body on the ice for the Bolts, surely, we’ll see more of him through playoffs. As the clock winded down, overtime in the red robin games apply the regular season overtime rules. 3 v 3 had no success, so off to shootouts the teams went, after two big saves from Vasy with a .917 save percentage and a goal from Kucherov and Point, Tampa took a 3-2 victory.

The Bolts with take on Boston, Wednesday at 4pm and if they manage the Bruins the way they did they Capitals, they could be starring down another win.

The Lightning were on Point for exhibition game 1

As the 24 participating NHL teams prepared for an unorthodox playoff approach, the exhibition games were a highly anticipated beginning giving the guys an opportunity to have a competitive game before red robin rounds and playoff games. There seemed to be a theme for the exhibition games, as teams faced off against their rivals. The Lightning exhibited versus the Florida Panthers at noon and put on quite a performance defeating the Panthers 5-0.

The top line looked sharp on the ice and very on point, pun intended…as Palat, Point, and Kucherov combined for 10 points and more importantly, Brayden Point had a heck of an exhibition game. Prior to the COVID pause Point was sitting at 25 goals and added 2 more goals to that in just the 1st period against Florida, playing with speed, smarts, and being quite clutch near the crease. We know Kucherov is a force to be reckoned especially with his speed and unique skills giving him 2 goals, one on a power play in the 2nd period and one in the 3rd period securing the Bolts a 5-0 victory. While Palat contributed 3 assists replacing Stamkos on the top line, one of those assists to defense man, Luke Schenn, helping him extend the Lightnings lead to 4-0 with 5:13 left in the 2nd period.

Solid performance accolades should be handed out all around, especially to Vasilevskiy. No shock there as the big cat did what the big cat does with 26 saves in the game. A typical performance of a Vezina Trophy finalist. Panthers goalie, Bobrovsky still had a game with 29 saves, but that only puts in perspective how hard the Bolts were attacking the Panthers goal… The Lightning were one of the top scoring teams before the pause and played like they planned to remain the top scoring team in the NHL. Of course this brings hope to how Tampa Bay will play in playoffs and reopened questions pertaining to the tough sweep by the Blue Jackets, but coach Cooper had no intention of giving the topic the time of day. The exhibition game was the perfect practice run as the Bolts set their sights on Monday’s red robin game versus the Washington Capitals.  

Lightning Training Camp; Week 1

There’s been a clear resounding excitement with the full return of hockey. Monday, July 13th all players participating in the season restart reported to facilities for day 1 of training camp. Camp started out at an acclimating pace for the guys, but coach Cooper did well at keep drills high tempo and increasing intensity as the days progressed. By day 3 of camp, the bolts hit the ice in Amelia Arena for their 1st little scrimmage since the pause.

In the scrimmage it became apparent that the newer additions to the team were able to take some advantage of the pause. Looking more apart of the Lightning and increasing the chemistry on the team. Addition number 1, Blake Coleman mentioned in a press conference that “things are starting to feel routine and I feel a part of the group without having to think about it”. Coach Cooper picked up on the improvements and newfound comfort stating, “the break may have helped…players come in at the end of a season, your unfamiliar, then you get 4 months to get acclimated with staff, teammates, and coaches and it almost feels like they’re back and in their 2nd year with the team”. As for way Coleman is an asset to the team, Cooper said, “They only thing he hasn’t done with us is finish, He competes hard, doesn’t give up on a play, his skating is exceptional, and he is fearless going to the net.” All skills the bolts can use to assist them in playoffs.  

Coleman and Goodrow look to be some good chemistry out on the ice. Bogosian is settling in exceptionally well, especially after not playing for some time. Pairing up with Victor Hedman, Bogosian was asked how he manages playing with defenseman, Hedman and his unique style…Bogosian says that you can learn a lot from his style of play. He stays out of his way and focuses on reading him.

Aside from the acclimation of the new guys, the two remaining questions this week are Stamkos’ health and what they guys are packing for the bubble in Toronto? Stamkos played the first half which Cooper said was promising that he was out there and for 45 minutes. As for Stamkos’ readiness to play in the exhibition games? Cooper kept it simple saying “if he’s able he will and If he doesn’t play it won’t be because of health, it’ll be to add to the timetable for rest”. Coach mentioned that he would like to see him in one of the red robin games, so he can get some meaningful time under his belt.

As for bubble necessities, it was nearly in unison that most of the guys planned to watch a lot of Netflix and were probably in need of some show recommendations. Then came the big split, video gamer or reader? Jan Rutta will be hopping on the video games, while McElhinney and Bogosian hit the books.

Safe to say the Bolts are off to a promising start before heading to Toronto Sunday July 26th and getting their 1st playoff feels July 29th in the exhibition match versus the Florida Panthers.

Tom Brady, Officially Official.

Officially, official. Tuesday at noon, the Tampa Bay Bucs held a conference call press conference introducing Tom Brady as the Bucs new starting quarterback, along with head coach, Bruce Arians. The floor opened up to the press with much anticipation and eager questions.

Coach Arians started off stating his excitement for having Tom Brady come to Tampa Bay. Arians said that he’s not only happy to have Brady for his known skill set on the field, but because of what he does for his teammates off the field and the leader he is in the locker room. Later in the press conference coach Arians put some lingering pre-free agency questions to rest in regard to Winston’s considerable future with the Bucs or how considerable his future actually was. Arians said, “Brady was our number one priority in the free agency, he can do everything we want to do in our offense”.

Once Brady addressed the press, he had an overall motto for each question, “one day at a time”. Brady said that he is in a position he has not been in since he started his career in the NFL, having to learn new terminology. Brady continued on saying that he hopes his experience in the league and at quarterback will translate, so he can help this team win. As to the why Brady chose Tampa, he said that he respected the players and coaches’ obvious willingness for one another and to win. He has watched film on the Bucs when preparing to go against them for many seasons and has begun watching more film now. Brady said that the Bucs have a great offense for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. As to how he will contribute to this great offense, Brady said, “football is about getting the ball to the guy who can do something with it. I got to be able to deliver and learn these players’ body language”.

It’s clearly not an ideal to transition in a time where social distancing is in effect, so the curiosity rose as to how Brady was going to begin to get to know his new teammates and begin establishing chemistry and relationship with them. He said they’ll find ways to communicate and get to know each other and hopefully meet up. Talking with them will help him learn, especially because they’ve been playing in this system. Brady mentioned that his time and energy right now needs to be focused on getting up to speed. He will be playing in a new division and one known for its talented defense. All in all Brady left New England with much gratitude and is ready to focus forward on the new opportunity at hand. Brady closed saying he’s prepared to give all of his commitment to helping this team and is just excited to get started!

The excitement is mutual between Brady, the Bucs staff, and fans. It is undeniable the potential that lies ahead for this team with a quarterback like Tom Brady. We’ve watched his skill escalate when given weapons and Evans, Godwin, Brate, and Howard are just that. Not to mention the stellar defense the Bucs have managed to keep together re-signing top players of the 2019 season. The talent will officially be on both sides of the ball. All that is left to do now is execute.

With that said, Tom Brady…Welcome to Tampa Bay!

Will Tom Brady be the Super Bowl solution for the Bucs?

TB21 seasons into his career, Tom Brady ends one significant era to begin another… 6x time Super Bowl champion announced Tuesday evening that he will no longer be a part of the Patriots organization. Moments after the announcement, news circulated that Brady made a principle agreement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for roughly $30M a year. Upon finalization, this could not only be a promising move for the Bucs, but for the Tampa Bay community. 35 minutes after the agreement was announced, ticket sales went up thanks to excited Bucs fans, leaving 972 people on the waiting list for 2020 season tickets.

Why are Bucs fans already so excited? Let’s strike a visual…Brady threw for 4057 yards and 24 touch downs in the 2019 season and that was somewhat under performing for the future hall of fame quarterback. Keep in mind Brady didn’t have many reliable weapons outside of Julian Edelman after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the trade of Danny Amendola. With that said, Tampa Bay closed the season ranked as the #3 offense with known weapons such as Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, and Chris Godwin, as well as, new weapons who stepped up in the 2019 season during unfortunate injury situations, Breshad Perriman, Tanner Hudson. We know how much Brady loves his tight ends, especially in the red zone, so imagine him having options like Cameron Brate, OJ Howard, Tanner Hudson, and potentially Jordan Leggett.

Coach Arians is known for being a quarterback coach and had some noticeable success with Winston in the 2019 season, so Arians and Brady should have a beneficial connection for the team. The next focus for the Bucs to really make this team stand out is for Tampa to get a big back for Brady to hand off to and a more reliable offensive line to protect the Bucs new QB. The offensive line will be even more crucial this season and with a quarterback like Tom Brady. Brady isn’t as fast out of the pocket. Not that we saw much movement out of Winston this season, but he’s still more notably mobile than Brady, but when it counts, we’ve seen Brady find some wheels, granted at 43 years old we don’t want to put him in continuous pressured situations.

The icing on the cake, the 2021 Super Bowl is in Tampa. Between turnovers and injuries the Bucs feel short of playoff, but the potential was there. If the players can maintain their health and with a competitive quarterback like Tom Brady who is no stranger to Super Bowls and Championships, the Bucs can have a strong shot at being Super Bowl contenders in their own city. All in all Tampa’s in for an exciting ride.

Bolts Make New Franchise History!

The Lightning make franchise history last night with their 11th straight win for an overtime victory against the Avalanche and what a game is was to watch! Both the Lightning and the Avalanche are known for having very skilled players. Nathan MacKinnon is amongst some of the most skilled and fastest skaters in the league, making it no surprise that he got Colorado in the board first thanks to a pass from Mikko Rantanen.

The remainder of the 1st period went without goals due to solid efforts from both goalies. The Bolts controlled most of the 2nd period. Under 5 minutes in, Alex Killorn wraps the puck around the glass in the Avalanche’s offensive zone to Ondrej Palat and Palat feeds it back to Killorn for his 23rd goal of the season and to tie up the game. This out the momentum train in motion as less than 2 minutes after Killorn’s goal, Cameron Gaunce rips a shot off in traffic to put the Bolts in the lead 2-1. Gaunce after the game said, “it’s been something I’ve been working on a lot, when the puck comes off the board, getting that shot, and seeing it go in has a nice feel”.

As the period began winding down, Brayden Point made a fast effort up the ice in attempts to score, but his shot came off the goalie’s pad creating another scoring opportunity the Steven Stamkos maximized on. Diving on to the ice to get the puck in the net, sending the Lightning up 3-1. 1:34 before the 2nd period ended; MacKinnon danced through the Lightning o-zone to hit a top shelf goal and his 2nd goal of the game minimizing the Bolts lead.

The 3rd period opened up with Tampa Bay still in the lead 3-2 and continued scoring attempts up and down the ice. With 7:17 left in the 3rd period Colorado with some quick puck movement causing enough confusion for Cale Makar to come down the center and score a wrist shot, tying the game 3-3. With many “almost” The Bolts and the Avs held each other off from scoring taking the game into overtime. Strong defensive plays continued and one in particular was the game changer. As MacKinnon skated to set up an opportunity to pass or score there was just enough room for Kucherov to steal the puck for a breakaway and score in the goalie’s five hole sealing the Lightning’s 11th straight win, the most consecutive wins in franchise history.

Although an entertaining game non the less, Kucherov had a closer perspective and diagnosis of the game saying “it wasn’t a good game for us. We need to have the puck on our sticks more, and more puck possession in their o-zone”. But it’s that kind of “we can do better” mentality that separates good teams from great teams and the Lightning have all the potential to be a great team!

The Lightning head off to Las Vegas to face the Golden Knights and with the newest addition to Tampa Bay’s defense will officially join them! Blake Coleman, the Bolts recent trade acquire as of Sunday, February 16th will make his Lightning debut. In his initial trade statement Coleman expressed his excitement for this new chapter and how he feels he’ll fit in with this team. Coleman said, he’s familiar with Coach Cooper’s coaching and playbook style after facing him in the USHL. Coleman said” “They’re bringing me in because I have a playoff-type game, a will to compete and a will to win”. Will see how this new chapter unfolds and if Tampa Bay can make it 12 wins on Thursday!

MLS and MLSPA 5 year Bargaining Agreement

MLS logo

Prior to entering the 25th MLS season, the MLS and MLSPA have reached a 5-year bargaining agreement. If you have been watching soccer in the USA and Canada over the past decade you would have noticed the tremendous growth within the industry. Soccer is finally becoming a must-see sport in North America. Of course, initially the audience was not expected to be where it is today, which played a role in player salaries and benefits. With that said, this 5-year bargaining agreement that the MLS and MLSPA have agreed upon is a step in the right direction for further growth of soccer (futbol) in North America.

The new agreement hit 5 major points:

  • Increased investment in player spending.
  • Greater flexibility for clubs to use new resources across the entire roster.
  • Player spending to include a share of MLS’ new media rights deals in 2023 and 2024.
  • A substantial increase in charter flights.
  • Expanded free agency.

MLS League Revenue
Information sourced from americansocceranalysis.com

 

The MLS has made some leeway on getting their top 24 rostered players better minimum and maximum salaries. The minimum salary for MLS players started from about $32,500-42,000 and Maximum capped at about $387,000. Come 2024, players maximum with cap at roughly $803,125 with better 401K and benefits. It’s a step in the right direction, but still nothing compared to the European leagues whose contacts are in the millions. It’s going to take a continued audience growth and participation to get North American soccer players on a million-dollar scale. Other key points of this new CBA agreement are salary budget flexibility, meaning $1.2 Million per season has been converted to general allocation money (Reduce the amount that a non-Designated Player costs against the salary cap down to the league minimum salary ($67,500 in 2018). Reduce the amount that a Designated Player costs against the salary cap down to $150,000. Sign players new to MLS) and can be used across the entire roster. Players will share in media revenue for the first time beginning in 2023 and 2024. Spending will be increased to 25% of the increased media revenue generated by the league in addition to $100 Million. Charter flights increase substantially. Clubs will use charter flights for 8 legs of travel starting in the 2020 season and working up to 16 legs come 2024. Lastly, expanded free agency. Free agency will now open up to player 24 years and older and have been in the MLS for at least 5 years. The MLS has 26 active clubs with 4 new teams to become active within the next two years. If the Major Soccer League continues expanding at this rate 2025 should have even more promising re-evaluations for club and player benefits!

 

And the Streak Extends to 8 Wins for the Lightning!

The first home game of 2020, the Lightning returned home with a 7-game win streak under their belt and prepped to host the Vancouver Canucks in hopes to extend their streak. The 1st period opened up in a mild manner. Both teams trying to find their footing and both goalies making significant saves. It wasn’t until under the final 2 minutes of the 1st period that a goal was finally scored. Getting on the board first was Vancouver, thanks to Elias Pettersson.

Heading into the 1st intermission down 1-0 to the Canucks, the Bolts must have had a motivating pep talk. The 2nd period opened up and in less than 5 minutes, Hedman found Palat, Palat found Johnson and Johnson found the net for his 10th goal of the season. Tying up the game, fueled up the Lightning. Another five minutes of play in the 2nd period Point set up Stamkos to score his 17th goal of the season. Vancouver’s Eriksson tied up the game in response to Stamkos’s goal, but it was Alex Killorn’s speedy unassisted goal that ignited the Bolts to let off the gas. The Lightning solidified 3 goals in under a minute! Verhaeghe took the Bolts to 4 goals, Then Kucherov knocked the score up to 5-2, and with 1:58 left in the 2nd period Cernak with a slap shot closes the period with a 6-2 lead.

3rd period meant 3 more goals for the Lighting. After the attack the Lightning led against the Canucks goalie in the 2nd, it was clear they got in his head. The Bolts defense and exemplary goalie, Vasy stepped up holding the Canucks off from any scoring opportunities, creating a lot of frustration for Vancouver, which showed. Brayden point relentlessly shooting on goal scored top shelf 4:37 into the 3rd period and then it turned into the Verhaeghe show as Carter Verhaeghe got 2 more goals for the Lightning projecting the score to a 9-2 lead and gifting the audience with his 1st NHL hat trick! The fans began tossing their hats into the rink in celebration of Verhaeghe’s successful night and career milestone.

The playoff conversation is beginning to sing a different tune for Tampa Bay… Now with an 8 game winning streak the Lightning set their eyes and intentions to make the streak 9, as they host the Arizona Coyotes at 7pm Thursday evening!

Playing at a Playoff Pace, but are The Lightning Playoff Contenders?

Adversity is probably the key word for the Tampa Bay Lightning team right now. Coming into the 2019-2020 season with many eyes on them after the way the 2018-2019 season closed out. This team has been a skillful line-up, but what is skill without the right structure. Coach Cooper has been working tirelessly to find what will work for his skilled players to find consistency and win games. Starting off the season on a two-week road trip, the Bolts had a lot on their plate. Weirdly, they were pulling off wins against tough opponents and falling short versus teams they were predicted to beat, struggling to play 60 minutes of hockey. A turning point for the Bolts was their trip to Sweden getting a chance to reset and bond as mentioned previously, we saw a more competitive team return. Sadly as soon as the Lightning began to find a rhythm, many injuries started amongst key players. Two weeks ago, Kucherov was out for thankfully 1 game, but then Stamkos was gone for 3, while as of recent Coburn is out indefinitely, and Killorn is on a day to day basis, counting him out of last night’s match up versus the Nashville Predators. The Lightning called Cory Conacher back up from Syracuse, he’s been the go-to guy to add to the line since October, but Verhaeghe ended up back in the line-up.

Last night Kucherov, Point, Palat, hit the ice as the starting line and McDonagh with Cernak as the starting d-pairing. Both the Lightning and Predators carry a lot of talent on their teams, so the game opened up with fast skating and physicality. Leave to Victor Hedman to get the Bolts on the board first through, Hedman has been relentlessly taking more shots on goal since his 1st of the season on a power play. The Predators tied it up in the 2nd period and if you thought you saw fast pace and hard skating in the 1st period of this game, the 2nd period was way more intense. The game got quite chippy and tense. Many almost fights until Luke Schenn had enough o Tyler—- resulting in a fight. Later in the chippy 2nd period Brayden Point drew a penalty as he went for the puck and got elbowed in the face, after reviewing the play, the referees felt that it was intentional dealing the Bolts a 5-minute power play that they unfortunately couldn’t score in, the Predators did a heck of a job holding the Lightning to center ice.

We saw the d-pairings playing way more up than usual, at this point there isn’t really a “stay at home” defenseman or at least not last night. In the 3rd period Nashville tied up the game yet again and both teams really battled for the win, but overtime was the result. What better duo than Stamkos to Kucherov could you picture to secure the win for the Lightning. The Bolts left Nashville with 2 hard earned points. Last night’s game was played at a playoff pace and intensity as the Lightning sit 5 below the ranking line in the East and Nashville sits 3 below in the West. It’s officially that time of the year where every game counts and there are only so many games left before playoffs are here. Will the Bolts be playoff contenders? A short time will tell. The Lightning head back home to host the Minnesota Wild, tomorrow at 7pm.

Sabres at Lightning

 

An electric 4th line combo and special teams are creating a contagious affect throughout the Bolts team! The Bolts played one of their best games of the season last Thursday versus the Blackhawks and the consistency has remained versus the Ducks Saturday and the Sabres last night. Keep in mind, these step-up performances came without Kucherov and Stamkos, last Thursday, then without Stamkos Saturday and last night. We’re hopeful to see a healthy Stammer back in the line up Wednesday, but it’s up in the air. Kucherov was luckily able to return as of Saturday and has broke his silence collecting 2 goals and 3 points in the last 2 games.

Coach Cooper feels that the guys set the tone for this game in Sweden, which confidence wise could be the case, but it has been the last 2 games before the Sabres rematch that the Lightning have appeared to find their footing. The guys are skating hard and getting better reads off one another. One duo in particular, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, opportunities are created when these two are on the ice, they both play very smart, relentless hockey. Some of their similarities may be the cause of their ability to read each other so well.

As we mentioned earlier, the Bolts special teams have begun to look familiar in the sense that this month penalty kills have been getting back to the best in the league. Last night, special teams kicked it up a notch with 2 short-handed goals within 49 seconds!

The Lightning defense have come together well, starting with being ranked 3rd in the league for defensive men point leaders. They have had less gaps in the D-Zone and have been making some fast corrections. The best chance the Sabres had all games is when they were applying pressure to the Bolts along the boards, but that didn’t hold up in the 3rd period, the Lightning made it entirely their game.