The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a feel good story in the early part of the season. Steve Stamkos has continued his goal scoring way from last year and is a legit offensive force in the NHL already. However, last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Penguins showed a major flaw that will prevent this team from going anywhere this season: goaltending.
Mike Smith was terrible last night. The defense did its part, yielding only 20 shots. Unfortunately, Smith looked like an amateur goalie. Many of the Pens goals came from his mistakes. Alex Goligoski’s wide open net was a result of Smith going down in the butterfly as a reaction to Mike Rupp’s PASS. He didn’t even fake a shot. He simply passed the puck across the ice and, instead of shifting right, Smith went down in the butterfly, square to Rupp!
On Deryk Engelland’s (yes, even he scored) goal, Smith played the angle completely wrong. He believed he was square to the shooter, but his angle was off, and instead of going wide, Engelland’s shot just went past Smith and into the net. Even Crosby’s goal seemed a bit too easy, as Smith was not screened and Sid didn’t even need to make a move on him. He just shot the puck past Smith and into the net.
To make matters worse, free agent signee, Dan Ellis, hasn’t played much better this season. He has had two really good games, netting two shutouts. But even with those two shutouts in nine games, he has a pedestrian 91% save percentage. That is due to his less than inspiring play in the other seven games. Clearly, he hasn’t been good enough to establish himself as the number one in Tampa, evidenced by Smith’s start against a quality team like Pittsburgh.
For all the good things Steve Yzerman has done to get this franchise on track, allowing Antero Niittymaki to leave for $2 million a year seems to be a mistake at this point.