Posted on: November 13, 2010 9:23 am

Goaltending will calm this storm

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.

Posted on: November 1, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2010 3:28 pm

NHL thoughts and opinions 11/1

  • Quote of he day comes from Pat Verbeek, regarding his availability to play golf: “Now that I’m retired, I have more chances to do what I love.” Could someone tell Pat that he is not retired and holds the post of Director of Pro Scouting for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I guess he isn’t working very hard.
  • I want to know who does the statistical analysis for NHL.com. Today they posted two articles regarding rookies. One was about how Taylor Hall is off to a disappointing start, but current Stars like Joe Thornton, Steve Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier started off slowly as well. Then, there was another article about rookies that have started the season hot. I found it interesting that Hall’s 2 goals and 3 assists qualified as starting poorly, but Tyler Seguin’s 3 goals and 2 assists, while playing on a much better team, had him on the hot list. 
  • I am in shock at how poorly Mike Comrie has played for the Penguins. When they signed him, I truly thought he would have a comeback year being able to play with young superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Instead, he has found himself playing on the fourth line. Mike, if you can’t produce playing with those guys, it might be time to hang it up.
  • USA Today’s Kevin Allen tweeted an interesting stat today. The Devils have a -19 goal differential so far this season. They have not had a negative differential for an entire season since the 1988-89 campaign. Some people (EJ Hradek) continually point to a young and inexperienced blueline as the cause. However, the stats just don’t back it up. The Devils are giving up around 27 shots per game, not a terrible number. The stat that has me concerned is Martin Brodeur’s .902 save percentage number. Other than the 1991-92 season, when he only played 4 games, Martin Brodeur has never had that low of a save percentage. 
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Posted on: October 15, 2010 10:28 am

Gagne returns, but Downie “assists” in Tampa win

Last night’s game between the Flyers and Lightning marked the return of Simon Gagne to Philadelphia, his NHL home for the first 10 years of his career. Gagne was an integral piece to the Flyers’ Cup run last year and left the team 10<sup>th</sup> all-time on the Flyers’ career scoring list. This town loved him and deservedly so.

However, it was a different ex-Flyer that played a key role in Tampa Bay’s victory last night, Steve Downie.

Downie began his career on the wrong foot. His disturbing hit on Dean McAmmond garnered a long suspension and a terrible black mark on his reputation. He was always touted as a physical player that played in the gray areas, but now he was viewed as a reckless player that had no regard for player safety on the ice.

His rookie year was moderately successful after the suspension as he finished with 6 goals and 6 assists in 32 regular season games and played competently in the Flyers run to the conference finals that season. The next year, he started the season in Philadelphia but found himself shipped out to Tampa Bay, where he was demoted to their AHL affiliate in Norfolk. His numbers down there, 8 goals 25 assists in only 23 games, suggested he was too good to be in the minors.

Last year, he came to camp ready to work with Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet. He began the season slowly but, with the guidance of Tocchet, seemed to find more control in his game. He found chemistry with second year star Steve Stamkos and exploded offensively right before the Olympic break with 11 goals and 9 assists in the last 27 games. Over a full season, those numbers would equate to a 33 goal 27 assist season.

With 2 assists last night, he now has 1 goal 3 assists in the first three games this season. The similarities between Downie’s stats and Tocchet’s early career statistics are eerily similar. With the right progression and continued chemistry with Stamkos, Steve Downie could develop into a premier power forward in the NHL very soon.

Category: NHL
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