Measuring the value of Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis with assists
Here's an interesting stat about Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis: Of his 33 assists, which are tied for second in the league, 23 are primary assists. That means St. Louis' pass directly led to a goal.
What can we read into that about how St. Louis is playing?
"He's always around the puck," coach Rick Tocchet said. "For his size (5 feet 7), which is amazing to me, he comes up with loose pucks. We harp on the bigger guys, you have to come up with loose pucks, but he somehow jumps on the puck and causes mismatches when he has it. If he's got ice in the corners and they don't gap up on him, it's hard to defend him in today's rules. You can't play man-on-man with him because there's to much ice to cover. That's why he gets his first assists. He can separate himself from the defense."
That's the good news. The bad, if you can call it that, is St. Louis has just seven goals. That puts him on pace for 16, which would be his lowest total since he had 16 in 2001-02.
"I still think Marty, he's had so many breakaways and prime chances, he's just been a little snake-bitten," Tocchet said. "I bet you he's had 12 or 13 breakaways this year and I don't know if he scored yet on one of them. That's the difference of him having 15 goals or whatever he is. But he's getting those chances. If he gets hot, though, look out."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Mike Smith, after a good game on Long Island, gets another start in net. ... Center Zenon Konopka is back in the lineup after missing one game with multiple hurts. Konopka was upset about sitting out for what he called body maintenance. Asked, if hindsight, if the rest was a good thing, he said, "No comment." ... Another first for rookie wing James Wright, who will be scratched for the first time tonight. Tocchet said Wright's game has taken a bit of a step back. Part of the reason might be he is wearing down a bit under the grind of the season. As a junior last season, Wright played mostly on weekends with an occasional weekday game. The NHL schedule is much more arduous. Add to that Wright's tendency to go 100 percent all the time, and Tocchet said it's time for him to re-evaluate a bit. "He needs a little bit of teaching time," Tocchet said. "It's tough, junior to NHL. We've been flying and playing and we've been playing a lot of hockey. He's working so hard right now, he has to take a step back. He'll be fine. He's a good hockey player." In other words, Wright is almost over-pursuing plays, and wasting energy doing it. Wright, as is his way, was nothing but accepting of the decision. "Obviously, you want to play every game," he said. "It's a coach's decision and I respect that. I think I've just got to be supportive of my teammates. I know I can take from this I can be better. I just have to look at this, they're not dissing me in any way. Someone has to sit out and today it's me." Wright, who hasn't had a point in 13 games and is minus-8 in his past 12, admitted the schedule is different, but said he feel good physically. "I feel okay," he said. ... Defenseman Mattias Ohlund will play his 800th NHL game. ... Defenseman Matt Walker (lower body) will miss his second straight game. Tocchet said he could be out another week. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman said the toughest part about his acclimation to the NHL has been the speed of the game on the smaller North American ice. "Big time," Hedman said. "Making the right decisions was the most important thing. It's still tough, but I feel more comfortable on the ice and I'm playing better defensively than I did at the beginning." ... Tocchet said not to let the Flyers' record of late (3-13-1) fool anyone into thinking the game won't be difficult. "This team we're playing has way too much talent, and there's too much invested in this team. It's in them and we know we have a wounded team. I told our team, you're going to get the A+ effort from the Flyers tonight, and we cannot be surprised by it." ... The Flyers had to cancel Tuesday's practice because of a sewage backup at the St. Pete Times Forum that affected the visitors locker room, coach's room and trainers' room. Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett said the carpeting was replaced and everything smells "wonderful" there. ... Olympic rosters will be announced in the next week, and Tampa bay has several players who could be named, including St. Louis and Steven Stamkos (though his star has faded somewhat in terms of making the team) for Canada, Ryan Malone for the United States and Hedman and Ohlund for Sweden and Antero Niittymaki for Finland. Tocchet admitted he wouldn't mind guys getting two weeks off to rest up, but getting to represent one's country in the Olympics is "pretty amazing," and, "we'll figure it out." ... And finally, I'll be off getting my rest from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. Hope you all have a great holiday season, and see you next year.