Monday, June 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning journal: Leafs coach says Tampa Bay built the right way

TORONTO — Leafs coach Mike Babcock wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to call the Lightning the "best team in the league."

But as Tampa Bay faced Toronto for the first of four meetings this season, Babcock’s admiration wasn’t just in the way the Lightning plays, it’s how the roster was built. That included making tough decisions, like trading Ben Bishop and Jonathan Drouin.

"I like the way they’ve moved past players when they thought they should," Babcock said.

Babcock’s Leafs entered Tuesday trailing the Lightning by 10 points in the Atlantic Division. He liked the challenge, noting, "To be the best, you have to beat the best."

"(The Lightning is) a high end hockey club," Babcock said. "I like their team. They play fast. The (Brayden) Point kid has really given them more options. They’ve got a lot of centers on that team. They’ve got center playing wing, got center playing center. They’ve got too many centers, actually. To me, that’s how you build a hockey club.

"They’ve got a really good goaltender. They had a goalie there (Bishop), they moved him and suddenly the other guy (Andrei Vasilevskiy) seems to be really good too. Sounds like a really good program."

Facing off

One area the Lightning definitely needs to improve on is faceoffs, where it is second to last in the league at 46.9 percent. Only Colorado is worse.

Point is better in the dot than last year, jumping from 44 to 47 percent. Tyler Johnson, top, is at 50 percent and Steven Stamkos, bottom, is at 48 percent, according to faceoffs.net.

"Puck possession is key to our success and when you can start with it more often than not, it’s only going to help generate more," Stamkos said. "And we’ve lacked that. It’s something we’ve addressed internally. It’s tough. You have to watch some video and pick up on tendencies and you do need wingers to help you out once and a while. But the onus is on us as centermen and we’ll look to improve."

Lining up

Vasilevskiy started for the Lightning, which went with a regular 12-forward lineup (RW J.T. Brown in, D Andrej Sustr and Slater Koekkoek scratched). … RW Ryan Callahan (upper body) continued to skate in a regular jersey, but missed his eighth straight game. Callahan could return as early as Thursday in Montreal.

Slap shots

• According to latest Bovada odds, Nikita Kucherov is a 1/1 favorite to win the Hart Trophy, followed by Connor McDavid (9/5) and John Tavares (15/2). Vasilevskiy is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy (2/1). Mikhail Sergachev is third (16/2) to win the Calder. D Victor Hedman (3/1) is second behind the Kings’ Drew Doughty (9/4) to win the Norris Trophy. The Lightning has 6/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

• Former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was named grand marshal of the Gasparilla festival during All-Star weekend Jan. 28-29. …Expect Stamkos to be named Atlantic Division All-Star captain today. Jon Cooper will soon be named Atlantic coach.

• All five Lightning prospects in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo have reached the semifinals, with Canada and Czech Republic advancing.

 
Comments
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Published: 06/23/18
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Published: 06/23/18
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Published: 06/23/18
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Published: 06/22/18
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Published: 06/22/18
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Published: 06/22/18
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18