Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Surging Callahan drives Lightning's shutdown line

TAMPA — The Lightning has a dynamic one-two punch on its top two lines, with captain Steven Stamkos and wing Nikita Kucherov each having racked up 20 goals.

But it was Tampa Bay's shutdown third line of J.T. Brown, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan that stole the show in Thursday's 2-1 victory over the red-hot Blackhawks. The trio held top-line Chicago forwards Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw to two combined shots.

"They were our best line," coach Jon Cooper said.

"They've been unreal," defenseman Victor Hedman said.

"A really big line for us right now," defenseman Anton Stralman said.

Dig deeper into the Lightning's seven-game winning streak — one win shy of tying a franchise record — and you'll find that the Brown-Filppula-Callahan line has played a pivotal role. And that won't change tonight in Sunrise against the Atlantic Division's first-place Panthers, who are three points ahead of Tampa Bay after shutting out the Blackhawks 4-0 on Friday.

The Lightning trio will likely be up against future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau tonight. Been there, done that. The Lightning's line held them to zero shots in Sunday's 3-1 win against Florida in Tampa.

"It's quite a challenge," Callahan said. "It's an opportunity to go against the other teams' top lines, and that's how we look at it. It's something we have to respond to. We know if we do our job, we have a great chance at winning that hockey game. It's exciting to be in that role and I think me, (Brown) and (Filppula) are embracing it."

For Callahan and Filppula, their offense has been fleeting. Both have had 20-plus-goal seasons in their careers but have combined for just 11 this year, Callahan one in his past 33 games. But Cooper said Callahan was the Lightning's best player in the past two games, and it's hard to argue against it. The veteran wing had 10 total shots and nine hits in those games and was a force at both ends of the ice.

" 'Cally' has been unbelievable the last couple games," said Stralman, Callahan's teammate with the Rangers from 2011-14. "He's been out of himself. I've played with him a long time. He's so hard to play against when he plays like (that)."

Said Brown: "I don't know if he's changing his routine or what he's eating pregame. He's been playing really well, and that's how we know he can play. He's setting the bar high for himself."

Filppula is the Lightning's best faceoff man, winning 54.5 percent, and one of its most responsible two-way forwards, which is why he's a key cog on the penalty kill and almost always gets several shifts in overtime. Brown may be the Lightning's most consistent forward this season, Stralman said, his plus-11 tied for second on the team.

After shutting out the Panthers' top line Sunday, Brown, Filppula and Callahan tackled Oilers All-Star Taylor Hall in Tuesday's 6-4 win. Hall had an assist on Leon Draisaitl's goal, but their line was a combined minus-5.

It's not just that Brown, Filppula and Callahan are strong defensively. They're getting extended possession time in the offensive zone, forcing opponents' top-end players to work in their own end.

"Want to play defense? Have the puck," Cooper said. "And that's what they did."

Though with the disadvantage of not having the last change on the road, expect to see the Lightning shutdown line locked in on Jagr & Co. tonight.

"So far, things are going well," Brown said. "But every night is not going to be your night. You're going out against top-notch players. But at the end of the day, that's our job. That's what our team expects out of us. From our standpoint, we've got to accept the challenge. If you can shut them down and end up a plus-1, I think we're going to have a good chance to win."

Tonight

at Panthers, 7, Sunrise

TV: Fox Sports Sun

Radio: 970-AM

Surging Callahan drives Lightning's shutdown line 01/22/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump: Objection to NFL protests 'has nothing to do with race'

    National

    MORRISTOWN, New Jersey — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his opposition to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality "has nothing to do with race" but …

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon his return to the White House in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. Trump insisted Sunday that his opposition to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality "has nothing to do with race" but has to do with "respect for our country and respect for our flag." [Associated PRss]
  2. World War II vet, 97, takes a knee in support of anthem protests

    Human Interest

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On a day when NFL teams grabbed the nation's attention by coordinating demonstrations during the national anthem, a 97-year-old World War II veteran went viral with a solitary show of support for the protests.

    Brennan Gilmore posted a Twitter picture Sunday morning of his grandfather, John Middlemas, kneeling while wearing a veteran's cap. [Twitter]
  3. NFL Week 3: What we learned

    Bucs

    Take the knee … well, not NOW

     1. Photo of Roger Mooney for Times Sports.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Chris Archer's primary problem Sunday, as in much of September, was a lack of slider command. When he can't throw it where he wants, and doesn't have the confidence in the changeup to throw it often, he can't win with just his fastball.

  5. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.