For Lightning’s Mathieu Joseph, life in the fast lane finds another gear

Lightning rookie Mathieu Jospeh has been showing off his wheels and scoring skills early this season
Mathieu Joseph (7) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) for a go-ahead goal in Tampa Bay's 3-2 win over Boston Thursday in Tampa.  DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Mathieu Joseph (7) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) for a go-ahead goal in Tampa Bay's 3-2 win over Boston Thursday in Tampa. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published December 7

TAMPA — Here comes another one.

It never ends.

The Lightning is loaded — front-loaded, in fact. The names just keep on coming, feeding the team with the most points in the NHL.

That brings us to 21-year-old rookie winger Mathieu Joseph, who has arrived so fast he beat his belongings to Tampa Bay. Joseph didn't think he would make this deep roster out of training camp.

"I didn't really have many expectations," Joseph said. "I just tried to impress and play my game. My car is still at home. So, I definitely was not expecting to make the team. But I was definitely trying to leave an impression."

The impression has been left. Joseph scored his ninth goal in just the 30th game in the Lightning's 3-2 win over Boston Thursday. This after his big three-point night — two goals, one assist — in an OT win at Detroit.

Chalk another one up for former Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Joseph, who the Lightning picked in the fourth round, 120th overall, of the 2015 draft, has found a place on the league's top team, picking up where he left off when he led the Lightning in preseason scoring.

It doesn't seem to matter where the 6-1 Joseph plays or who he plays with — fourth line, third line, Steven Stamkos' line. He makes things happen, he puts pucks in nets. There is heart, there is hustle, and like with so many Lightning sensations before him, there is speed. Oh, there is speed.

Joseph was apparently born with afterburners. No one has ever set up a match race between him and teammate and budding superstar Brayden Point, who scored his 21st goal Thursday. But the consensus seems to be Joseph can stay with Point north-south, straight ahead, but Point would get him in the turns. I'd pay to watch it.

Suffice to say, Joseph has arrived in a big hurry. That's just the way it is with the Lightning. He's part of the army, another piece, another reason, why the Lightning is motoring along, with a 10-3 record, without star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"It's a deep team, a deep team up front," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "But (Joseph) had some attributes we really liked and he earned it. And so what he was doing during the preseason he's carried into the regular season. It's a little tougher stage once the games are for real, he's finding a way. That's why he's here."

Joseph has always been a scorer. In juniors, he led the Quebec league in goals a few years ago, Last season, he scored 15 goals for the AHL Syracuse Crunch and led the team in points (53) and assists (38).

That scoring knack has been on display the last two games. In Detroit, Joseph took a pass from Ryan Callahan, gathered the puck in his skates, flew into the zone a flicked a one-handed shot over the shoulder of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Highlight reel. Thursday, a streaking Joseph took a pass from Alex Killorn and slid a backhander past Bruins keeper Tuukka Rask.

"I think Killer made a great play there," Joseph said. "Between the guy's leg. Honestly, I didn't have to do much. I was lucky it kind of went in."

The thing about scorers is that they usually end up making their own luck.

"I've always got to keep my legs moving," Joseph said. "If I don't do that, I don't do anything out there."

Lightning success always go well down its roster. Last year, Point emerged and so, in his own way, did center Anthony Cirelli, who last season made his mark, especially in the playoffs, and who has kept it up, including a shorthanded goal to beat Boston  Thursday.

"That's what helps you become a good team, when guys like that perform," Cooper said. "(Joseph) is a little bit more of a wild card in a sense. It's his first time in the league, trying to find his way. Clearly, he's getting more acclimated, knowing what he can and can't do on both sides of the puck. He's playing better and now pucks are going in for him."

Not only that, his car is on the way.

Joseph's parents, France and Frantzi, are driving down from Quebec in Mathieu's Acura RDX. They will be here in time for the Lightning's game with Colorado on Saturday.

Mom and Dad do more than just deliver cars. They deliver hockey players: Mathieu's younger brother, defenseman Pierre-Olivier, was a first-round selection by Arizona in the 2017 draft.

Back to the car.

"It's about time that they bring it here," Mathieu Joseph said with a smile.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or 813-731-8029

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