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Bolts Find Game in Sweden

November 9, 2019, 9:10 AM ET [10 Comments]
Sam Hitchcock
Tampa Bay Lightning Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
In stories, the protagonist needs to take a journey in order to achieve a goal. And usually, during that quest, the hero finds meaning. For the Lightning, that place was Sweden, and their 3-2 win on Friday afternoon was an impressive performance by a team that had a week to reflect.

Brayden Point tied with Nikita Kucherov for the most Scoring Chances in the game at 5v5, but from this scribe’s perspective, Point submitted the best result of any Lightning skater. During the Bolts’ road trip to the Tri-State area before the journey overseas, there was concern about Point’s health. It was especially noticeable against the Islanders that his speed was sapped. But whatever was ailing him may have healed with time to rest.

Point was zipping around the rink, whipping shots on net and transporting the puck from his own end to the offensive zone. In the first period, he set up Kucherov with a gorgeous saucer pass that Kucherov stuffed home.



Later in the contest Point created a two-on-one where he sailed the puck wide, but he could have easily potted the opportunity. He had a great defensive play in the third period, breaking up Marcus Johansson’s pass through the low slot.

The Kucherov-Point-Johnson line finished the game with a +4 in Scoring Chances differential and a +7 in shot attempts. Point won 10 faceoffs and lost two at 5v5. He was a macher over 200 feet. When on the same line with Kucherov, Point is at his best when he splits his time feeding Kucherov and creating chances for himself. He checked both boxes yesterday.

While Point was a catalyst, his strong play should not overshadow quality play from most of his teammates. The Lightning’s third and fourth lines were dominant on the forecheck, combining for a +18 Corsi Plus-Minus, and that propensity to control the puck in the Sabres’ end and put it on net reaped rewards. After all, it was Patrick Maroon’s savvy play below the goal line, where he smacked the puck off Linus Ullmark’s pad, that rendered the Yanni Gourde game-winner.

The Lightning’s role players did a nice job managing the puck. While the Cirelli line did not finish with a goal, it consistently hemmed Buffalo in. The Bolts pressured the Sabres on their breakout and forced turnovers, and below the goal line they generated a lot of offense. (Mathieu Joseph had an especially nice feed to Cirelli.)

Another trend that was encouraging was the Lightning's defense and how active it was. Tampa Bay needs its defense to contribute offense. The forwards were rotating up and providing cover over the top, which allowed Tampa Bay’s rearguards to slide down or jump into rushes. Eight games this season at 5v5 the Lightning have conceded more Scoring Chances than they have generated, but yesterday they produced six more Scoring Chances than Buffalo.

The biggest statistic from this game may be “two,” as in only two power play opportunities for Buffalo. The Lightning accrued four power plays, and the prolific blogger Alex Killorn notched a goal off a delightful tip. The Bolts played more disciplined hockey, and even when things got chippy—the Kucherov hit on Vladimir Sobotka or when Alexander Volkov got crushed by Rasmus Ristolainen—the Lightning did not completely lose their heads. They were in control of the puck and their emotions. It was refreshing.
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