Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Lightning Stymie Stars
The Tampa Bay Lightning took care of business against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night. In a relatively low-event hockey game, Tampa took advantage of some less-than-stellar goaltending from Jake Oettinger – plus two empty nets – to secure the 6-2 victory. Here are tonight’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Erik Cernak’s Big Game
While his two assists came on the Lightning’s empty-net goals, Cernak’s goal was very much a real contribution. Midway through the third period, Cernak one-timed a puck softly from the point and beat Oettinger with surprising ease. All together, it added up to a three-point night for the defensive-minded defender.
Even if Cernak’s goal and assists in this game won’t show up on highlight reels, they are very much indicative of a strong night for him. His underlying numbers were very impressive in this game. If there’s one thing the plethora of injury troubles have taught the Lightning this season, it’s that Cernak is a vitally important cog in their blue line machine. He demonstrated why in this game.
Thumbs Up: Brayden Point’s Individual Effort
Do you know what will show up on highlight reels for the rest of the week? Brayden Point’s 23rd goal of the season:
Point was so far out of the Dallas defenders’ league on this play that they were basically playing a different sport.
Thumbs Up: The Supporting Cast
Outside of Point’s goal referenced above, the Lightning’s tallies came courtesy of the supporting cast. It was Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Cernak, Ross Colton, and Mikhail Sergachev who made the difference in this game. Players like Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, and Ryan McDonagh went pointless. If the depth pieces are clicking like they were tonight come playoff time, the Lightning will have a chance to do something special once again.
Thumbs Up: Cirelli’s Silent Night
While Anthony Cirelli went pointless in this game, I thought he was phenomenal for the Lightning tonight. Plus-minus is typically an overrated stat, but his plus-three rating in this game was well-deserved. He was driving play from start to finish, helping his linemates to create chances at the right end of the rink and prevent them at the other. You can get a sense of the great work he did all night long in the clip of Point’s goal above – subtle stick work from Cirelli created the chance for Point, even if those efforts don't appear in the assist column.
Thumbs Up: Playoff Implications
With the Lightning and Florida Panthers now tied at 75 points each, this win was supremely important in the Lightning’s quest to secure home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Lightning will see the Stars again on Friday.
As always, thanks for reading.