Wow. The Tampa Bay Lightning looked like all kinds of amazing against the visiting Anaheim Ducks at Tampa Bay Times Forum last night.
Winning the Nov. 14 game decisively 5-1 in regulation, the Lightning (14-5-0) extend their winning streak to two games before setting out on another road trip today against Phoenix (Sat. 8:00 PM), Los Angeles (Tues. 10:30 PM), San Jose (Thurs. 10:30 PM) and then a rematch on Duck turf in Anaheim (Fri. 10:00 PM), before settling in for a three game home stand against the New York Rangers (Nov. 25), Philadelphia Flyers (Nov. 27) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (Nov. 29) to close out November.
On Thursday night, the Lightning immediately let their offensive presence be known; recording several shots in the opening thirty seconds of the first period, while holding the Ducks shot less until their first power play, 13-minutes into the game.
Filppula (two goals, one assist) once again stepped up his game for the Lightning; illustrating the game plan the Bolts have now firmly established since losing Stammer on Nov. 11: take more shots.
And Filppula, along with many Lightning players, are taking them.
Martin St. Louis followed up on Filppula’s goal with a goal of his own on the power play at 16:25 in the first period, his first goal in five games. J.T. Brown recorded an assist on the play, along with Filppula.
Filppula recorded his second goal at 3:16 in the second period off a Victor Hedman, St. Louis assist. Tampa Bay scored again at 10:51, as Alex Killorn recorded his fifth goal of the season, assisted by St. Louis and Mark Barberio, to put the Bolts up 4-0.
The Ducks finally got on the board at 16:07 in the second period as Emerson Etem found some open ice for the wrister.
Ben Bishop had 24 out of 25 saves on the night for a .960 save percentage. Bishop continues to lead the league in wins with 13.
I went into the game with almost zero expectations, because who really knew how the Bolts would fare against the Ducks?
Not just due to the absence of Steven Stamkos, Keith Aulie and Sami Salo, but because these two teams rarely, if ever, play each other.
The last time the two teams met on the ice was in California on November 3rd 2010, and Anaheim won that game 3-2 in OT.
Not to mention that the Ducks have routinely had a really good team over the past several years. In the shortened 2012-13 season, the Ducks were my pick to make it to the Western Conference semifinals, facing off against the league-leading and eventual 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Ducks didn’t even get past the first round (falling in a 4-3 series to the Detroit Red Wings), which really surprised me. All jokes aside, I would have had a perfect post season bracket if not for that.
But anyway…back to more pertinent matters.
Regardless of that outcome, the Ducks are a very good hockey club. It’s really no surprise to me that they are leading the West, along with their hyper-competitive Pacific Division, with 31 points.
The Colorado Avalanche is a whole other story.
With that said, I believe in my Lightning team. The way the boys have been playing under Cooper’s Law has been phenomenal, and I think pretty much every Tampa Bay fan can see it.
The Bolts are playing almost “night and day” different than last year’s shortened season efforts.
The Lightning is a different team and they play like a different team. The results speak for themselves.
They are at the top of the Eastern Conference with 28 points; leading a much tougher (than a year ago when Tampa Bay was part of the weak Southeast) Atlantic Division.
Tampa Bay has a perfect 7-0-0 record against Western Conference teams. And let’s face it, the West is pretty much widely considered to be the deeper of the two conferences. So that’s pretty impressive all by itself.
Not to mention their flawless overtime/shootout record of 6-0, or how the Lightning has yet to lose two games in a row. If you remember last year’s efforts, as I do, then you might find this fact to be the most amazing and the most consistent “fun factor” of this year’s team.
I hated all those losing streaks.
The Lightning is playing like a high-caliber postseason team, in my opinion, and they have really shown their true stuff over the past two games in the wake of losing number ninety-one.
Grabbing four points after losing Stamkos? Continuing on with the compulsive winning, already established before the loss of Stammer?
I’m sure a lot of the hockey world is asking the same thing.
But NOT Lightning fans. No, no.
The truth is, if you’re a Lightning fan, if you’re part of the Thunder, then you knew. We really knew. We were maybe worried (who’s kidding? I was petrified. It was Stammer of all people. We love that guy) but at the same time we knew things were different this year.
We know there is something great happening in Tampa Bay when our team skates out on the ice. Here or on the road, it doesn’t matter, the Lightning is a far better team than a year ago. Cooper’s system is working.
The Bolts are here to make a statement and keep on making it for many years to come.
The Western Conference knows. The Ducks just figured it out.
And I’m starting to think that the rest of the league is starting to catch on too.
Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Jose and New York are going to find out, just to name some teams coming up who haven’t yet tasted what the Lightning is cooking. But they will.
Then Tampa Bay gets Pittsburgh again on Nov. 29 at home. The Penguins learned a bit on Oct. 12, but were able to get away from the Lightning in the third period, beating the Bolts in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss.
Next time the Lightning will hammer the point home, at home.
Now if only they could let the Bruins know…
That, fortunately, is a riddle for another day. The Bolts need to get a bit homier with their new lines, sans Stamkos, before locking horns with that particular bull again.
But a time will come, and the Lightning will hopefully be ready.