Tampa Bay hit the road for its first real road trip of the season. The first stop being at the shiny new arena in Detroit. The Bolts left behind a perfect 3-0-0 home stand to test their road game in a place that has treated them well over the past few years. While the wins have piled up over Detroit over the years, the way the Lightning have gotten those wins has very rarely been pretty. This night would be no different, as Tampa Bay jumped to an early lead only to be outplayed for most of the game and find themselves on equal footing going into the third period. A greasy goal by Nikita Kucherov ended up being the last one they needed to grind out a win in what would be Detroit’s first loss in their new home.
Here are my “5 Things of Note” from the game.
1) Bad Habits Die Hard
The first two games of the season we saw a Tampa Bay team scrambling to find possession and being out-skated for most of the game. It seemed as though much had been fixed as the Lightning beat three of the leagues top teams in a row in impressive fashion. However, now on the road, we once again saw a team that seemed to lack structure and discipline. Inconsistency has been a noted problem for this team for a few years now. It certainly wasn’t expected to fix itself overnight. This is something that will have to be continually worked on throughout the season. Bringing their “A” game every night in a consistent fashion. When they do, they are an extremely hard team to beat. In the meantime, this team is skilled enough to get by on most nights even when the bad habits rear their ugly heads. These bad habits might die hard, but if Tampa Bay has any hopes to have an ultimately successful season, they need to focus on burying these habits six feet under for good.
That’s one “u” for each goal Kucherov has scored this year. You don’t need an entire paragraph to explain to you just how good Kucherov has been so far this season. He has put himself in ultra elite company such as Yzerman and Lemieux by scoring a goal in each of the first six games of the season. Just know that when we are talking about Nikita Kucherov in the last few games of the season, there will be a lot more “u’s” in his name.
Tampa Bay will be the answer for two trivia questions for years to come related to Detroit Red Wings home losses. The most recent was the first loss for the home side in Detroit’s shiny new arena. In the 2016 playoffs, Tampa Bay played Detroit in what would be their final playoff game at “The Joe”. Another loss for the home team. Needless to say, seeing Tampa Bay on the home schedule probably isn’t a boost of confidence for the Wings at this point. The Lightning seem to love crashing whatever party Detroit is throwing at the time and leaving their fans with a lasting memory of a loss. Mi casa es su casa right Detroit?
4) Hockeytown Smockeytown
Speaking of fans of Detroit, where are they? For a city that was known as “Hockeytown” for the longest time, they haven’t shown up for awhile now to support their home town boys. Even a brand spanking new arena hasn’t seemed to do the trick as many, many, and I mean many, empty seats were seen during the broadcast. Maybe there is just a lot of really cool things to see on the concourses. Maybe there are a lot of really nice restaurants to eat in throughout the arena. Maybe the bathroom lines are really long(shout out to Edmonton). Or maybe, Detroit only cares for their hockey team when they are making the playoffs. Apparently 25 years of playoff appearances isn’t enough goodwill to keep fans in the seats just one year removed. Detroit doesn’t seem like much of a “Hockeytown” to me. In fact, it’s more like a ghost town.
5) Strange Sequence
In what was one of the most bizarre sequences you will ever see during a hockey game, fans from both teams were sent on a roller coaster of emotions in the second period. A ridiculously strange bounce off the glass, a hooking penalty, a goaltender interference, and a rebound goal all in the span of a few seconds. However once the play was over is when the real fun started. The Red Wings thought they scored, Jon Cooper thought it was goalie interference. Turns out, Cooper was right as video review confirmed his position. The goal was wiped away. With the goal wiped away the hooking penalty on Hedman was now back on the table so Hedman goes to the box. And in an act I have never seen before, after the penalty is called and Hedman was in the box, the officials whimsically decided to cancel the penalty and go ahead and give Detroit a penalty shot. Of which Abdelkader converted to ultimately give the Wings that first goal. What is odd here, okay, what is the most odd here, is how the penalty got changed to a penalty shot after the call was made. This is something I’ve never seen or heard of happening and frankly, I’m not entirely sure it is legal under the rule book as I feel the refs used the video review to change their mind and that is not allowed per NHL rules. So on one hand the video review worked in favor of Tampa Bay, but the refs over reached their bounds here and used the review for more than what was being challenged and eventually used the Tampa Bay review to reward Detroit. I’m most definitely interested to hear if the league has anything to say about this whole situation although I’m certainly not holding my breath on that.
So Tampa Bay has won its fifth straight game. Climbing to the top of the league’s standings by capturing ten of its first possible twelve points. Some games have been impressive victories while others have left a lot to be desired other than the end result. The Lightning will take their two points from Detroit and happily go on their way, but they need to be better and they know it. Tampa Bay won’t have much time to enjoy their stolen victory from the jaws of defeat as they head to take on New Jersey who has surprised so far in the early goings. Best bet is we will see Peter Budaj make his first start of the season, and while Budaj will assuredly provide a solid outing, Tampa Bay can’t have another performance like this one if they expect to collect another two points.