Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 5:19 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: what it's going to take for Steven Stamkos to become the first 60-goal scorer since 2007-08, and whether or not it's even possible.
Steven Stamkos has been the one consistent bright spot for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, and he is currently putting together the most productive goal-scoring season of his young career.
Through Tampa Bay's first 63 games he is leading the league with 44 goals, seven more than Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin as of Wednesday afternoon. Barring injury he looks to be well on his way to the second 50-goal season of his career, as well as his second Rocket Richard Trophy. (He shared the goal-scoring crown during the 2009-10 season with Sidney Crosby, with both players scoring 51 goals).
He has clearly taken over as the NHL's best, and most dangerous goal scoring threat.
But he also has a chance -- a very small chance -- to do something that only one player has done over the past 14 years -- score 60 goals in a single season. It's not going to be easy, of course, and it's probably going to take a great deal of luck along the way, but it's not entirely out of the question, either.
Scoring 50 goals these days is rare enough. Since the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005-06 only 10 different players have scored even 50 goals in a single season (Alex Ovechkin has done it four times, Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk have done it twice, Stamkos, Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Jaromir Jagr and Corey Perry have all done it once).
Scoring 60 goals in this era is practically unheard of.
Ovechkin was the last player to reach the mark having scored 65 goals during the 2007-08 season. Before that you have to go all the way back to the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux and Jagr scored 69 and 62 goals respectively for the Penguins.
With 19 games remaining on the schedule for Tampa Bay, Stamkos needs 16 goals to reach 60 for the season. Twice in his career he's had 19-game stretches where he's scored at least 16 goals, including one such run earlier this season between games 20 and 38 for the Lightning, scoring 16 goals on 61 shots.
His best 19-game stretch came at the start of last season he averaged a goal-per-game over the first 19 games of the season. So it is possible, and he's done it before.
If he were to maintain his current shooting percentage for the season, a career-best 19.9 percent, he would need to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 shots on goal over the final 19 games of the season to score 16 goals. That's a lot. Even worse, if he were to shoot at his career average of 16.8 percent he would need to generate nearly 100 shots in 19 games, which is just over five per game. That's nearly impossible. Especially if you add in the fact that he's already in the middle of a hot streak, having scored seven goals in his past seven games, which would mean he would need to finish the season with 23 goals in 26 games.
One of the biggest reasons we no longer see 60 (or even 50) goal seasons is the same reason goal-scoring as a whole is down across the league -- a declining number of power play opportunities.
Stamkos is at his most lethal to opposing teams when the Lightning are on the man-advantage and his teammates are able to feed him one-timer after one-timer from the circle. With the average NHL team getting just 3.5 power play opportunities per game this season, the lowest average the NHL has seen in over 10 years, and the Lightning actually well below that average at just 3.1 opportunities per game, players just aren't getting as many prime opportunities to put up huge goal totals.
And it's why the 60-goal scorer is nearly extinct in the NHL.
Photo: Getty Images
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Posted on: February 12, 2012 11:13 pm
The Tampa Bay Lightning franchise isn't that old, so franchise records aren't always the most impressive at this point. The storied history isn't exactly storied.
But two goals from one player in 11 seconds? That's good for any franchise.
Downie is known more for his pest-like ways and fighting, but he's not completely new to the scoring thing. He does have 11 on the season after Sunday's outburst.
Of course, Johnson was pretty tough the other 59:49 of the game, not allowing a goal all that time.
The previous franchise record for Tampa Bay was 16 seconds, pulled off by Jason Weimer back in 1997.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:38 am
Edited on: January 26, 2012 5:08 pm
Go back a few weeks when Randy Cunneyworth's "hiring" in Montreal was all the rage. Literally, rage. It led to organized protests against the Canadiens organization, not just Cunneyworth (although that was the impetus).
Those who didn't support Cunneyworth's hiring because he doesn't speak French were upset not only with the Cunneyworth promotion, but what they called the entire Anglicization of the Montreal Canadiens, Quebec's only team since the Nordiques became the Avalanche.
The list of complaints went beyond the coach not speaking French, however. Here is what the Canadian Press reported about the protests.
Protesters also complained the music played at the Bell Centre is in English, that announcements are in both languages and that the team has few francophone players.
I laughed when I first saw that. Would the people of Quebec rather have a team of Francophones that stink than a team of Anglophones that wins (of course they have neither right now)?
So that got me to thinking: What would an all French-speaking, Quebec-born team look like? I wanted to take a look and see how good of a team I could put together, keeping salary cap restraints in mind. (Hey folks, it's the All-Star break, just having some fun here.) Consider this my own All-Star fantasy draft.
Let's just get right to it, shall we?
Alain Vigneault is the guy. The Quebec City native has actually tried coaching the Canadiens before, making the playoffs only once from 1997-2001. He was fired midseason in the 2000-01 campaign. But he's found success since moving on to Vancouver, winning the Jack Adams once and coming in as a finalist in 2011 (he was also a finalist in 2000 with the Habs). A return trip to Montreal will hopefully go better this time.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Jean-Sebastien Giguere get the nod here. Now this is a position where I have a lot of choices. Fleury I think is a pretty clear starter based partly on his age, but for the second spot there are a lot of veterans: Giguere, Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Mathieu Garon and Jonathan Bernier. They can stop pucks in Quebec, that's pretty clear.
In terms of salary, Fleury takes up $5 million, Giguere only $1.25. So $6.25 million in goal is a decent price to pay, but not bad.
I'm going with (in no particular pairing order) Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Francois Beauchemin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Stephane Robidas and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Letang leads the scoring punch while Bergeron, Beauchemin and to an extent Vlasic adding some more points. Defensively, Vlasic and Beauchemin highlight a pretty good two-way corps. But if anybody goes down, it gets thin after that.
As a whole, the defensemen don't cost that much. Beauchemin ($3.8 million), Letang ($3.5 million), Robidas ($3.3 million), Vlasic ($3.1 million), Bergeron ($1 million) and Gragnani (550,000) come in at a total of $15.25 million.
Now this is a group of guys I like: Patrice Bergeron, Danny Briere, David Desharnais and Maxime Talbot. You'll notice one pretty big omission here and that's Vincent Lecavalier, but that $10 million per year is too big of a burden, I don't know how the Lightning do it. But I still have two guys who can score, arguably the best defensive center in the game, a young and promising player in Desharnais and a solid worker in Talbot.
Naturally this is costing me some cash here. Briere ($6.5 million) is costly, then add Bergeron ($5 million) before getting a little reprieve with Talbot ($1.75 million) and Desharnais ($850,000). In total, they take up $14.1 million.
OK, I take it back about center. This is where my team is really loaded. Check out this lineup of Martin St. Louis, Jason Pominville, P.A. Parenteau and Alex Burrows. That's some serious scoring ability on the wing. I didn't have room for Maxim Lapierre or Pascal Dupuis at this position, but more on them later.
As you'd expect, this is the most expensive per-player corps on the team. St. Louis commands a cool $5.625 million, Pominville takes $5.3 million, Burrows costs $2 million and Parenteau a very reasonable $1.25 million. Total bill: $14.175 million.
Here we have an Achilles' heel. The lineup we could toss out is Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Alex Tanguay, David Perron and Guillaume Latendresse, but that's an awfully risky group of players. Each of Bouchard, Perron and Latendresse have dealt with concussions while Tanguay has been suffering with a neck strain. So to add a little stability, I'm going to convert Dupuis to the left side and leave out Bouchard -- more expensive than Latendresse.
The good news is this group doesn't cost a whole lot. Tanguay ($3.5 million), Latendresse ($2.5 million), Perron ($2.15 million) and Dupuis ($1.5 million) run up a bill of $9.65 million.
Since he didn't make the list at right wing, Lapierre is going to serve as our daily scratch. But really he's likely going to be playing a lot at left wing with the injury potential. What he also gives is a physical presence. He's at least not averse to dropping the gloves, having five fights this season for Vancouver. Maybe we could try and talk Georges Laraque to coming back and serving the enforcer role, but undoubtedly sitting in press row most nights.
Lapierre comes in at an even $1 million.
The total salary for this team checks in at $60.425 million, giving our GM (we'll just keep Pierre Gauthier) a little room to maneuver or sign maybe another defenseman that would likely sit in the press box most nights.
Moreover, the top prospect in the system would have to be Jonathan Huberdeau, the player who went third overall to Florida in the last NHL Draft. He's likely to be in the NHL next season and right now projects to be a center but he can also play on the wing, so he could help out with the weaker left side.
In the end, it's actually a much better team than I thought it could be. It might be a little lacking in the physical department, but the team has a lot of ingredients: It has some big-time scorers (seriously, a top two lines of Tanguay-Bergeron-St. Louis and Perron-Briere-Pominville isn't bad at all), it has some agitators (I'm looking at you, Burrows and Lapierre), is good defensively and I think it's solid in net.
And don't forget, everybody speaks French!
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Tags: Alain Vigneault, Alex Burrows, Alex Tanguay, Brian Stubits, Danny Briere, David Desharnais, David Perron, Francois Beauchemin, Georges Laraque, Guillaume Latendresse, Jason Pominville, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jose Theodore, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Marc-Andre Fleury, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Martin Biron, Martin Brodeur, Martin St. Louis, Mathieu Garon, Maxim Lapierre, Maxime Talbot, Montreal Canadiens, P.A. Parenteau, Pascal Dupuis, Patrice Bergeron, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Randy Cunneyworth, Stephane Robidas, Vincent Lecavalier
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am
WASHINGTON -- In case you have forgotten, Steven Stamkos is still good. Really, really good.
You don't hear a whole lot about him these days because the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't setting the league on fire again this season. In fact, they're the only ones getting torched. Last season they were battling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, this season they currently had the last spot thanks to what is currently a seven-game losing streak.
In one of his Pucks & Numbers segments earlier this season, my colleague Adam Gretz broke down the Lightning's struggles this year and while everybody wants to point the finger at the defense and goaltending (it's way subpar, so that's fair) neither was good last season either. The difference is the scoring is down.
Maybe this helps to put it in perspective. Now Stamkos is the best scorer going in the NHL right now, but his 30 goals represent nearly 1/4 of the Lightning's 121-goal total. That's not a whole lot of help. Here we are in January and only three players have double-digit goals for Tampa Bay and one of them, Martin St. Louis, barely qualifies with 10.
To put it another way, he is being asked to carry a massive amount of the Lightning's offensive load. For somebody who is still shy of his 22nd birthday, that's asking a lot. But that's not a workload that Stamkos isn't willing to bear.
"I always put pressure on myself as an offensive guy," Stamkos told CBSSports.com "If you ask Vinny [Vincent Lecavalier] or Marty [St. Louis], they feel the same way. Guys expect us to produce, we expect the penalty kill guys to do well on the penalty kill, our goalies to stop the puck and our defensemen to shut the other team down. Everybody has a role and for me, I want to produce and help our team win. I probably put the most pressure on myself to do that."
He's doing his part more than admirably. As mentioned, he leads the league with 30 goals (clear of the pack by six goals, mind you). He was a no-brainer to be the Lightning's All-Star selection this season. Frankly, there were not any exciting options after Stamkos anyway.
He has been the lone beacon of light in an otherwise dark Lightning season. Expectations were raised significantly after last season when the Bolts were one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final, taking the Boston Bruins to the limit in a Game 7. Those haven't been met, to put it mildly.
"It's frustrating right now," Stamkos said. "We don't doubt anybody's character in this room and their desire to win. There's been too many of those this year where we deserved to win and we didn't."
His team St. Louis echoed those sentiments from his stall right next to Stamkos'.
"We've lost six in a row. It's normal to feel the way we do," St. Louis said. "But you got to get ready for the next game, you know? You have to get ready for the next game, you can't feel sorry for yourself. There's still 40, 39 or whatever games left. A lot can happen. If you just give in right now it's going to be a long year."
Their head coach, Guy Boucher, was not long ago seen as the best young coach in the league after his rookie season last year. Funny how perceptions change when the breaks don't go your way.
"There's years where everything works and there are years where things don't work out," said Boucher, the longest-tenured coach in the Southeast at a year and a half. "You see where you are when things don't work out so much. I think circumstances have been tough for us but players have been dealing with it with a lot of class and they've been very resilient. Never quit, we always come back.
"What's tough is that we're just not getting the breaks. It's been like that for a long time, that's the story of our season. We've got injuries and more injuries, adversity and adversity and the breaks just are not coming at all."
The frustration in the locker room is palpable. It's been evident on the ice too. In Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, some of it boiled over for Lecavalier, who was given a misconduct after throwing a punch to Evgeni Malkin's face in a scrum for what Lecavalier felt was a shot at his knees.
In Friday's 4-3 loss to the Capitals, the frustration even showed for Stamkos, normally a pretty reserved guy on the ice. He took exception to a hit from Troy Brouwer on St. Louis that sent the Lightning captain into the boards. It only drew a two-minute minor for interference, but it drew more ire from Stamkos, who came flying in to smash Brouwer into the boards and then start throwing haymakers.
I admit I had to double-check to see it was No. 91 (Stamkos) instead of No. 9 Steve Downie, a guy who isn't a stranger to mixing it up, his fight earlier in the game with Karl Alzner a testament to that. But it was Stammer alright.
"Stick up for your teammates; that's the way I was brought up," Stamkos said. "Everyone on this team, it's a team mentality. Everyone would probably do that for Marty as well."
"Marty's his buddy, Marty's the guy that groomed him," Boucher said. "Anybody who sees Marty get something like that is going to jump in ... I'm proud of him. We stick together. It's like marriage. They ask you through thick and thin, the answer is always yes. But when the tough comes how do you react? We stick together, that's how it is through adversity."
And through that adversity Stamkos has only gotten better. He's on pace to break his own career high of 51 goals but is below his career-best 91-point pace with only 20 assists so far. But he can't assist on his own goals, to state the obvious.
Here's a sign of how much Stamkos is growing as a scorer. His power play goals are way down this season, obviously meaning that he's doing a lot more scoring at even strength. Last season he scored 17 on the man advantage, 24 two seasons ago -- almost half of his season total. But this season's power play goals represent only 1/6 of his scores thus far.
You could look at that the other way and point to his power play numbers being down, but this is a team that has struggled to get the power play right for a while. That tends to happen when you are missing some of your top defensemen. Sagging power play numbers could get to some players and leave them lagging in the confidence department.
But not Stamkos, who is only getting better, even if there's little publicity about it.
"You just try to get better as a player each and every year," Stamkos said. "You try to be more of a complete player each and every year. It's my fourth year now. I've learned a lot in this league. I got the opportunity to go far in the playoffs last year and I figured what hockey is all about. It's made me a better player. I just want to stay consistent and help this team win.
"It's not fun right now the position we're in, but I'm just doing everything I can to improve and help our team win."
He might not be having much fun, but he is getting more fun to watch by the year.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: January 16, 2012 1:53 pm
By: Adam Gretz
During his third period destruction of the Lightning on Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin found himself in the middle of a confrontation with Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier.
The incident started when Malkin ducked out of the way along the boards to avoid a check from Lecavalier, and ended when the Tampa Bay captain threw a punch at Malkin's face during a scrum. When all was said and done, Lecavalier was issued 14 penalty minutes (four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct) while Malkin received a two-minute minor of his own.
It's been reported on Monday that Lecavalier will not face any further discipline from the NHL for that late punch that he delivered.
The entire incident has sparked a bit of a bizarre reaction, as the Lightning felt that Malkin was taking a run at Lecavalier's knee, while analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury put the blame on Malkin for trying to avoid the check, and even went as far as to compare it to the Brad Marchand-Sami Salo incident from last week (and in case you forgot about that one, you can read up on it here).
And here is Milbury and Jones talking about Sunday's incident, and all of the important on-ice action that led to it.
I'm not sure I buy the argument that it's at all comparable to the Marchand-Salo play, but what do you think? Is it the same thing? And should Lecavalier have faced any supplemental discipline from the league for his punch?
Previously at Eye On Hockey
Brad Marchand suspended for clipping
More NHL Discipline news
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:42 am
It's always fun when players are asked who is the most overrated player in their sport. It often shows a divide on how players are perceived within the game vs. outside from the media and fans.
With that in mind, here are the results of Sports Illustrated's poll of 161 players asking them who the most overrated player in the league is.
There are a couple of things that stick out to me. Players obviously are very aware of how much players are being paid and their corresponding production. Why else would Scott Gomez make No. 3 on this list? I think he fell off the rating radar more than a year ago for the fans/media side. He has become an afterthought for most people, that's how bad he has been. Same goes for Vincent Lecavalier, just to a much lesser extent than Gomez.
The other observation I made is that the list has a high number of Canadian-based players. Eight of the 15 on the list play for one of Canada's seven teams. The Calgary Flames, for example, have three players on the list. That leads me to wondering how Jarome Iginla could crack this list, but I digress.
Who's your pick for the most overrated?
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 28, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 5:21 pm
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look what has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
By: Adam Gretz
It was less than a year ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 from representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Thirty-five games into the 2011-12 season and Tampa Bay finds itself in 13th place in the conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. As we talked about last week, that's already a deficit that is dangerously close to being too much to overcome at this point in the season, especially with five teams ahead of them for the last playoff spot.
So what has changed for Guy Boucher's team in a span of eight months, going from potential Stanley Cup team to what is currently one of the worst teams in the league?
The easy answer is goaltending, as the duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has been dreadful, currently owning the second-worst team save percentage in the league, barely ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 30th spot. The position was a major problem in the early part of last season as well, and it was covered up with a short-term band-aid thanks to general manager Steve Yzerman's New Years Day trade that landed Roloson from the New York Islanders. He ended up getting hot at the right time and helped lead the Lightning through the first two rounds of the playoffs as the team upset Pittsburgh and Washington, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the former, and sweeping the latter in four straight games.
Entering this season the Lightning decided to stick with the 42-year-old Roloson, a risky maneuver given his age and the number of miles that were already on the tires. So far, it hasn't worked out.
While the Lightning have become synonymous with their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap and have faced their share of criticism for playing such a "boring" system (no, we haven't forgotten about this), the team has given up a ton of goals over the past season-and-a-half. A lot of that has to do with the bad goaltending, as the Lightning do a pretty good job limiting the number of shots taken by the opposition (though, they are worse in that area this season). Still, they were 21th in the NHL in terms of goals allowed last season, and after 35 games this season are 27th.
There are a couple of things working against the Lightning this season.
While the team has young Stars in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and great veteran players like Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, it also has some older parts that, obviously, are now a year older than they were a year ago. Even worse, they've also been without defenseman Mattias Ohlund for the entire season, a player that handled some of the toughest minutes and assignments last season. He didn't provide any offense, but he was the go-to guy in terms of defensive assignments. His absence has not only impacted the overall depth on the team's blue line, but also forced Hedman and Eric Brewer into playing all of the tough assignments that Ohlund would have ordinarily handled.
And, of course, there is more.
Let's just look at some numbers through the first 35 games of the past two seasons:
So here we are. Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson has been pointing out over the past week on Twitter that the Lightning have given up nearly the same number of goals this season as they did through the same number of games last season. And he's right. But that's not necessarily a good thing because the number is way too high. And again, the Lightning had a trade in their back pocket on Jan. 1 last season that enabled the team to improve that area as the season went on. Roloson wasn't great, but he was good enough and enough of an upgrade over the alternative. He also hit the aforementioned hot streak at the right time. If the Lightning hadn't made that trade there's a good chance that playoff run never happens. Yzerman is going to need to pull off a similar move (or perhaps a bigger one, involving more of a long-term solution that isn't a player over the age of 40) to help get Tampa Bay back where it wants to be (and needs to be) in the crease if a return to the playoffs is in the team's future.
But while the goals against are nearly identical, there's a pretty large difference from one year to the next that sticks out like a sore thumb: the power play.
Both the number of power play opportunities and the frequency in which they've been able to score on the man advantage. The Lightning didn't win many games last season by keeping their opponents off the scoreboard, they won a lot of games by outscoring them in some of the highest scoring games in the league. A lot of that was the result of a power play that was pretty much unstoppable when it was on top of its game.
A year ago Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the league, converting on 20 percent of its chances. This season? 25th. And even worse, it's a unit that's not generating a ton of shots when it does get an opportunity.
It's been a perfect storm for Tampa Bay this season. Some aging players, bad goaltending, the absence of the best and most reliable defensive defenseman on the team and a power play that's regressed. Basically, a little bit of everything.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:35 pm
In the second period of their game in Madison Square Garden, there was a really interesting sequence that unfolded. While on the power play, a Lightning slap shot took down Brett Connolly in front of the Rangers crease, leading to a breakout the other direction. The rush was finished off by Artem Anisimov scoring a goal. The place was excited.
Then all hell broke loose. Relatively speaking, of course.
Obviously pleased with his effort and the go-ahead goal, Anisimov felt like celebrating. That's all fine and dandy, until he decided to pretend his stick is a gun and aim right for Mathieu Garon and the Lightning net. Vincent Lecavalier wasn't happy as you might expect.
The ensuing scrum resulted in four minutes of roughing for Marc-Andre Bergeron, two for roughing on Steven Stamkos, two minutes for roughing on Downie and a 10-minute misconduct, four minutes for Brandon Dubinsky on roughing, two minutes to Anisimov for unsportsmanlike conduct, four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Phew!
"It's wrong, we all know that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's the wrong thing to do. He's a solid, solid guy who made a mistake. He's not an idiot."
"I guess I'm in a protective mode because he deserves to be protected."
Tortorella went on to say that Anisimov apologized for his celebration and that he'll be available to the media on Friday. Nor did Tortorella blame his former team, the Lightning, for their reaction, admitting that Anisimov crossed a line."Artie's not doing it to do anything against their team," Brad Richards added. "Artie won't do that again. He wasn't trying to embarrass anybody."
That would have been the end of and the sportsmanship of Anisimov would have been the only remaining talking point for the next few days.
That's until you see the replay again and wonder, where did Downie come from to join that scrum? That's right, the bench. That means an automatic suspension is coming his way -- if it's determined it wasn't a line change. That could be the one thing that saves Downie if they decide he was coming onto the ice for the next shift after goal, but it sure doesn't look that way.
Eric Godard learned the suspension lesson last year with the Penguins. Making it worse, Downie doesn't have a pristine reputation. Brendan Shanahan might add more games on to what could be a long suspension.
In the end, it was the Lightning getting the last laugh, winning in a shootout after a late comeback to end their five-game losing streak.
But back to the original celebration. Are you OK with Anisimov going gunny on the Lightning?