It was a bit of a surprise tonight when Vincent Lecavalier’s name appeared on the lineup sheet in Tampa Bay, but Lecavalier made his return to action tonight just four weeks after having surgery on his hand for a broken knuckle. To help celebrate, the Lightning pulled off a 2-1 shootout win against Southeast Division running mate Atlanta to welcome back their captain.
Lecavalier played 16:58 tonight and registered four shots on goal and a +1 rating, amounting for a solid night out for the team. The story in this one was the battle between the goaltenders. Atlanta’s Ondrej Pavelec made 30 saves while Mike Smith made 27 saves and got the win in the shootout after stopping all four shots he faced. Only Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman was able to get a goal in the shootout in the fourth round to get the win for Tampa Bay. Tampa’s Sean Bergenheim and Atlanta’s Rich Peverley got the goals that counted in regulation.
With Lecavalier back in the lineup, Tampa Bay’s top two lines look more formidable as one of Tampa Bay’s weaknesses is their depth up the middle. With how great Steve Stamkos has been this year, he and Lecavalier are really the teams only two offensively-capable centers. Giving the second line that balance with Lecavalier back is a huge boost for the Tampa Bay offense. Once the team gets scoring agitator Steve Downie back they’ll be at full speed offensively, but for now Stamkos is doing fine without him.
Tampa now gets themselves in even tighter in the race in the Southeast as the Caps continue to slide and they now tie Atlanta for second place after giving up the charity point and earning two for themselves. If this race can stay close the rest of the way, it could make for an unusually fun race to win the division this season.
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.