The Tampa Bay Lightning lost 3-2 last night against the Carolina Hurricanes. This was just the first game and most of the players for the Lightning either had the night off or they were representing their country or continent in the World Cup of Hockey, but the Hurricanes were missing a few key regulars.
Now, Lightning fans got to see some of the next future Lightning players, as they are trying to leave a good impression for the coaches and fans. Most of those young guys are highly considered prospects in the organization.
However, some veterans are trying to land a job over the youngsters like James Wisniewski, as he is in a battle with youngsters like Slater Koekkoek and Luke Witkowski for one of the final defenseman spots of the team.
In addition, Wisniewski played extremely well out of the gate and throughout the rest of the game. Sticking with the player he was supposed to cover or pick up when coming into his zone. Also, he was very smart in the offensive zone by keeping the puck in the zone to extend drives and making sharp crispy passes. The veteran’s debut ended by blocking two shots and earning a total time of 21:20 on the ice. Out of all the skaters on the ice for the Lightning, he had the highest.
Interestingly, the first young gun to catch my eye was defenseman Libor Hajek. Hajek made his Lightning debut and probably had the best defensive performance by anyone on the ice other than both goalies. The Bolts selected him with the 37th overall pick in this past draft. His debut finished with one assist for a point, one shot on goal, two hits, and one block for a little over 20 minutes.
On the other hand, the Lightning have three solid goalies in Ben Bishop, Andrew Vasilevsky, and Kristers Gudlevskis. The young Latvian goalie got the nod to start tonight for the Lightning and he played quite well, despite allowing two goals, which both were cost due to defensive breakdowns. He saved a ton of shots to keep the Lightning in the game, and if he did not make those tough saves, the score could have gotten ugly. He finished the game with 21 saves, which resulted in a .913 save percentage.
Next, Joel Vermin was playing with some speed, as he was flying down both zones, which resulted in one point (assist), three shots on goal, and one defensive hit.
Finally, the Lightning’s sixth-round pick back in the 2015 draft, Bokondji Imama played at a higher level than displayed last year. He is starting to show that he is not just a fighter, but a better all-around type player. Speed and size is a nice complement to help his chances on making the team or at least playing on a higher line back in Syracuse. Last night, he was finishing his checks and landed three crucial hits, but his offensive game seems the same by being able to screen the goalie and drive to the net. He scored last night by putting back a rebound, which is fine as he is one of the only guys on the current roster to stand in front of the goalie.