Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Goalie Of The Future?

The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired a third round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in the J.T. Miller trade to the Vancouver Canucks, which was the 71st overall pick. With that selection, they chose Swedish goaltender Hugo Alnefelt.

While I was at first skeptical, due to the fact the Lightning have a young, franchise goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy for the next 5-10 years, I did remember they traded away their only goalie prospect Connor Ingram. Besides, you can never have too many goalies. 

Basics 

The slightly undersized net-minder is 6’2, 173 pounds. He hails from Danderyd, Sweden (a suburb of Stockholm). Last season, he played for HV71’s U20 team in the Swedish SuperElit league. In 24 games, Alnefelt put up a 2.59 Goals Against Average and a .905 Save%. Those stats are very underwhelming, but there are many reasons as to why he was worthy of a third round selection.

Scouting Report 

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I am very excited about Alnefelt’s potential.

In the footage that I’ve seen, Alnefelt was not tested a whole lot, so I couldn’t get a full read if constant pressure leads to him sort of breaking, and giving up leaky goals. However, I did notice a lot of other things. His composure and poise is through the roof.

All of his movements are perfectly timed and flow beautifully with the pace of play like it’s an art. He is technically sound in his movements, and is very powerful with his legs pushing across. Alnefelt never pushes too far, and is really good with his edges to stop himself. He has a lightning quick reaction time which allows him to adjust to deflections in front of him.

Also, he has really solid glove and blocker hands too. He looks like a robot, that is programmed to track the puck, and move with it wherever it goes, to the best ability. Plus, the Swede has the ability to make flashy saves every now and again, but tends to just make a save and not make it hard on himself. Alnefelt is just so smooth and appears to calm and collective in net, and it’s something I haven’t really seen before, or at least, have taken notice of.

Another thing I noticed was how quickly he goes up and down. He is extremely difficult to beat five hole with his ability to quickly go down. Alnefelt recovers quickly to make the second save if needed, but overall has exceptional rebound control, something a lot of young goalies need a lot of work on. Additionally, he’s very well positioned, and has good angles for almost every shot. Even if there’s traffic in front or a scramble for the puck, he always seems to track and find the puck, which is extremely impressive. He likes going around behind his net to play the puck went it is sent in, and while he tends to just settle the puck for a teammate to collect it, he has the capability to pass the puck up ice for a quick breakout.

One thing that Alnefelt needs to be better at is his aggressiveness. He gets too deep in his net at times, and that gives his opponents more net to shoot at. However, that certainly comes with maturity, and he will be able to work out the kinks down the road. 

Future Role 

Alnefelt is one of the most impressive goalies I have ever seen, he has great composure and coolness to his game. I believe he is further along in his development than most other goalies in this draft. People don’t give him enough credit because statistics rule the sports world and he doesn’t have great numbers.

I could see him playing in the SHL, which is the top Swedish league next season, and then come across to North America and play in the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch.

One day, I could see him as a future starter, but not a flashy goaltender. He’s reliable though. Just a goalie who goes in, does his job, and that’s it. 

At the end of the day, he was great pick-up for Tampa.

All stats eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Steals The Show At The NHL Awards

The Tampa Bay Lightning were well represented at the NHL Awards.

Tampa came home with four trophies, as well as Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy being named to the first team all-stars, Victor Hedman named a second team all-star and Anthony Cirelli being placed on the all-rookie team.

Nikita Kucherov

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To no one’s surprise, Kucherov almost cleaned the house, as he won the Hart, the Lindsay and the Art Ross trophies. Listen, when you put up 128 points in 82 games, something that hasn’t been done since Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in the 90s, you deserve the trophies you got nominated for. He’s also the first player in Lightning history since Martin St Louis to win the Hart trophy (2003-04, which was 15 years ago). Well deserved, and he will look to do it again next season.

Andrei Vasilevskiy

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After coming up shy last season in Vezina voting, Vasilevskiy was back with a vengeance. However, I have to say it, he was more deserving last year than this year. Both Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner had better statistics, despite playing in fewer games. The only thing Vasilevskiy had on them was wins, and that’s because he had the best team, on paper, playing in front of him night-in and night-out. But, he won it, and nothing can take that from him. He is a world-class net-minder, and he was able to take what he was robbed of last year. Like Kucherov with the Hart, he is looking to have another Vezina worthy season next year.

Victor Hedman

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Despite coming up short in the Norris voting, Hedman was still given one accolade. He was named to the second team all-star roster, meaning the league thought of him as a top 4 defenseman league wide last year. Another very deserving award/accolade given to a great defenseman. Without Hedman, the Lightning would be lost on the backend, and that will continue as long as he is at 100% with the Lightning.

Anthony Cirelli

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Cirelli being named to the all-rookie team really doesn’t sound like much, but it is. To me, Cirelli always came off as under-appreciated league wide, but him named to this all-rookie team changes that.

He doesn’t produce at a high level offensively, with 19 goals and 20 assists last season (39 points), but he is a very reliable forward for the Lightning. He had an impressive 53.7 Corsi-For% despite his very high defensive deployment (started 58.7% of shifts in the defensive zone). Cirelli also had an incredible 46 takeaways to just 15 giveaways, a fantastic showing of puck control and smarts. Cirelli doesn’t force plays and is very smart with the puck. He is more than deserving of a spot on the all-rookie team. Cirelli will look to keep his rookie season success going into next year.

All stats via hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Who Has The Best Shot Of Winning The Vezina?

Usually when people talk about the Vezina trophy, and who wins it, most people mention names like Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, amongst others. However, none of the names I have mentioned above were nominated this year.

The nominees are Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. I’m gonna talk about each nominee and who I believe will win the trophy for the NHL’s best goalie this year.

Vasilevskiy

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Let’s start off with Andrei Vasilevskiy. From the get-go in his NHL career, the Russian goaltender was truly impressive. In his first two years that he was the starting goaltender, he’s been nominated for the Vezina both years.

This past season, Vasilevskiy posted a 39-10-4 record this year. Without Vasilevskiy, the Bolts would not have had as near as a good season as they did, and I won’t talk about the playoffs because we all know how those ended for the Bolts. But, looking back on the season, Vasilevskiy also posted a .925 SV%. That’s ridiculously good. Plus, he posted a 2.40 GAA.

Although the 24 year old has had yet another amazing year, I do not believe he will win the trophy this year.

Bishop

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Bishop played fewer games than Vasilevskiy, but outplayed him in the amount of games that he did play. He posted a 27-15-2 record while playing 46 games and finishing with a 1.98 GAA and .934 SV%. I believe Ben Bishop had one of the best years in his career. This year was a lot better for Bishop than his first year in Dallas (last season). Last season wasn’t a bad season for Bishop, but it was no where as close to what he was able to pull of this season. In 53 games played last season, he posted a record of 26-17-5, a 2.49 GAA and a .916 SV%.  

Even though he had a spectacular season, I do not think he wins it this year. I think he is a close second.

Lehner

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Robin Lehner. I could simply describe his season in one word. Wow.

To me he is the clear winner of the Vezina. Being a Senators fan, I’ve always had a liking for Lehner. Even though he was not the most solid net-minder when he played for the nation’s capital, I still enjoyed watching him play and still do.

This year, Lehner posted a 25-13-5 record in 46 games this year in his first year with Long Island. He also recorded a .930 SV% and a 2.13 GAA. Easily the best numbers in his rollercoaster of a career. For me, what makes Lehner the winner of this trophy is the way he took the challenge of being the starting goalie of a team that was believed by many to be in the dumps this year and took them to the playoffs. He helped the Islanders make the playoffs after the face of their franchise left the year before. And Lehner accomplished this while struggling with his inner demons. I think he’s finally found his home in the NHL and for me he wins the trophy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, all nominees have their own arguments for why they deserve the trophy, however I believe that Robin Lehner truly was the best goaltender in the NHL this year.

Puck77

National Hockey League: Who Will Take Home The Hart Trophy?

The NHL Awards Show is coming up, and the finalists have already been announced. There are favorites and there are snubs, and fans have been vocal about who should win, and who deserves a nomination.

 

The Hart trophy is no different, and there have been varying cases for all three finalists. The Hart Trophy, for those who don’t know, is awarded to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. Here are the finalists, and why they should, or could, win.

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Why He Should Win: Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which, for this era, is unbelievable. He showed dominance in the league that had not been seen since the Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux era in Pittsburgh. He has already claimed the Art Ross trophy for most points in the entire league. A guy so dominant deserves this trophy certainly, but are point totals really enough?

Why He Should Not Win: Kucherov has every reason to win, but let’s look at what awards the players this trophy. “The player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” His own team. This is not league MVP, which Kucherov would claim, hands down.

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Was Kucherov really that vital to his teams performance? Well, yes, but if you take him out, the Lightning will still be a playoff team. They have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s also not a captain, nor an assistant captain, so you can’t turn to leadership qualities for help. Yes, he led his team in points by a wide margin, and yes, he had a historical season in every sense. But no, Tampa would not blow up if he were not there.

 

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He Should Win: Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Phil Kessel was swirling in trade rumors and Evgeni Malkin struggled, Sidney Crosby remained Sidney Crosby. He led the Penguins in points with 100, 18 more than second place Kessel. He led the team in assists with 65, 10 more than second place Kessel. He finished second on the team in goals with 35, behind linemate Jake Guentzel (40) and ahead of third place Kessel (27). He was tied with Kessel for power play goals (12) and had the most time on ice among forwards, averaging 20:59. He is the heart and soul of the Penguins, and their captain.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win: The Penguins had a down year in terms of where they finished as a team, as well as some individually underwhelming production. Crosby did not, as he held strong to his name. However, he’s just like Kucherov in a sense that the Penguins may not be awful if he were to leave them. Crosby is a huge figure in the locker room, but the Penguins still have so much star power with Malkin, Guentzel, Kris Letang, Kessel, Justin Schultz, and Matt Murray. They would still be a far different team, but I still believe they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Why He Should Win: As the captain of the Oilers, he went on to do McDavid things. He finished second in the league in points with 116, just 12 points behind the otherworldly production of Kucherov. He finished with 41 goals, which is tied with Kucherov for sixth in the league. He also notched 75 assists, second to only Kucherov (87) around the entire league. Edmonton is not a good team, and if you take McDavid off the roster, they’d be worse than the Ottawa Senators. What McDavid does for this team, no one can top it.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win It: While Kucherov was able to lead the Lightning towards a President’s Trophy, and Crosby was able to snag a playoff spot with the Penguins, McDavid was left golfing. He wasn’t good enough to get his team to the playoffs, despite being one of the best players in the league.

 

Deeper Dive

One way to decide whether or not a player was more lucky than successful is by looking at a stat that ultimately quantifies a players luck.

Higher than a 100 PDO means that person was lucky, and likely won’t repeat their season at that clip. Under 100 PDO is unlucky, and likely means that player could have done better. 100 PDO is average, not lucky or unlucky.

Kucherov finished the season with a 102.7, Crosby finished with a 101.9, and McDavid finished with a 100.7. That being said, Kucherov’s historic season was spectacular, but required a lot of luck, and he likely will never reach that total again in his career.

Crosby did not have as spectacular of a year, posting the lowest goal, assist, and point totals among the finalists, but still required some luck to reach triple digits, and if the Penguins struggles continue into next season, Crosby may not reach the 100-point plateau.

Meanwhile, McDavid was just a little over average, not requiring much luck to reach an incredible 116 points, and has a good chance of consistently hitting those marks despite being on a relatively weak roster.

 

In Conclusion

McDavid deserves this trophy through and through, because he produced at a very high rate, and didn’t need a lot of bounces to go his way to reach his mark, showing that he can consistently reach that same production season by season. He’s also the only guy you can look at and say “Without him, his team would really struggle.” He’s also the captain, and the captain of any team is extremely important as is. So while he didn’t produce like Kucherov did, he has the “C” on his sweater, and not as much luck on the ice.

 

Stats via NHL.com

PDO via Hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

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IIHF World Hockey Championship: Recapping The Finals

FINLAND HAS WON THE 2019 IIHF WORLD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS  AND ACHIVED THE IMPOSSIBLE ON THE FINAL DAY

The IIHF World Hockey Championships ended just like they began. Finland upsetting Canada. Stunning Canada and more than likely most of the hockey world as they grabbed the gold medal in front of Canada and Russia who won the bronze medal over Czech Republic earlier in the day.

 

Czech Republic 2-3 Russia

Czech Republic: When the going gets tough, you need your very best to step up. For the Czech Republic that’s Jakub Voracek and sadly he went missing in the finals this weekend.

And with his absence, the rest of the first line, who had scored goals for fun in the group stage, vanished as well. They lacked finish and that one save to really help them to a medal. Also, a good way to avoid losing is to not allow goals within the first minute of a period. For the second day in a row that happened to the Czechs in the second period.

The tournament as a whole was pretty good from the Czechs. They had a blinding group stage in front of a brilliant crowd in Bratislava, but sadly they just lacked one goal to give them something to truly celebrate. The fans will be happy with the effort in a few days and they can be super proud, but tonight they will be disappointed.

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Russia: Andrei Vasilevskiy has played some of the best hockey I’ve seen from a goalie in World Championships history. Especially in the final weekend of the tournament. And once again tonight he was stunning in net. Making breathtaking saves when the Russians really needed him and due to his play, they can travel back to Moscow with a medal. It won’t heal the wounds from yesterday’s loss, but it will soften the blow a little bit.

Overall, they had an amazing start to the tournament but when crunch-time hit, they sadly couldn’t find the needed offense a team like Alexander Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Gusev should possess. This ended up costing them a spot in the finals and a much finer medal.

 

Finland 3-1 Canada

Finland: FINLAND ARE GOLD MEDAL WINNERS IN SLOVAKIA!

They have managed to create the biggest upset since the Miracle on Ice in 1980! Yes, that is a bold statement and a gold medal to Finland doesn’t sound like the biggest of hockey upsets but let me set the scene.

Finland had two players who play in the National Hockey League, Henri Jokiharju and Juho Lammikko. Players who played less than 80 games combined this season! Overall this team has less than 200 games in the NHL. This is a European league team, and they went up against three near pure NHL teams.

Sweden first with 8345 NHL games combined. Finland beat them in overtime after being behind 3-1. Next up Russia. A team with all the stars and the worlds best goalie. Defeated them 1-0. And now Canada. A full NHL team swept aside by the Finns. Logically this shouldn’t be happening, but it did.

How did it happen?

I’m not quite sure myself, but once again I’m finding myself going back to the miracle in 1980. A team of fine hockey players and young talent, but nothing more. They seemed eons behind teams like the Soviets.

But in the end, they won the gold that shocked the world. Now almost 40 years later history feels to have repeated itself. A Finnish team with numerous NHL players declining to go, forcing coach Jukka Jalonen to play the younger talents like Kaapo Kakko and Jokiharju in big roles. Nobody gave them a chance to win. Most even saw them missing the knockout stage.

However, something that can always beat talent and NHL experience is hard work and a willingness to sacrifice everything to create a miracle. Finland did not have the best team on paper, but they were the best TEAM. They worked for everything and when needed they got the lucky bounces. And like Team USA’s Jim Craig in Lake Placid, Finland found stunning goaltending from Kevin Lankinen when they were put under pressure.

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Tonight was no different. The Finns went down in the first and once again had to fight back. And once again they did. Lankinen made key stops when it mattered, the post and bounces went their way and all of a sudden up stepped the captain and unlikeliest of heroes Marko Antilla.

A player that normally is found on the fourth line on the KHL team Jokirit, Antilla scored the two most important goals of his career and shocked the hockey-watching world. And thanks to some super saves in net and a warrior’s mentality to block every shot, the Finns held on. They have done the impossible and from all of us at Puck77, I congratulate the Finns on a fantastic tournament and the gold medals.

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Canada: An intermission can change a lot. And tonight, Canada learned that the hard way.

They had the game under control and were dominating, leading after the first period. They’ve been solid all tournament when taking the lead, and if they had continued with their amazing intensity and physicality they were surely going to break the Finish players. Out they come for the second period, and complacency starts showing. The ruthless offense and counterattack is nowhere to be found and all of a sudden its tied 1-1. From then it’s a completely different game and when Finland struck again, Canada was on the back foot.

You could easily argue Canada was the better team in this game, and I would also say that you would be correct. With 44 shots in the game and 21 of those coming in the third shows that.

Sadly, they couldn’t find a way past goaltender Lankinen despite some good chances generated by Mark Stone and Sam Reinhart hitting the crossbar. And in the middle of all that was a floater on the first Finish attack that got by goaltender Matt Murray. One that he probably should have had, but in these games the hockey gods are cruel. Murray has been fantastic this tournament and even had an okay game, but in the end he faltered where Lankinen and Finland stood tall to hoist the Cup.

Lastly from myself I just wanted to say thank you for reading the daily recaps and I hope you enjoyed the coverage and the World Championships itself. 

Statistics provided by Eliteprospects and TSN

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals