The Lightning erupted for six goals Friday at Amalie Arena and defeated the Dallas Stars 6-3 in the preseason debut for stars Steven Stamkos, Ben Bishop, Ryan Callahan, Victor Hedman and more. Here’s what we learned about the Lightning following their second win of the postseason in three tries.
Ryan Callahan doesn’t differentiate between preseason, regular season or postseason
At various points in the Lightning’s 6-3 victory, Callahan could be seen skating furiously from one end of the ice to the other at breakneck speeds, delivering pinpoint passes while falling face down on the ice and dishing out teeth-rattling hits on the opposition. If Friday’s game was meant to ease veterans into the long season ahead, somebody forgot to tell Callahan.
Bolts head coach Jon Cooper wishes he could have 22 more players on the roster just like him.
“There’s definitely not an on-off switch for Callahan. He’s just on,” Cooper said. “I guess if you sit back and say ‘well, maybe he can take the foot off the gas a little bit in a preseason game’, well, I think sometimes if guys think that, then that’s doom for them. Pucks drop, whistles on, Callahan’s on.”
The Lighting only had Callahan for 24 games last season. Fans should be ecstatic to see what Callahan can do for a full season in a Bolts jersey.
Most under-the-radar offseason signing? Brian Boyle
While the additions of defensemen Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison might have garnered the majority of the offseason headlines, the free agency acquisition of Brian Boyle from the New York Rangers may have been the most important. The Lightning knew they were getting a gritty, physically-imposing (6-foot-7, 244 pounds) center capable of doing the little things to help his team win when they signed the 29-year-old to a three-year contract.
But, Friday, Boyle displayed an ability to create as well.
On the Lightning’s first goal, Boyle beat two defenders to a puck behind the Dallas net, muscled both players out of the way while maintaining possession and sent an accurate pass in front to Stralman, who wristed the gift into the goal.
In the second period, after helping to kill a penalty, Boyle spotted Matthew Corrente exiting the box and, from about 60 feet away, delivered the puck onto Corrente’s stick in stride. Corrente, alone on goal, easily beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen for a 5-2 Bolts lead that effectively ended the game.
“He was what’s advertised,” Cooper said. “He did really well on the penalty kill, he won faceoffs when we needed them, he gave us momentum when we needed momentum. I think he only played 13-and-a-half minutes or something like that, but they were every bit worth it. We’re going to need efforts like that during the year. That’s why we brought him in here, and he did the job.”
Boyle has also been an important cog in the Lightning’s penalty kill, which is a perfect 16-for-16 to start the preseason.
The Lightning are giving up too many penalties
Through three preseason games, the Lightning have been called for 16 minor penalties, far too many Cooper stated following the victory over Dallas.
“We have to fix that a little bit,” Cooper said.
During the 2013-14 regular season, the Lightning averaged around three-and-a-half minor penalties and a little over ten penalty minutes a game. For a team where penalty killing was a major issue, finishing 23rd in the league last season with a just an 80.7% success rate, giving up more penalties is a recipe for disaster, even with the Bolts success in that department early in the 2014-15 preseason.
“I don’t think you should read too much into (the positive preseason penalty kill statistics),” Stralman said. “I don’t think any team has really practiced special teams yet. That’s usually something that you do later on in camp. It’s a little easier to defend a penalty kill than actually go on and score a goal on the power play.”
It will be interesting to watch over the final three preseason games if the Lightning can reduce the number of penalties they commit or if the whistles continue to blow against them going into the regular season.