The Oilers look to make it two in a row tonight against the Lightning. Like the Panthers, the Oilers don't see the Lightning very often. Here to answer a few questions about the Lightning is the editor of SB Nation's Raw Charge, John Fontana.
Thanks to John for his time.
Jeff Chapman - The top three scorers for this year's team are Stamkos, St. Louis, and Alex Killorn. I would've expected to see a name like Valtteri Filppula or Teddy Purcell. Alex Killorn? Can you tell Oiler fans a little bit about him and how he's getting it done?
John Fontana - Killorn, 24, made his NHL debut last season after concluding his collegiate career with the Harvard Crimson (…and then joining Tampa Bay’s farm club in Norfolk as they finished their extraordinary run of 28 consecutive victories, and then a Calder Cup title. Killorn has 12 points through 14 games this season (4 goals and 8 assists) and was recently promoted from the club’s second line to the top line with Stamkos and St. Louis.
Killorn’s vision and hockey sense are pretty solid, and he plays a complete game, he does the work (and isn’t overly flashy with quick hands like Teddy Purcell, who had been his lineate at the start of this season. He is good at creating opportunities for his line mates.
When it comes to Valtteri Filppula, he is fitting in quite well. He might not be one of Tampa Bay’s top three scorers at the moment but in the beginning of the season, he showed up on the score sheet in the Lightning’s first seven games. Filppula has five goals and six assists so far this season. Not only is Filppula showing up on the score sheet, but he is fitting in well in Cooper’s "defense first" system as a decent two way forward.
JC - Goaltender Ben Bishop is playing lights out right now, hovering around a tasty .925 SV%. How much of this is a hot streak, and how much of this is the average Ben Bishop?
JF - Bishop’s always been a good goalie but he never collected enough consistent starts to show his potential until now. Bishop played in 11 games last season with the Ottawa Senators before being acquired by the Lightning where he played in nine games and showing flashes of brilliance behind a team that wasn’t very responsible defensively. Bishop has already played in 11 games this season and it is pretty evident how successful he can be: he is 9-2-0, which is the best start for a Lightning goalie in his first 11 starts of the season. Bolts defensemen have played well in front of him and he has embraced the role of the un-official No. 1 goalie with the club. Obviously Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was or he wouldn’t have made the trade for him last season. This doesn’t seem like a hot streak for Bishop as much as it is turning out to be the norm for Bishop. Success from your goalie is usually what punches your ticket to the playoffs. Yes it is early but the TB has most likely found its No. 1 goalie in Bishop.
JC - Who is this year's biggest surprise? Biggest disappointment?
JF - Not so much for his contribution offensively but for making the club out of training camp, 22-year old, 6’8" defenseman Andrej Sustr has been a surprise (so far) this season. It’s not that he’s putting up huge numbers (10 games played, 2 assists, plus-1) it’s that the former collegiate defenseman is only in his first full professional season and has been a steady, dependable force when playing on the Bolts blue line.
As for biggest disappointment, Ryan Malone ranks up there. He has 7 point s (1 goal, 6 assists) in 14 games this season, but he had been playing with Stamkos and St. Louis on the top line… Had been, past tense. Recent games have seen him drop to the fourth line to play a more physical and defensive game. The gritty wing is still serviceable, but younger players (like Killorn) have made Malone into a forgotten man.
JC - If Jonathan Drouin was drafted by the Oilers, you can bet your bottom dollar that he'd be playing in the lineup right now. The Lightning opted to send him back to Halifax, preserving a year of his ELC. It looks like a pretty solid choice so far, as the Lightning are winning, and Drouin is tearing up the Q again. Would you have kept him in Tampa this year? Why or why not?
JF - Drouin would be in the lineup for a lot of teams right now if he had been selected by them. You see draft picks like Nathan Mackinnon, Seth Jones, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Monahan and others all contributing at the NHL now… So, it seems enigmatic why Tampa sent Drouin back to junior… And, yet, it’s not at all for a few reasons.
First, the club under Steve Yzerman has stressed patience and playing time at lower levels for prospects to both hone their game and gain confidence. Secondly, Tampa Bay’s system is stacked at forward with talent and depth of guys who had been brought along in that patience-stressed fashion; Drouin would have to leapfrog over those guys with his performance in camp to earn a spot on the Bolts roster out of the gate. Thirdly, Tampa wasn’t as bad as their draft-selection spot indicated; offense was not a problem last season, and the necessity of carrying Drouin on the roster to learn on the fly just wasn’t need.
Those points made Drouin’s return to Halifax inevitable. He’s learning a more defensive-responsible game while playing center with the Mooseheads this season… That can only help the Lightning and Drouin himself long-term. Short-term, the only people who lost out were those who expected Drouin on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
JC - Finally, the Oilers don't get to see too much of Tampa Bay (their last meeting was in March of 2012). Can you think of a Lighting player we ought to keep an eye on that Western Conference fans might not know much about?
JF - One player doesn’t cut it. You hear about the stars (you associate Tampa with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis) and some wayward veterans from around the league (Sami Salo, Eric Brewer, Filppula, Malone), but it’s the kids that should grab your attention – and have you both wary and impressed.
Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik — line mates in the AHL until now because of their successful chemistry – is the Lightning’s third line, playing a rather strong two-way game as well as pose legitimate offensive threats.
On the blue line, look out for #7 Radko Gudas who has a reputation for hard hits, fearless play, and an imposing beard (which has been shaved for Movember).
Check out John and the gang at Raw Charge, Thanks again to John for his time.