Nikita Kucherov vents: Lightning teammates ‘got their money, stopped working’

In an interview with Russian journalist Pavel Lysenkov for Sovetsky Sport, Nikita Kucherov offers a blunt analysis of why he had such a good season despite what he feels are failures by the Tampa Bay Lightning coaches and his teammates.

Sergey Demidova, NHL.com reporter for the Russian language version of the site, translated some of the biggest points of contention Kucherov spoke of during the interview.

Kucherov on the team after Steven Stamkos went out with a knee injury and decision(s) of who should play with Kucherov…

“We had great chemistry with Namestnikov and Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really, really well. And then Stamkos was injured. I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL.

“After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in kaleidoscope.

“It was very hard to used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had lack of understanding each other, there were some problems. I was suffering torments all the season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury.

“We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good, but coach didn’t put us together for some reason.”

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Namestnikov, Johnson, Paquette injured against Wild (Video)

Right when the Tampa Bay Lightning start to gain some ground, the hockey gods smack them right back down to earth.

Jon Cooper opted to dress seven defensemen against the Minnesota Wild. On any given night, it’s usually not a problem if the team goes down a forward. How about a what would equate to a whole line of forwards? Yeah, that’s worrisome. Especially considering the players lost are all centers.

Yet somehow the Lightning managed to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 despite losing Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette in the process.

Let’s start with Namestnikov.

In the second period, he and Zach Parise get twisted together as they chase down a puck. When Parise falls, hie body weight drags down Namestnikov by the leg.

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Kucherov plays mind games with Lehner in shootout (Video)

Hide all the valuables, Robin Lehner is probably in a mood to smash things. The occasionally volcanic netminder was at the wrong end of a school yard play by Nikita Kucherov in the shootout.

Kucherov uses a strategy that is less about shooting and more about mind games. In fact, he doesn’t really shoot at all. He lets the puck do the work.

After coming in wide he appears to pull puck back and drag it around to shoot. Only thing is, he doesn’t have the puck on his stick. It’s sliding underneath Lehner and into the net.

Let’s have the Tampa Bay Lightning announcers recount the play as it might be the most incredible thing they’ve ever seen.

Minds. Blown.

Ryan Callahan out four weeks with nagging hip injury

The hits just keep coming for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team announced Ryan Callahan will be out four weeks with a lower-body injury.

From Joe Smith of The Tampa Bay Times:

Callahan continues to be bothered by his hip, which was surgically-repaired back in June. He’s played in just 18 games this season, the last coming Jan. 7 in Philadelphia. It’s been frustrating for Callahan, who can’t seem to shake the soreness. He’s tried resting it, missing over a month from Nov. 28-Jan. 3. But after playing in just three games, Callahan is out at least another month.

Back in June, Callahan underwent successful surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip. The expectation was that Callahan would be out five months for healing and rehabilitation.

He missed eight games to start the 2016-17 regular season and re-entered the Lightning lineup just over one month ahead of schedule.

The return was short lived.

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Lightning, Predators donnybrook in third period (Video)

Nearly halfway through the third period between the Nashville Predators had the game well in hand with a 3-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That’s when things started to get ugly.

First Viktor Arvidsson crosschecks Vladislav Namestnikov. Luckily Namestnikov is able to brace himself to protect his face as he collides with the boards. Arvidsson, to his credit, tries to protect Namestnikov’s head before it hits the ice.

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Arvidsson knew right away he made a mistake. He was very attentive to Namestnikov and apologized for making the hit.

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Ben Bishop’s ‘oh s—‘ moment turned spectacular save (Video)

Ben Bishop stretched out his entire six-foot-seven frame to make what could be considered one of the early contenders for ‘save of the year.’

Only one issue Bishop might take with it – he caused the turnover that led to the scoring chance.

Playing the puck in the trapezoid, Bishop passed the puck directly to an on-rushing Kyle Okposo. The forward had a guaranteed goal on his stick until Bishop dove like Superman across his crease. Miraculously, the Tampa Bay Lightning netminder made the save.

Joe Yerdon of NHL.com asked Bishop what went through his mind when he turned the puck over to Okposo. His answer was simple, “Oh s—.”

Oh [expletive], indeed.

Steven Stamkos out four months after knee surgery

On Thursday, Steven Stamkos underwent successful surgery to repair a knee injury suffered in Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

From the Tampa Bay Lightning:

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos underwent surgery to repair a tear in the lateral meniscus of his right knee today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. Stamkos is expected to miss approximately four months. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. 

No other information is available at this time.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN initially reported the type of injury Stamkos suffered holds a recovery time of four to six months. The Lightning had labeled the forward as out ‘indefinitely’ until the statement released on Thursday night.

A good guess is the Lightning are going with the ‘best case scenario’ for Stamkos’s recovery in saying it will be ‘approximately four months’. The team did the same thing when he was diagnosed with a blood clot last season.

IF Stamkos is available in four months, the earliest he’d return is mid-March. Depending on where his recovery is and where they Lightning are at in the standings, Steve Yzerman may be shopping at the trade deadline to fill the void.

Lightning overcome ‘no goal’ to tie game, win in overtime (Video)

The Tampa Bay Lightning did not lead the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins until it mattered the most.

With 3:50 left on the clock, Ryan Callahan snapped a shot that appeared to beat Marc-Andre Fleury in the top corner on the glove side. Fleury stands up assuming he was beat. Play stops once the puck goes to the other end of the ice.

For the second time in Game 5, the Lightning had tied the game … or so they thought.

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Tampa wins injury-filled Game 1; Cooper ‘hoping for best’ with Bishop

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning looked like the “Hunger Games”.

And the odds appeared to be somewhat in Tampa’s favor.

Tampa came out looking like a team that was well rested, not rusty, having last played on May 8. Just 18 seconds in, Victor Hedman ran a shot off the crossbar as a preview of what the Penguins were about to face.

Matt Murray made the first spectacular save of the game. Jonathan Drouin in on a rush flips the puck past Kris Letang who fans on the attempt to knock it out of the air. Drouin picks the puck back up and zips it over to Ondrej Palat. Murray snags the shot by Palat out the air with his glove.

About a minute later, Ryan Callahan boarded Kris Letang who appeared to be knocked out cold. Letang stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before skating off with the trainer. He returned to the bench after about 10 minutes of game play.

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