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Four Observations From the 2022 Stadium Series

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By Michael Wax

The 2022 Stadium Series has come and gone, and one thing is for sure: It was an experience of a lifetime. The Lightning won 3-2, and played a solid final 40 minutes, but the main story was the event. Nashville showed up big time, welcoming Lightning fans with open arms into their city, and creating an atmosphere that showed that hockey in the south was a worthwhile endeavor. I took away four things from the event, some good and some bad.

Poor NHL Marketing

I want to make something very clear: This is not a knock against Nashville. I think the city promoted the event extremely well. Everywhere you walked in Nashville, there were banners, street signs, and billboards promoting the event for Saturday night. This is strictly about the NHL, and their ridiculous lengths they seemed to take to make sure barely anyone knew about this event.

People on Twitter put this better than I could:

When asked how they didn't know, the answer was also pretty straightforward:

The NHL has made it their mission to not showcase the sport, or the atmosphere, and it boggles the mind. The NHL website still has yet to post photos from the game, the league was more concerned with collecting all these celebrities than highlighting the game. Nowhere was this more apparent than the pre-game party outside the stadium. The league brought in country singer Walker Hayes for a concert, coupled with carnival games and food trucks. One problem persisted, which was that there was NO WIFI to spread the event over social media. In the words of one of my fellow party-goers:

"How do you not allow the world to see this amazing event?"

I thought things would be different after the new TV deals with ESPN and TNT, that maybe the league was ready to showcase themselves. Perhaps I was too naive.

Inefficient Officiating

Let's shift focus to the game. Less than two minutes into the game, Erik Cernak was hit up high by the Predators’ Ryan Johansen. Skates slightly off the ice, elbow to the head, seemed like an easy call for the officials, and the initial call was five and a game for Johansen. However, they went to review to make sure they saw it correctly, and they came out with a different response.

Someone needs to make this make sense.

Two minutes for an illegal hit to the head. Once again, Illegal. Hit. To. The. Head. A slap on the wrist for a potentially serious incident. Take Cernak and Johansen's names out of it: If Filip Forsberg or Roman Josi had been hit like that , and the Lightning culprit had only gotten a two minute penalty, it would've been the wrong call. The NHL needs to understand the savorily of these types of plays. Until they do, bush league officiating like this isn't going to cover it.

Cal Foote Breaks Out

I have long been a Cal Foote defender. Though the second-year player has his blemishes, overall he has shown a major leap in his game. Defensively, the nicest thing you can say about a defenseman is that you don't notice them. More and more as the season has progressed, Foote has become less and less noticeable, always making the smart play in the defensive zone and only having his name called by the broadcasters if he takes a heavy slap shot in the offensive zone. Defensively, Foote was fantastic in the Stadium Series game. It helped that his partner, Mikhail Sergachev, had gone into the game playing like a borderline All-Star.

One shift in the Stadium Series showed the true ceiling of Foote though. Foote made a masterful play to keep the Lightning in the offensive zone, After his keep-in, he did what he normally does: stand flat-footed at the right side of the blue line while everyone else cycles through. However, a bounce to Alex Killorn at the top of the slot got Foote moving, even slightly to the left. Killorn laid a drop pass, to which most people expected Foote to fire his underrated slap shot towards the net and just hope for the best. Instead, eyes still focused on Saros, Foote fired a laser to the stick of Stamkos to make it a 3-1 game.

So Did The Power Play

The power play has struggled this year, which has certainly been a weird thing to say. Even in prior seasons when the Lightning had missed Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos (or both), the power play has found ways to succeed. This brings us to this season, where the power play has been lacking in both success rate and zone time. However, during the stadium series, the Bolts returned to form.

The first goal came as the Lightning were once again setting up their power play format. Nikita Kucherov took advantage of the wall and just held it on his backhand, before sending a pass to Brayden Point in the slot. Point then batted the puck out of the air and past Saros to tie the game.

The second power play goal is too absurd, so here's the video:

Hopefully the Stadium Series served as the catalyst for the power play finally heating up, cause the Lightning will need it come April.

Final Thoughts

Despite the irritations I had, Nashville was an outstanding experience. The city, the people, everything. Huge ups to Nashville for creating such an amazing atmosphere, and that was before even going to the game, which was an entirely new atmosphere all on its own.

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