The Tampa Bay Lightning (39-30-10) are down to the final three games in the 2016-17 season and find the metaphorical door closing on them. With a devastating loss to the Boston Bruins (44-30-6) on Tuesday night, the Bolts find themselves in a dire situation. In order for them to punch a ticket to the postseason, they’ll need to win all three remaining tilts as either the Toronto Maple Leafs (39-25-15) or Ottawa Senators (42-27-10) lose out. Luckily for them, a bit of fate is in their hands as they face the Maple Leafs tonight. Depending on that outcome, the Bolts would then need to defeat both the Montreal Canadiens (46-25-9) and Buffalo Sabres (33-35-12) to complete their end of the bargain. Can the Bolts hold up their end and leave the rest to fate? Let’s take a look at the final week of the season with Crashing The Net!
Chicago Blackhawks (50-22-8)
When: Monday, March 27th – 7:30PM
Shots: 32-30 CHI
Power Play: 2/3
Penalty Kill: 3/3
Key Moment: Down by three goals in the second, the Lightning fed off a spark and, in the blink of an eye, had tied the game. The big moment was in overtime as rookie Yanni Gourde scored on a breakaway to earn his team a big two points in the standings.
Detroit Red Wings (32-36-12)
When: Thursday, March 30th – 7:30PM
Shots: 34-32 DET
Power Play: 2/2
Penalty Kill: 1/2
Key Moment: It would be the Bolts’ power play that won this one. Capitalizing on every man advantage, Jonathan Drouin scored late in the second and gave his team a two-goal lead. From there, the Lightning kept their structure and swept the Red Wings with their fifth victory over them this year.
Montreal Canadiens (46-25-9)
When: Saturday, April 1st – 7:00PM
Result: OT Loss
Shots: 36-22 MTL
Power Play: 0/2
Penalty Kill: 2/2
Key Moment: It was another grind-it-out game for the Canadiens and Lightning that would need overtime to decide this one. Unfortunately, it would be the away team who came away with the extra point in this one as Montreal’s Alexander Radulov claimed his 17th goal of the season and a 2-1 win for his club.
Dallas Stars (33-36-11)
When: Sunday, April 2nd – 6:00PM
Shots: 26-25 DAL
Power Play: 1/2
Penalty Kill: 1/1
Key Moment: The Stars forgot about Dre and Lightning forward Ondrej Palat stole the show on Sunday. He would not only score and give his team a two-goal cushion in the second, but the resilient forward was everywhere and played arguably his best game of the season.
Boston Bruins (44-30-6)
When: Tuesday, April 4th – 7:30PM
Shots: 38-28 BOS
Power Play: 0/1
Penalty Kill: 1/1
Key Moment: In the second period, the Bruins decided to take momentum and never give it back. While several of the home team’s players had a good game, it would be goaltender Tuukka Rask who deserves the honors here. He had several key moments that kept the Lightning off the score sheet.
Lightning Statistics From Last Week/This Week:
Games Played: 5
Points: 7 out of 10
Goals For: 17
Goals Allowed: 16
Power Play: 5/10 = 50.0%
Penalty Kill: 8/9 = 88.8%
Toronto Maple Leafs (39-25-15)
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
When: Thursday, April 6th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, TVA
It’s do or die for the Lightning at this point and who better to face than their divisional rivals, the Maple Leafs? Toronto has been straight fire recently as they are one victory away from claiming a spot in the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Meanies have won four out of their last five and currently have the edge on Tampa Bay two games to one in their four-game season series. Looking at Toronto, you see what the Bolts should have been this season with their youth and neck-breaking speed. Not only that, but the Maple Leafs have been scoring consistently all season and have earned their place as the fifth-best team in the NHL in that category. It can be debated that most of that offensive onslaught is due to their potent power play which is an impressive 24.4% at capitalizing on their man advantage opportunities.
The Impact of Rookies
It’s incredible how the Maple Leafs have went from a team last in the NHL to one that is currently a breath away from the playoffs. What changed during that time? One big thing is the addition of three rookies named Auston Matthews (39G, 28A), Mitchell Marner (19G, 42), and William Nylander (22G, 38A). Each of these rookies were taken in their respect draft with Matthews added last year we each has been detremental to the Maple Leafs success this year. Matthews has broken several records as a rookie, he scored four goals in his debut, and currently is one of the top five scorers in the entire NHL. For the Lightning to stifle these speedy youngsters, they’ll need to use their veteran defenseman. This will have to be a mistake free game on every backend or else the Bolts might Ben sent packing.
Montreal Canadiens (46-25-9)
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal
When: Friday, April 7th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, RSNE
The Montreal Canadiens have clinched the Atlantic Division and are red hot going into the post season. Having won five of their last six games, the Canadiens close out the regular season with one of the best goals-against ratios in the NHL. This is both a product of their solidified defensive play and star goaltender Carey Price (37W, 2.20 GAA, .924 Sv%). With a healthy Price, Montreal has proven in the past to be quite a contender and will be eager to knock the Lightning out of the picture.
Keep On Fighting
For the Lightning to be successful here, they’ll need to prepare for a grinder. Montreal has taken Tampa Bay two games to one this season and each of them have had the sandpaper-type play one has come to expect in this series. The Bolts will need to find a way to minimize Montreal’s scoring chances if they want to keep their hopes alive. They’ll have to find a way to generate more scoring chances and shots than they did in their previous meeting. They’ll also have to on their defensive play and incorporate everything they possibly can to ensure that Vasilevskiy plays one of his best games of the season.
Buffalo Sabres (33-35-12)
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
When: Sunday, April 9th – 5:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS
The final game of the season will see the Buffalo Sabres invade Amalie Arena. The Sabres have already been eliminated from postseason play, so now they take on the role of spoiler. There is a potential that this, like the two games before it, could determine the Lightning’s season. Right now, Buffalo has been mediocre, splitting their last six games. Tampa Bay also has had their number this season with three wins, and with a victory here, could sweep the Sabres this season. However, in games like this against down-and-out opponents, the Bolts have struggled and would need to change the tide in order to pull this one off.
One For All And All For One
The Sabres have put together the best power play in the entire NHL, but are somehow 19th in the league in goals scored outside of that. This proves that Buffalo’s power play is their Death Star aimed at teams daft enough to give them the man advantage. Sabre forward Jack Eichel (24G, 33A) has led his team offensively, but lackluster goaltending and poor defensive play has seen them fall near the bottom of their division. If Tampa Bay’s hopes are still alive at this point of the season, look for this to be one exciting game complete with fingernail biting and scoreboard watching.