The answer to the question, “Will Matt Wieters land in Tampa Bay?”...
Crashing The Net: Desperate Bolts Begin Homestand
The Tampa Bay Lightning (22-22-6) come out of the All-Star break six points away from a playoff spot and will need to get it together to earn a viable shot at the post-season. This week, they start a four-game home stand against the Boston Bruins (25-21-6), Ottawa Senators (26-15-6), and Anaheim Ducks (27-15-9), as two of these teams sit above them in the Atlantic Division. This week is huge for Tampa Bay, as it can easily make or break their team’s hopes of salvaging their season. Let’s take a look at the road ahead with Crashing The Net!
Chicago Blackhawks (30-16-5)
When: Tuesday, January 24th – 8:30PM
Power Play: 0/2
Penalty Kill: 3/3
Key Moment: In the third period, the Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson connection would reign supreme as they struck twice in the third just thirty seconds apart. This gave the Lightning their first lead of the game and proved to be the eventual game-winner. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Bolts’ explosiveness that had been bottled up.
Florida Panthers (21-19-10)
When: Thursday, January 26th – 7:30PM
Result: OT Loss
Shots: 37-32 FLA
Power Play: 1/4
Penalty Kill: 2/3
Key Moment: Behind stellar goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy and James Reimer, both teams would put on a thriller in Sunrise. Everyone was playing at their best and it took an overtime goal from former Lightning winger Jonathan Marchessault to win this one 2-1 for the Cats. Both teams came away with points and those tallies were well-earned.
Lightning Statistics From Last Week:
Games Played: 2
Losses: 1 (in OT)
Points: 3 out of 4
Goals For: 6
Goals Allowed: 4
Power Play: 1/6 = 16.6%
Penalty Kill: 5/6 = 83.3%
Boston Bruins (25-21-6)
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Tuesday, January 31st – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, NESN
The Bruins are clinging to the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with the Lightning eyeing a big four-point swing as they inch closer to contention. Boston has struggled as of late, only winning two of their last six and hindered by a four-game losing streak during that time. They continue to tread water in goals for, currently 20th in the NHL, putting themselves in the bottom half of the league. The defensive end is a different story, as they have the second-best penalty kill in the league and stand at 16th in goals against.
A large part of this is due to the play of veteran goaltender Tukka Rask (24W, 2.15 GAA, .918 Sv%) who has put up one of his best seasons in recent years. Solidified with solid defensemen, Rask has been able to become a force between the pipes and aims to be just that against the Lightning. For Tampa Bay to be successful, they’ll need to understand how important this game is to their season and channel desperation mode. That includes utilizing all of their strengths such as speed, playmaking, and scoring. With Boston having trouble in those areas this season, the Lightning will need to prey on their weaknesses to come away with a victory here.
Ottawa Senators (26-15-6)
Where: BB&T Center
When: Thursday, February 2nd – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, TSN5
The Lightning will host the Senators in another pivotal game within the Atlantic Division. Ottawa currently holds the second playoff spot in their division with three games in hand on Tampa Bay. If they are able to find success against Boston, the Lightning will need to look at what worked and recreate it here, as both the Senators and Bruins are very similar statistically speaking. Ottawa has been struggling to score, yet has put up one of the better goals-against averages in the league. Their penalty kill is above average at 82.5% and, led by offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson (7G, 32A), they are as defensively sound as you can get.
For the Bolts to be successful here, they will need to continue to play with desperation and rely on goaltending to smother Ottawa’s offense while they focus on getting past the tandem of Senator goaltenders Mike Condon (25W, 2.43 GAA, .916 Sv%) and Craig Anderson (12W, 2.46 GAA, .924 Sv%). The Lightning will also need to keep an eye on Ottawa’s speed as they definitely can turn on the juice when they’re clicking. Tampa Bay cannot give them an inch or the Senators will take a mile in this one.
Anaheim Ducks (27-15-9)
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Thursday, February 4th – 7:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, PT25
To end the week, the Lightning welcome in the Anaheim Ducks, who bested them 2-1 in overtime a few weeks ago. This will be the second and final meeting between these two foes and, if last game was any indication, it will be a fun one to watch. Luckily for the Bolts, the Ducks will be coming off a previous date in Florida, as they face the Florida Panthers (29-19-10) the night before. The Lightning will need to pounce on this opportunity and come away with these prosperous two points up for grabs.
Where Boston and Ottawa have struggled, the Ducks have prospered offensively. This offensive ability has earned them the eighth-best power play in the NHL and an above-average standing in terms of five-on-five goals. The Lightning will need to bottle up Anaheim forward Ryan Kesler (18G, 21A) as he leads his team in scoring and is always a thorn in any team’s side. Like the rest of Tampa Bay’s games, this one needs to be played with desperation as each point lost is two steps back.