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Crashing The Net: Bolts Need Desperation To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

The Tampa Bay Lightning (34-28-9) hit a small road bump on their drive to playoff contention with back-to-back losses last week. While any defeat at this point is detrimental to their season, all the Bolts can do is look ahead and try to be better. This week they get that chance of redemption against the Arizona Coyotes (26-36-9), Boston Bruins (38-27-6), and Detroit Red Wings (28-31-11). Can the Lightning keep their hopes alive and take down two divisional rivals? Let’s take a look ahead with Crashing The Net!

Last Week:

New York Rangers (44-24-2)
When: Monday, March 13th – 7:00PM
Result: Win
Score: 3-2
Shots: 28-16 NYR
Power Play: 1/2
Penalty Kill: 1/1
Key Moment: Happy birthday, Brayden Point! The Lightning rookie celebrated his 21st birthday with not only a goal in the first period, but the game-winner in the third. Point has been stellar since returning from injury over a month ago.

Ottawa Senators (39-22-7)
When: Tuesday, March 14th – 7:30PM
Result: Win
Score: 2-1
Shots: 37-32 TBL
Power Play: 0/1
Penalty Kill: 2/2
Key Moment: This was indeed a goalie matchup between Vasilevskiy and Ottawa’s Mike Condon. Both teams traded chances and kept the physical play at a peak in this thrilling matchup. It would take overtime to decide this one and it would be Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman ending it off a dazzling pass from Ondrej Palat.

Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-15)
When: Tuesday, March 16th – 7:30PM
Result: Loss
Score: 5-0
Shots: 33-21 TBL
Power Play: 0/5
Penalty Kill: 2/3
Key Moment: The wheels came off the cart in the second period as the Maple Leafs were able to score four times and put this one out of reach for the Lightning. It was a shame, because this was a game with huge playoff implications and the Bolts were a no-show.

Washington Capitals (46-17-8)
When: Tuesday, March 18th – 7:00PM
Result: Loss
Score: 5-3
Shots: 35-29 WSH
Power Play: 1/1
Penalty Kill: 1/2
Key Moment: The clincher here was a third period goal by Washington’s John Carlson that put the Capitals up by two. The Lightning tried to battle their way back into the fold, but an empty-netter that gave the Caps’ T.J. Oshie a hat trick sealed the deal and handed the Bolts their second loss in a row.

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 4
Wins: 2
Losses: 2
Points: 4 out of 8
Goals For: 8
Goals Allowed: 13
Power Play: 2/9 = 22.2%
Penalty Kill: 6/8 = 75.0%

Upcoming Games:
Arizona Coyotes (26-37-9)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Tuesday, March 21st – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, TVA

The 2016-17 NHL season has not been kind to the Arizona Coyotes. They have been stuck at the bottom of the Pacific Division, struggling to score goals and trading center Martin Hanzal at the trade deadline in the hopes of rebuilding. One would think a game like this is just what the Lightning need to bolster their confidence. That it’s an easy win for Tampa Bay on their quest to hoard points before the end of the season. If you believe that, then you are greatly mistaken. This is indeed a trap just as it was when these two teams met in January and Arizona thumped the Lightning by a score of 5-3. In order for Tampa Bay to win this one, they’ll need to come to the party as desperate as a team on the cusp of a playoff spot with 11 games left in the season should be. Losing to the Coyotes on Tuesday night would be a huge blow to the Lightning’s hopes of reaching the post-season.

A Look At Arizona

When these two teams met back in January for the first of this two-game season series, Hanzal tore into the Lightning for three points and was a deciding factor in the outcome. Luckily for the Bolts, Hanzal was shipped to the Minnesota Wild and will not be seen by them for this meeting. The club is now led by Radim Vrbata (17G, 34A), another proven thorn in the side for Tampa Bay. If the Lightning are able to stop Vrbata and limit his production, they’ll face a team that is bottom-five in goal scoring, power play, and on the penalty kill. Hopefully in Arizona’s weakened state, the Lightning can ruthlessly take a win and inch that much closer to the playoffs.

Boston Bruins (38-28-6)
Where: TD Garden, Boston
When: Thursday, March 23rd – 7:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, NESN

The Boston Bruins are lobbying for playoff position against the Ottawa Senators tonight so hopefully that gets them good and tired for when they face the Lightning on Thursday. The Bruins have had a respectable year and have won four of their last six contests. They didn’t do Tampa Bay any favors Monday night when they lost against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but with a good effort from the Lightning, they can give Tampa Bay much-needed points in the standings. One key factor that might stand in the way is Boston forward Brad Marchand (37G, 43A). Marchand is on fire this year and is currently on a four-game point streak with five goals during that spell. It’ll be a juggling act for Tampa Bay, but they need to find some way to minimize that threat while keeping his teammates at bay.

Big Bad Boston Bruins

His teammates will be no easy task as they have put together quite a statistical season. The Bruins are above average in most areas, but they have excelled at goals scored, allowed, and their superior penalty kill. The Boston penalty kill is second in the entire NHL at 85.2% and has only been heating up the last few weeks. This handicaps Tampa Bay, who sometimes leans on their potent power play to claim them victories. This means that the Lightning will have to bring their best five-on-five play if they hope to stop the Bruins. If the previous matchups between these teams are any indicator, I trust this game to be highly physical and a treat for the fans.

Detroit Red Wings (28-32-11)
Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
When: Friday, March 24th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, FSD

The Lightning face their divisional rival on Friday night on the tail end of a back-to-back. The Red Wings have had a month to forget as they have only won three of ten matchups in March. This will be the two club’s fourth meeting this year with another one planned next week. So far the Lightning have been the better of the clubs and lead the series 3-0-0. Detroit has struggled this year in most categories and are bottom-five in goals scored and allowed. Their power play, which was one of the best last year, is now one of the worst man advantage units in the NHL.

Best Served Cold

The once mighty Red Wings face their first season in over 25 years where they might not reach the playoffs. They’ve lacked a much-needed spark this year, but don’t count on them to just roll over for Tampa Bay. For the past two seasons, the Lightning have eliminated the Red Wings from postseason play and Detroit would love to claim some revenge against the Bolts. Count on them to play with the advantage as they have nothing to lose and only sweet cold vengeance to gain. This has the formula to be Tampa Bay’s hardest challenge this week. For the Bolts to enjoy this revenge dish, they’ll need to devour the poor goaltending that the Red Wings have shown this season. If they can pull this off, I like their chances.

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