WHERE: Air Canada Center, Toronto, Ontario
WHEN: 7 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pension Plan Puppets
Ten points separate the Lightning and the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings, going into tonight's match-up in Toronto. As we started above, the Leafs are reeling in their past 18... That doesn't mean the Lightning are scott-free of hardships of their own. I don't need to repeat the injury stuff, but I will remind that the Bolts have had three games where their efforts can be questioned.
Versus the New York Rangers last week, everything looked fantastic for two periods... A total drubbing of the Rangers. Then the third period started and the Lightning nearly let it all slip away.
Then there was Washington.... A lot of ugly. A lot of ugly, indeed.
The Panthers game Saturday was a game that looked like the Bolts would get away with a less than stellar effort. It was a game against a lesser opponent, it was a game against a division rival. And yet the Lightning earned a mercy point by going to the shootout.
It may have gone to OT, but it was a loss to a division foe that should have been harder fought. Games against the Panthers have an ugly habit of being brushed off and given, kindly, to our rivals from Sunrise without much of a second thought.
It's games like Saturday's shootout loss that came back to haunt the Lightning last season. And tonight's match-up against the Leafs has the same potential.
Tonight is two-points the Lightning need, not want. And to get that fix, they need a full game effort. Not 40-minutes, or 30...
The Stamkosis-91 strain returns to its point-of-origin tonight... Going back home to southern Ontario to take on the ailing (flailing?) Maple Leafs. In their past 18 games, the Leafs are 4-11-3, have been shut out five times, and are averaging els than two goals per game (hat tip to James Mirtle).
Knowing that, and knowing Steven Stamkos has not scored in the past two games, there's a high probability of a major Stamkosis outbreak at the ACC.
Yes, I'm deliberately milking the shirt phrase...
The Bolts are still near the top of the league on special teams. That's not news. On the other hand, Toronto is at the bottom of the league on the penalty kill (29th, 73% kill rate) and in the lower 3rd of all power play rankings (20th, 15.2% conversion rate). Statistically speaking, this should not be a contest.
But stats don't lace'em up and play the game.