This weekend sucks for Tampa Bay.
Back-to-back games are a challenge the team has faced all season, that's nothing new. How about back-to-back games against Western Conference opponents? Been there, don that when they faced the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks on the next night.
No, it's the fact they're playing back-to-back games against Western Conference teams and the flip-side of this weekend's affair will be played at an altitude of about a mile high that makes things suck. I've seen the Lightning go to Denver before, play a spirited early game and end up dogged by the thin air and listless in the latter part of a game. Now they're going to be doing that while also playing the flip-side of back-to-back games? Welcome to the suck, people.
Early game today, with a 3 PM start. The Lightning and the Stars have a few similarities, with Dallas following a blueprint laid out by Jeff Vinik as owner of the Lightning: a mindset revamp and an image revamp, new front office personnel (by way of Detroit!) Lots of changes, but the one thing working against Dallas is being part of the ultra-competitive Central Division; the Stars are 5th in the division with 66 points to their name. Don't let that fool you, they can play a game with the best of them (and while we're talking standings, the Bolts are now tied for 3rd in the Atlantic Division.) They're exceedingly potent at the top of the lineup with Tyler Seguin (25 goals, 32 assists) and Jamie Benn (23 goals, 31 assists.) While scoring falls off by nearly 30 points with the next two players (Cody Eakins and Valeri Nichushkin have 29 points each), underestimate the Stars at your own peril; Dallas has 14 wins this season where the team scored three goals or more.
In two goal games or one goal games, though, things swing the other way; Dallas has a .404 winning percentage in one-goal game affairs and a .375 win percentage in games decided by two goals (they've only had 8 contests decided by 2 goals, though; Tampa Bay has had 14 and is 11-3.)
There are a lot of little details we won't know until gametime, such as starting netminders and the defensive makeup of the Bolts lineup. Whatever the case, they're going to have their hands full this afternoon, and yet have something left in the tank for tomorrow.
Kristers Gudlevskis could arguably make his NHL debut today, keep that in mind!
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full coverage on SB Nation