Note: Basic game info normally posted on game previews can be found on the StoryStream summary for today's game.
There was an air of nostalgia to Wednesday night's series / playoffs premiere between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings, it's one that may bring a degree of entertainment and story for the series but it's also one to be wary of going forward: The feistiness and physical play.
The Lightning went through this in team history 20 years ago in the club's first ever playoff appearance (against the Philadelphia Flyers). I'll let you feast your eyes on numbers themselves via Hockey Reference. The Lightning relied heavily on goalie Darren Puppa to carry the team and... Well, Puppa blew his back out and the Lightning bowed out accordingly. It doesn't mean that the team in front of him was entirely incapable of handling the Flyers, but the distraction of the penalty box worked against the Bolts.
On the other hand, the Detroit Red Wings of that time had their own lively division with the Colorado Avalanche. That rivalry is part of why you saw the outdoor game in Denver this winter - just because of history and the legacy between the two clubs.
Rivalry is part of the sport, but getting lost in it or blinded by it works against you as a fan or as a member of either team. Passion's a great element to show in the game, but to get lost in it physically when your roster is already ailing (a la the current state of the Lightning) doesn't seem like a wise thing...Even if you've got a large amount of faith in your goaltender.
It's projected to be the same lineup tonight for the Lightning as Wednesday's affair. That raises the question of what to expect from Detroit to counter Nikita Kucherov and the Tripl-- no, no, wait a second. Ondrej Palat is playing on the line with Valtteri Filppula and Jonathan Drouin, no? It's Killorn-Johnson-Kucherov doing all the offense, at least after one game. Call'em the Killing Joke (it's subjective if DC Comics fans approve of that line title). That trio of Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov amounted to 7 points on Wednesday, amounting for all but 2 points derived from Tampa Bay's 3 goals (assists on Nikita Kucherov's second goal went to Braydon Coburn and Nikita Nesterov). While that potency is impressive, it's easy to assume that the Killing Joke will be the targets of Detroit's defense now; if 17, 9 and 86 are so potent then they damn well better get stopped. That may or may not lead to offensive opportunity for the Lightning's secondary line, the aforementioned group of Palat, Filppula and Drouin.
Then again, Drouin's got a chip on his shoulder and I've already mused about the downside of feistiness... If this turns into game 1 again, but with more Detroit focus on shutting down The Killing Joke, opportunity will be stamped out rather quickly by way of penalties. There was a half-hour of penalties in game 1 (18 minutes given to the Lightning with 12 assessed to the Wings). Will that be a seed for tonight? We'll find out starting at 7 PM.