Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York | When:
Radio: 970 AM WFLA - Online Stream | Television: Fox Sports Florida | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Lighthouse Hockey, Islanders Insider, NYI Point Blank
Important Note: If you're a regular viewer of a Lightning broadcast on Fox Sports Sun, tonight (and during the last few games of the season) the broadcast will be aired on Fox Sports Florida instead.
This is the Tampa Bay Lightning's first game at Barclays Center in the borough of Brooklyn, New York City, New York State. Barclays is constructed on top of what was known as the Atlantic Rail Yards; a parking lot for commuter trains. The Islanders shifted from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale to Barclays because repeated attempted to get upgrades and renovations for Nassau Coliseum routinely failed in government.
Barclays, while closer to Manhattan and in a more centralized population location, is 30 miles from Uniondale and it shows attendance-wise at Islander games. Before I lay out that number, can we agree to the iron-clad fact the Isles are a competitive team with a solid lineup? The fact they're vying for a wild card spot reflects the competitiveness of the Metro Division. There's every reason to stake an interest in the Isles and... and...
13,593. 86% of venue capacity.
That's a logistics thing; where the team is and how accessible Barclays is for the bulk of the Isles fans that are to the east on Long Island. That, and the fact its hockey being played at a venue built with the NBA in mind and not wider purpose.
There's talk of the Islanders escaping their lease agreement at Barclays, and renovations did finally got underway in Uniondale. How things play out from here is anyone's guess but if you notice a smaller crowd tonight, or find sight-lines in Barclays to be funky, join the club.
Tonight is also Game 1 After-Surgery for the Lightning. Cap'n Steven Stamkos had vascular surgery on that blood clot that was unveiled via announcement on Saturday. Estimated time of return is from one to three months, and life without Stamkos (be it for this season or going forward as a franchise - he is a pending unrestricted free agent) starts now. Actually, it started on Saturday against the Devils... No, no, wait, that's not totally correct either. The Lightning has lived a life without the aid of Stamkos in the lineup: 2013-14. While there are several noteworthy changes between the lineup of that tam and this one, the fact is the club has been competitive with Stamkos sidelined. Between the efforts of Ben Bishop and the contributions from Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and others, the Lightning was a playoff team. The major difference of note is the additions of Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, a much more potent Nikita Kucherov... and the subtraction of Martin St. Louis.
Leadership isn't a question without the services of Marty or Stamkos; Cally's got that experience (serving as team captain for the New York Rangers for years before being traded to Tampa Bay) and others know how to step up without wearing an "A" on their chest. That aspect of the team isn't (and wasn't) in doubt.
What is in question is potency, especially with knowing the power play for the Lightning is so weak that some nitwit is going to consider erectile dysfunction remedies in order to improve things. ... OK, the nitwit has said his piece. Let's just go back to the fact losing the team's leading scorer is a problem or a challenge for the club. These final four games of the season are a test to see who can step up and light that lamp.
Ben Bishop gets the start for the Lightning tonight and likely Andrei Vasilevskiy tomorrow. In fact, that's an odd deployment order, isn't it? The Islanders have 93 points on the season, 42 wins. While the club is not as far along as the New York Rangers, they can play a game pretty well. They are hurting though and made emergency recalls this morning. Thomas Greiss starts again versus the Lightning and... Well, why is Vasy not starting tonight? Greiss started the March 25th, 7-4 loss for the Isles, faced 41 shots and gave up 6 goals in 57 minutes of play. His save percentage for the night as .854... And the Bish-man was his direct opposition. Ben's numbers didn't glow that evening either with 4 goals allowed on 31 shots.
I'm not trying to sully or dismiss Ben Bishop - he's the man, he's the #1 goalie and will chase the Vezina Trophy. That being said, if the Lightning are going to go forward past the end of the regular season - they have to be smart now. Having two sharp goalies would be sublime, hut having the one who has not made a start since March 26 (and only made 3 starts in the entire month) going against the more formidable challenge in consecutive games played is not wise. That is not sullying what Andrei Vasilevskiy can do; it is spoken with the knowledge that Vasy is sharpest when playing more regularly. Once every 10+ days is not "regularly".