Time: 8:00pm EST
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa
Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SN, Sun, FS-O
Opponent SB Nation Site: The Cannon
It’s a big night tonight in Tampa. Martin St. Louis is in town, John Tortorella is in town, and the best team in the league is in town. Quite a cadre of guests, isn’t it?
The big story is the retirement of Martin St. Louis’ jersey, which has caused a bit of a divide between Lightning fans. Not so much him getting his jersey retired, but Marty being the first — there will be plenty of articles to read here on Raw Charge on Marty so I won’t go into more detail.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the best team in the NHL. Let me repeat that; the Columbus Blue Jackets are the best team in the NHL. This still sounds weird to me. No disrespect to Columbus, it’s just that the way they have utterly dominated the league for the past month and a half has been remarkable. Full credit to Torts for changing his style to suit his team (now if only you could have done that during the World Cup of Hockey).
Columbus comes into tonight’s game 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, scoring 35 goals and allowing 27. Their power play is the best in the league at 25.8% and their penalty kill is middle of the pack at 82.1%. There isn’t much this team does wrong. They’re getting great goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, and their forward corps has been reinforced by a very mobile and talented defense.
Looking at some advanced metrics, Columbus is rather mediocre at maintaining possession with a Corsi For % of 50.25%, but the team’s save percentage is 5th best in the league at .935. Their team shooting percentage is also 3rd best in the league at 9%. Their PDO is also 3rd highest in the league at 102.59. Some regression can be expected, but the team has maintained its strong play for quite a while. I don’t foresee the Blue Jackets suddenly dropping anytime soon.
Conversely, the Lightning have struggled mightily this season. The lone bright spot has been the power play, which ranks 2nd in the league at 24.1%. The Bolts advanced metrics go like this:
Corsi For %: 50.04% (17th) Shooting %: 7.47% (18th) Save %: .913 (25th) PDO: 98.84 (23rd)
That’s at best mediocre and pretty close to just bad. What is actually bad is the record the Lightning have against the Blue Jackets this season, they are 0-2-0 allowing 10 goals and scoring 4. That’s rough, but not everything is bleak. The bright side of things is that Ben Bishop is back. Having both Bish and Vasilevksiy healthy will definitely help the Lightning. It will give Vasy the break he desperately needs (10 games in 20 days is murder for a 22-year-old), and Ben will finally be able to get his season back on track. If we can get some solid goaltending to help calm down the team, I think the Lightning can fend off Columbus.
The Lightning are 4 points out of a playoff spot, unbelievably, and one solid winning streak changes the whole perspective of the season. It’s just a matter of executing and not allowing themselves to become rattled. Yes, injuries have depleted the roster, but the Lightning have enough talent to put out two good offensive lines. Jon Cooper is going to have to put his line-blender in the cupboard and just put the best team out there. We’re past the halfway mark, it’s do or die time. Cooper needs to get this team to start winning games.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Vlad Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov
Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Matthew Peca
Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - Michael Bournival
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Slator Koekkoek - Nikita Nesterov