Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSDT
Opponent SBNation Site: Winging it in Motown
What a difference ten days make. When last these two foes did clash, the Detroit Red Wings were coming off of a victory over the juggernaut Vegas Golden Knights and sporting an impressive 4-1 record. Tampa was also 4-1 and on a three-game winning streak. The Lightning prevailed 3-2 on that night and kicked off a five-game (and counting) losing streak for their nemesis.
While the first three losses came against quality teams (Tampa, Toronto and Washington) the last two came against Vancouver and Buffalo, two teams that Detroit should be able to beat.
In looking at the numbers, two things stand out. First Jimmy Howard. Prior to the Lightning game he was sporting a robust .955 Save Percentage. Since then it’s been .889, highlighted (lowlighted?) by the Toronto game in which he gave up 3 goals on 4 shots. He did show a little bit of his old form in a 1-0 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday stopping 31 of 32 shots.
It probably doesn’t help that the defensive top-pairing in front of him is a combined 68-years-old. For both Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall their best days are behind them. A team with speed (cough, Lightning, cough) should give them trouble.
Detroit has also struggled to score on the power play. During the losing streak they have only scored 1 goal in 17 chances. It’s part of an overall malaise that is plaguing their offense. They are 23rd in Goals Per Game, averaging 2.60 tallies per outing. Their offense should get a spark later this week when Andreas Athanasiou returns to the lineup. Fortunately for the Lightning he’s not expected back until the weekend. The Bolts will be facing new Red Wing Scott Wilson, who Detroit picked up from Pittsburgh in exchange for Riley Sheahan.
Since the matchup just over a week ago, the Lightning are the polar opposite. They are scoring goals (second in the league at 4.10) and keeping the puck out of their net (4th in Goals Against at 2.40). Even when they aren’t playing at an optimal level (re: the Carolina game) they are still finding ways to win.
They are still struggling in terms of possession (47.36% corsi at 5v5), and might be riding a wave of puck luck (they have a league-high 105.27 PDO) but they are winning their games. Is it sustainable? Not likely. The defense is relying a little bit too much on blocking shots as opposed to actually maintaining possession of the puck. Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t going to be able to bail them out 97% of the time like he has been doing over the last few games.
Still, they have the best offense in the league with the Stamkov line nigh on impossible to stop. Tyler Johnson is having a mini-resurgence and the defense is starting to chip in with some goals as well.
Thursday night will feature one team riding high and another one that is extremely frustrated. Throw in the fact that the two teams really don’t care for each other and it should make for a fun hockey game.
In lieu of a comparison chart, I give you this awesome 1994-95 Be a Player card of someone admired by both Detroit fans and Tampa fans. God, I miss the mid-90s.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Chris Kunitz - JT Brown - Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Gabriel Dumont
Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi
Slater Koekkoek - Andrej Sustr
Line up notes: Brown played in Carolina for the first time since the second game of the season and centered a pretty solid line while picking up an assist. With Cedric Paquette still battling an unknown ailment there is a chance that JT gets to play again. Coach Cooper noted that he doesn’t like having players “stapled” to the bench, hopefully that means Slater Koekkoek will get back into the lineup.
Anthony Mantha - Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader
Darren Helm - Frans Nielsen - Martin Frk
Scott Wilson - Luke Glendening - Luke Witkowski
Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson - Trevor Daley
Xavier Ouellet - Nick Jensen