Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSDT
Opponent SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
This year has been uncharacteristic of typical NHL seasons. The parity between top and bottom teams continues, but now, and more than in recent memory, the league is seeing noticeable trailblazers early into the year while it also maintains its usual widespread average play.
Parity is the norm for the NHL, and naturally the year has offered just a small sample size, yet it seems the league is even more of a jumbled mess than usual. There are the front runners and the back burners, and not much in between. Consider the LA Kings at 9-2-1, or the darlings from the desert, the Vegas Golden Knights, at 8-3. The large chunk of the league sits somewhere between 10 and 16 points. And again, it’s just a small sample size, but questions remain around so many teams already this season.
Somewhere between the good and the bad lie teams like the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, and the New York Rangers. The Caps and Rangers both sit below .500 for wins. Questions remain about Rangers’ head coach, Alan Vigneault, and his recent coaching decisions. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz has also seen his fair share of criticism. What is it about the usual perennial contenders that have made them so lackluster?
The Rangers have been known for their slow season starts under Vigneault. Is this year any different? Is it because the team may actually just be lacking in talent as opposed to just sluggish? They hustled out a strong win Tuesday night against the Knights, but will the Rangers be able to stymie the sink toward mediocrity? A surging hot Lightning team may not help.
Lots of different storylines surround the Bolts this year. Going into Thursday nights match up however, they will look to improve on one of the few weak aspects of the team: the penalty kill. The Lightning sit 18th in the league at the kill, but will hope to improve against a New York team that sits 10th on the powerplay.
The chart above has a couple of things worth noting. First, just a reminder that the dots show the last ten games for each while the bar shows the whole season. So for example, on the 5v5 “Total” metrics, the Lightning have been better in their last ten games by both shot share and expected goal share than they have for the season as a whole.
But more interestingly, look at the Rangers. Their offense has been great and their defense has been terrible. They are playing incredibly high-risk hockey at both ends of the ice. Given the finishing talent the Lightning have in their top six, that could mean the Rangers are in for a rough night. The key for the Bolts will be limiting the Rangers’ chances defensively. Because if they don’t, we might be looking at another high-scoring shootout.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Gabriel Dumont - JT Brown -
Chris Kunitz - Tyler Johnson - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi
(Slater Koekkoek - Andrej Sustr)
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Rick Nash - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner - Boo Nieves - Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh - Brendan Smith
Brady Skjei - Kevin Shattenkirk
Marc Staal - Steve Kampfer