Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens: GAME #36
Time: 7:30 Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast / Streaming: SUN, RDS, TSN2
Opponent SBNation Site: Habs Eyes On The Prize
The long-awaited return of Jonathan Drouin is here. It has been a well-documented saga: Drouin was cut from the 2013-14 Opening Night roster, then he was given bottom-line minutes during the run to the Stanley Cup Final in June 2015, and then he was demoted to the AHL and we learned of his trade request. He was called back up and went on the 2016 playoff run that fell one fluky goal short to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, and this past offseason he was finally dealt for blue-chip prospect Mikhail Sergachev.
I remember getting the notification on my phone about the trade, and I was in utter shock. Not only was I set off by the fact that he was dealt to a division rival, but I knew that the return would be for an unproved, albeit highly regarded, defenseman — Sergachev. But man, I should stop worrying about the majority of Yzerman’s decision-making (for the rest, see various contracts of some Lightning players), but let’s hold off on that topic for another day and focus on tonight’s matchup.
The Bolts and Canadiens meet tonight for the first of four matchups between the two Atlantic Division rivals. They will meet again in Montreal on January 4th. With Drouin returning to Amalie tonight, it will be interesting to see the fans’ reactions. I will be booing, but it remains to be seen if a video montage and tribute will be played on the JumboTron for the skilled forward.
The Canadiens come to town having just played the Hurricanes last night. They have middled around the .500 mark for quite some time this year, and quite honestly, that’s no surprise. Just look at their roster—not one to contend, in my humble opinion.
The Lightning, on the other hand, went into the Christmas Break sporting a 9-1-0 record in their last ten outings—the one loss coming in a last-minute stunner in Vegas. Hopefully, they dust off their skates, enjoyed their break, and come out flying in what should be a spirited, feisty game tonight against a huge rival.
Consecutive dominant performances by the Lightning against Ottawa and Minnesota before the holidays have them among the best teams in the league in 5v5 shot share and expected goal share. While they scored more goals during their winning streak at the beginning of the season, their recent form is much more indicative of a team that can continue to win long term. For me, this has been their best stretch of play this year.
The Habs are better than their record but maybe not by as much as it seemed early in the season. They are falling back to the middle of the league in shot share and expected goal share. Their special teams are average. And most concerning, they can no longer count on elite goaltending. Carey Price has struggled with injuries this year but even when healthy, he hasn’t looked himself.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn — Yanni Gourde — Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi
Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr continue to sit in the press box. I’d really love to see Koekkoek draw into the lineup again sometime soon.
Max Pacioretty — Jonathan Drouin — Paul Byron
Alex Galchenyuk — Philip Danault — Andrew Shaw
Arturri Lehkonen — Tomas Plekanec — Brendan Gallagher
Nicolas Deslauriers — Byron Froese — Daniel Carr
Karl Alzner — Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn — Jakub Jerabek
Joe Morrow — Brett Lernout