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Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The Sens march in

Tampa Bay can still fight their way back into a playoff spot!

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators (26-16-6 58pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (22-23-6 50pts) GAME 51

Time: 7:30pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, RDS2, TSN5

Opponent SB Nation Site: Silver Seven Sens

Previous Game Musings

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Bruins/Lightning game. I saw the scoreboard and honestly didn’t even bat an eye when I saw the final score. It’s been a tiring season thus far, and seeing another loss just doesn’t do anything to me anymore. It was nice to see Brayden Point score in his return, but outside of that…meh. In my eyes, it’s just too late for a run. Mathematically we can still do it, but the team has just been so inconsistent that it’s hard to garner up any form of enthusiasm.

Preview

Tonight the Ottawa Senators are in town. The Sens are currently second in the division with 58 points, tying them with Boston. The Senators have also played six fewer games than the Bruins, so the tie breaker goes to them. This puts Ottawa in a great position with many games in hand, which means they can just keep banking points and not have to worry about anyone challenging them for that second spot (barring any massive dips in play).

The Senators are a bit odd this season. Last year they could score often, but couldn’t keep the puck out of their net. Overall this season they haven’t scored a lot, netting 132 goals (20th) and managing a middling power play at 16.9% (22nd). They have, however, improved on the defensive end, allowing only 129 goals (7th) and locking down the penalty kill at 82.8% (10th). Possession-wise, they are an oddity. Their Corsi For % is 47.91% (25th), this is in the same territory as the Avalanche, Sabres, Devils, and Coyotes. At some point, if they don’t reverse this possession trend Ottawa is going to be in trouble.

They’re quite hot right now even with those poor possession numbers. Over their last 10, they sport a 6-2-2 record while potting 40 (yes…40) goals, and allowing 28. During that 10 game stretch, they have shut out Columbus and Washington while defeating Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and Toronto (twice). Their last two games were both one-goal affairs. The Sens are playing really well right now.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has not played well recently. Including Tuesday’s loss to Boston, the Lightning have a 3-5-2 record over their last 10 games. They’ve only managed to score 23 goals while allowing 29. Compare that to how Ottawa has been over their past ten and you’ll see that they have nearly doubled the Bolts in scoring while allowing one less goal. This is worrisome.

The Lightning can still score in the top half of the league, scoring 139 goals (13th) and maintaining a top 10 power play at 22.3% (6th). The issue, as it has been all season, has been on the defensive side. Tampa Bay has allowed 150 goals (24th) and the penalty kill is in the bottom half of the league at 80% (21st). Tampa still plays a strong possession game, managing a 50.94% Corsi For % (10th), but the defense and goaltending issues have just been too inconsistent for the offense to negate.

There is still hope the Lightning can pull off a victory tonight, however, given that the Senators have not been particularly strong with their possession game. The Lightning could take advantage of this and pump shots on Craig Anderson in the hopes he has one of his off nights. In the first meeting between these two teams back in October, Tampa Bay won in Ottawa 4-1, although that was a different Lightning team at the time.

Jake Dotchin has been a surprising bright spot on the defensive end, he has played a lot with Victor Hedman and does not look out of place on the ice. If he continues his strong play, Tampa might’ve have found another young defensive prospect to shore up the defense. Now if they’ll only bring up another promising defensive prospect from Syracuse, then we might see some positive change on the defensive end.

If the Lightning can receive a strong effort from the defense and force Ottawa to chase the game, then it’s a game that can be won. If the defense continues its erratic play and the goaltending isn’t up to the challenge when the defense falters, then Ottawa could bury the Bolts in a hurry.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point

Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown

Defensemen

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Braydon Coburn - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan Dzingel - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Mike Hoffman - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Tom Pyatt

Zack Smith - Derick Brassard - Mark Stone

Tommy Wingels - Chris Kelly - Chris Neil

Defense

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci

Fredrik Claesson - Chris Wideman

Goaltenders

Mike Condon

Andrew Hammond