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Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: The Vasilevskiy era begins

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Welcome, Peter Budaj! Tampa Bay looks to get back in the win column to start the Vasilevskiy era.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators (33-21-6 72pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (27-25-8 62 pts) GAME 61

Time: 7:30pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, RDS2, TSN5

Opponent SB Nation Site: Silver Seven Sens

Previous Game Musings

There was not much positivity after the Lightning lethargically waded through their loss to Calgary last Thursday. Without Jonathan Drouin, the offense was stagnant and uncreative, while Andrei Vasilevskiy was a victim to some unfortunate bounces. The Lightning has a sizable hill to climb if they want to reach the postseason, but at this point, it is more than likely out of reach.

Preview

After three days off and a surprising trade, the Lightning are back in action tonight against the Ottawa Senators. This game officially ushers in the “Andrei Vasilevskiy era,” who starts for the Bolts because general manager Steve Yzerman traded former starting goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles Sunday evening. I won’t go into detail about the trade; here at Raw Charge we have already put out several articles on the topic.

The last time the Lightning faced off against the Senators in Amalie arena (February 2) it did not go well for the Bolts. Ottawa cruised to a 5-2 win, which was the third straight loss for the Lightning. Since then the Lightning have started to find their groove a bit and have battled back to the fringes of the playoff battle.

Ottawa comes into this game with the 18th best offense with 160 goals, and the 6th best defense, allowing only 157 goals. Their power-play currently sits in the bottom 10 teams of the league at 17.2% (22nd), but their penalty kill is still a top ten unit at 83.4% (8th). The Senators’ possession games has slightly improved from the last time these two teams met; Ottawa’s Corsi For % is at 48.36% (24th) for the season, however, in the month of February the Senators have managed a CF% of 50.11%.

Over their last 10 games, Ottawa has gone 6-4-0 while scoring 23 goals and allowing 22. Conversely, the Lightning over their last 10 have gone 5-3-2, scoring 30 goals and allowing 24. Aside from the poor showing against Calgary, the Lightning have been playing some solid hockey as of late.

Tampa Bay is still muddled in mediocrity this season, not bad enough to tank, yet not good enough to reasonably grab a playoff spot. The offense has scored 166 goals (17th) while the defense has allowed 170 (17th). The power-play has maintained a top 10 ranking at 21.6% (8th), but the penalty kill has left much to be desired at 80.9% (18th).

If the Lightning want to get back into the win column, then they need to limit Ottawa’s opportunities and keep their foot on the gas if they get a lead. Ottawa is stingy on defense, but the Lightning have the speed and skill to make something happen. A full 60 minutes is something that has largely eluded the Lightning this season, but it has occasionally happened. They are not going to beat the Senators with anything less than that.

It’s the start of the Vasilevskiy era for Tampa Bay, though many fans seem to be wary about the young goaltender. His inconsistent play this season (although not entirely his fault) has caused many to doubt his ability to be “the goalie” moving forward. This is all hogwash in my eyes.

Vasilevskiy is still considered an elite talent in the eyes of many scouts across the league and nothing up to this point has changed their views of him. Vasy is young and will have growing pains, this is something everyone needs to accept moving forward.

Carey Price’s age 22 season was firmly average (41 GP, 13 wins, 20 losses, 5 OT/SHTOUT losses, .912 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA). Vasilevskiy this season has struggled with consistency (the defense in front of him has not helped either) which is common with young netminders. His numbers are 32 GP, 11 wins, 13 losses, 5 OT/SHTOUT losses, .909 save percentage, and a 2.81 GAA.

Accept the fact that this year the Lightning have underwhelmed and aren’t making the playoffs, and it’s not Vasilevskiy’s fault. This team still has plenty of seasons with this core at its prime to re-establish themselves as a contender, one bad season will not ruin them.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Vladislav Namestnikov

Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown

Yanni Gourde

Adam Erne

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan Dzingel - Kyle Turris - Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Zack Smith - Derick Brassard - Tom Pyatt

Tommy Wingels - Chris Kelly - Phil Varone

Fredrik Claesson - Mike Blunden - Chris Neil

Defense

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki - Chris Wideman

Goaltenders

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon