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Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: the march continues

This Lightning team has gripped their fans with heart-racing games of late, and they’re not done yet!

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings (31-33-12 74 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (37-29-9 83 pts) GAME 76

Time: 7:30pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, FS-D

Opponent SB Nation Site: Winging It In Motown

Previous Game Musings

Celene Dion...SING IT GIRL!

My reaction to Gourde winning the game:

Preview

This is it, Lightning fans, the final march for a playoff spot. Including tonight’s game against Detroit, there are seven games remaining and 14 points available for Tampa Bay. At max the Lightning will end the season with 97 points, and the threshold to make the playoffs in the Eastern conference is estimated to be 93 points. There isn’t a lot of room for error anymore, so even the slightest losing streak will almost surely doom the Lightning’s playoff hopes.

If anyone survived the cardiac-arrest-inducing phenomenon that was Monday night’s tilt against Chicago then I commend you, because I barely survived that roller coaster of a game. This evening the Detroit Red Wings are in town for the final matchup between these Atlantic Division rivals. Tampa Bay has won every game this season against the Red Wings, but that doesn’t ensure an automatic victory tonight (this Lightning team lost to Arizona twice and Colorado once).

Detroit comes into tonight’s game already eliminated from the playoffs (something I haven’t seen since I was 3 years old) so the only thing this team has left to play for is pride, which is a scary thing for some teams.

Detroit has been bad this season on both sides of the puck with only 189 goals scored (25th) and 224 goals allowed (25th). Their special teams are on two different spectrums with a power-play at 14.1% (28th) and a penalty kill at 82.1% (11th). The advanced metrics don’t paint a pretty picture either, with their Corsi For% at 48.55% (23rd) and an expected Goals For % of 48.50% (23rd).

Over their last ten games, Detroit has gone 5-4-1 while scoring 24 goals and allowing 25 goals. Detroit’s long playoff streak was commendable, but their efforts to prolong it have really hampered the team’s ability to inject some impactful youth throughout the lineup. Outside of some talented forwards that are beginning to see ice time and produce, the Red Wings defense doesn’t inspire confidence moving forward.

Conversely, the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing everything within their power to make the playoffs with a lineup that consists of more AHL players than you can shake a stick at (also one of the youngest rosters in the league…I’m not kidding, after trading Bishop, Boyle, and Filppula Tampa Bay has one of the youngest teams in the NHL [8th youngest. - Acha]).

The Lightning is still right in the middle of the league in offense and defense with 210 goals scored and allowed, placing them 15th in offense and 16th in defense. The shining beacon of hope remains the power-play which currently sits at 22.5% (4th), and the penalty kill has seen a slight uptick in efficiency at 81.1% (14th). Looking at the advanced metrics, Tampa Bay is still in the upper third of the league with a Corsi For % of 51.53% (6th) and an expected Goals For % of 51.31% (11th). Over the last ten games, Tampa Bay has gone 7-3-0 while scoring 31 goals and allowing 29 goals (three straight games of allowing 5 goals hurts).

The steadier play in all phases of the game have helped revive the Lightning’s playoff chances, but their chances are still below 30% (most metric sites have the Lightning around 26%) and scoreboard watching is never a position you want to be in when push comes to shove. As amazing as the comeback against Chicago was, the idea that the Lightning will continue to come back against teams is a flawed one. Chicago marked the third consecutive time (and fifth overall) in the last ten games the Lightning trailed and won.

To better elaborate; the Lightning has not scored first since March 14th against Ottawa, during the following games the Lightning lost to Toronto, Washington, and Arizona before defeating Boston, Detroit, and Chicago. The Lightning needs to score first as well as tightening up their defensive play because it has been panic-inducing at times during this ten-game stretch.

The final stretch of games are going to nerve-wracking, but this Lightning team has refused to bow down. The chances are slim, but there is still a chance.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne - Yanni Gourde - Joel Vermin

Gabriel Dumont - Greg McKegg - J.T. Brown

Defensemen

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman - Luke Witkowski

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards

Tomas Tatar - Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist

Riley Sheahan - Frans Nielsen - Darren Helm

Anthony Mantha - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader

Drew Miller - Tomas Nosek - Ben Street

Defense

Dan DeKeyser - Nick Jensen

Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green

Xavier Ouellet - Robbie Russo

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek