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Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: Time is running out

Tampa Bay is still alive in the post-season hunt, but they have to get back into the Win column, now.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars (32-35-11 75 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (38-29-10 86 pts) GAME 78

Time: 6:00pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, FS-SW

Opponent SB Nation Site: Defending Big D

Previous Game Musings

A team cannot play good hockey for a single period and expect to win consistently, especially in this league. Montreal controlled last night’s game far more than Tampa Bay did and if it wasn’t for a fluke triple deflection the Lightning wouldn’t have even gotten a point. I stated in the last preview that Tampa Bay needed to stop falling behind or it would eventually bite them. Tonight, it bit them.

Preview

The fortunate thing about this evening’s game is that Dallas is also in a back-to-back. The Stars played in Carolina last night and defeated the Hurricanes 3-0. Tampa Bay scrounged one point from Montreal last night after coming back midway through the third to tie the game and force overtime. It’ll be interesting to see which team will have the better legs under them. I’ll be very interested to see how the Lightning skate.

Last night’s game was frustrating, but the third period showed what this team could be: fast, skilled, winning puck battles down low, and creating chances. That is how Tampa managed to force overtime after 40 minutes of relatively lackluster hockey. We’ll see if fatigue affects the Bolts tomorrow.

Dallas comes into tonight’s game holding the 17th ranked offense with 210 goals scored, and the 27th ranked defense with 240 goals allowed. Their special teams are putrid with a power-play operating at 17.9% (21st) and the worst penalty kill in the NHL at 74% (30th). Looking at the advanced metrics, Dallas has a Corsi For % of 50.27% (12th) and an expected Goals For % of 49.37% (18). So, whatever Dallas is doing on offense isn’t as effective as it could be.

Over their last ten games, the Stars have gone 5-4-1 while scoring 30 goals and allowing 23, which is good for a team that has had an extremely difficult time limiting the amount of goals that opposing teams get. Dallas is already eliminated from playoff contention, but don’t think this team will just allow Tampa Bay to walk over them. Pride is a very real thing in the NHL and Dallas (a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations during the preseason) will thoroughly love to play spoiler to the Lightning’s playoff hopes. This isn’t a game the Lightning can afford to lose, period.

Given that Tampa Bay scored once and allowed two goals, their rankings have not been affected much. They still have the 15th ranked offense with 216 goals and the 17th ranked defense with 215 goals allowed. The power play dropped slightly to 22.9% (4th) and the penalty kill moved up to 81% (13th) after last night’s games. Over the last ten games, the Lightning are 6-3-1, scoring 30 goals and allowing 31 goals (those three straight games of allowing 5 goals hurts a lot).

The Lightning is running out of real estate. Including tonight’s game, there are five games remaining and ten points up for grabs (the most Tampa Bay can finish with is now 96). Boston is four points ahead while Toronto and Ottawa are five points ahead. There is very little room for error and the team knows it. The desperation they were able to conjure up in the third period against Montreal is exactly how every single period in these remaining five games has to be played. Boston, Toronto, and Ottawa do have tougher schedules than Tampa Bay down the stretch, but that is no guarantee that one of those three teams is going to start losing.

The last time these two teams met it was a back and forth affair where the Lightning blew two leads before losing to Dallas in overtime. Like I mentioned earlier, Dallas isn’t going to just lay down and allow the Lightning to win just because their season is effectively over. They’re going to relish the role of spoiler and play Tampa Bay hard. Since both teams are playing back ends of back-to-backs, expect some sloppy play. The Lightning has to ensure they don’t get into a run-and-gun style of game because the higher the score goes, the more it plays into Dallas’ favor.

They got a point from Montreal and aren’t dead yet, but Tampa Bay is practically on life support.

Comparison Chart

Until the Tampa Bay Lightning officially announce the returns of Tyler Johnson, Steven Stamkos, Cedric Paquette, or Jason Garrison the preview lines will mirror the previous games.

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

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman - Luke Witkowski

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltender

Peter Budaj

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Dallas Stars

Forwards

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky

Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie

Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Devin Shore

Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknel - Jason Spezza

Defense

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Patrik Nemeth - Greg Pateryn

Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns

Goaltenders

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi