Time: 7:00 Eastern Time
Location: Bell Centre
Broadcast / Streaming: SUN, TVAS, CITY
Opponent SBNation Site: Eyes on the Prize
Although both teams are headed in different directions, each club won its game on Thursday night. The Canadiens dispatched the Rangers, 3-1, in the first game of a four-game home streak, while the Lightning outlasted the officiating and future trade partner Senators in Ottawa, 4-3. Heading into Thursday night’s match-up with the Blueshirts, the Habs had dropped six straight. Tonight, they will be without forward Andrew Shaw, defenseman Shea Weber, and goaltender Carey Price.
As for the Lightning, tonight marks the final game of a three-game road trip. In addition, this is the last game for Tampa Bay before the Trade Deadline goes into effect at 3 p.m. this coming Monday. The Bolts are looking for the three-game road sweep that started with a 4-2 win against the Caps on Tuesday night. After tonight, Tampa Bay will have 10 of the next 11 games at home. Get ready, Amalie!
It remains to be seen what, if any, moves Steve Yzerman and company makes before Monday’s trade hiatus. Tampa Bay’s most pressing need is a top-4 defenseman, and if the market allows for such, Yzerman could be interested in a bottom-six forward, preferably a center, in my opinion.
Nikita Kucherov enters tonight on an eight-game point streak, having accumulated 14 points since the Bolts’ 5-2 win against Vancouver on February 8th. Tyler Johnson snapped a season-long 17-game goalless drought in the win against Ottawa Thursday. The Bolts now have five 20-goal scorers, as Namestnikov picked up his career-high 20th tally of the season on Thursday. Tyler Johnson is not far behind him, however, with 17 goals himself. Brayden Point is on a six-game point streak and three-game goal streak, and our favorite forechecker, Yanni Gourde, has points in 13 of his last 15 games.
Against a depleted Habs team that is looking to secure the #1 overall pick more so than a playoff spot at this time of the year, it is imperative that the Lightning come out hard after the opening puck drop. Montreal doesn’t have much to play for right now, but you know the competitive juices will be flowing in this Atlantic Division rivalry.
The Canadiens have been one of the most unfortunate teams this season. Just look at their results section. Their goal differential is way below where we expect it to be at 5v5 given the shots they’ve taken and allowed. They remain among the league leaders in expected goal share at 5v5. Judging this team by its record is a bad idea. This is a good team and not a walkover for the Lightning.
For the Bolts, they continue to be a lesser version of the team that dominated the early part of the season. Great defensive play is now just good. Above average offensive play is now below average. The team is also likely to be distracted by the trade deadline. They can talk about professionalism all they want but they’re still human and it would be impossible to ignore all the rumors.
Factoring in all of the above and a game that looks like a walkover based on the standings is suddenly much closer at a deeper look.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Chris Kunitz- Tyler Johnson - Yanni Gourde
Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Cory Conacher
Victor Hedman — Anton Stralman
Mikhail Sergachev — Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn — Andrej Sustr
I’m making a calculated assumption that Koekkoek’s lack of ice time and Dotchin’s bad third period penalty will sit both of them in favor for Andrej Sustr and a 12/6 alignment.
Max Pacioretty — Jonathan Drouin — Artturi Lehkonen
Paul Byron — Tomas Plekanec — Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk — Philip Danault — Charles Hudon
Nicolas Deslauriers — Byron Froese — Logan Shaw
Victor Mete — Jeff Petry
Karl Alzner — Noah Juulsen
Joe Morrow — Jordie Benn