Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Barclays Center
Broadcast/Streaming: MSG+, SunS
Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey
Let’s face it. We’ve entered that part of the season where it’s hard to get motivated for regular season games. The Lightning have clinched a spot in the playoffs. The only question is if they are going to end up with the top seed or the second seed. In the grand scheme of things, that probably doesn’t matter much to the team. They’re back in the playoffs and are happy to play whoever they play in the first round.
So, if the motivation of making the playoffs is gone, what reason do the Lightning have to go out and win when they head up to Brooklyn to take on the New York Islanders? Well, winning is nice. It’s always nicer to win than lose. There are also team and individual achievements up for grabs. Andrei Vasilevskiy set a new team record for wins in his last time out, but what are some other marks that can fall?
Team Wins: 50
With the win against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Lightning cracked the 50 win barrier for the second time in franchise history. The 2014-15 club, which made it to the Stanley Cup Final, was the first and is tenuously holding on to the title of club with the most wins in the organization’s history. If this year’s squad can pick up one more victory over their next nine games they will set the new high water mark. Unfortunately the NHL record of 62, set by Steve Yzerman’s 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, is out of reach.
Team Points: 108
Again, another record set by the 2014-15 club that is in reach. They only need five more points to eclipse the mark and with games against Buffalo, Arizona and the Rangers they should hopefully be able to accumulate those points.
Rookie Goals and Points: 24 and 62
The great rookie season of Yanni Gourde continues and he’s on the edge of making it the greatest in franchise history. He’s currently tied with Tyler Johnson for most rookie goals with 24. Despite a six-game goalless streak, he should be able to pot one more to hold the record outright. His 56 points sits third all-time among Lightning rookies behind Ondrej Palat’s 59 and Brad Richards’ 62. That’s going to be a little tougher to hit, but he has gone on several 10 game stretches where he has racked up six or more points this season.
Steven Stamkos has set a personal high in assists this season with 58. It’s also tied for 5th most in a Lightning season. Can he find 11 more to top Marty St. Louis’ 2010-11 mark of 68? Possibly. It would take a pretty good run over the next 9 games, but it’s not impossible. By the wa,y St. Louis has 4 of the 6 top totals in franchise history. Nikita Kucherov is only one assist behind Stamkos this year so he also has an outside chance of setting the record. The duo has combined for 115 assists. In 2005-06 Richards and Vinny Prospal combined for 123 which is the most in team history.
Game-winning goals: 12
A mark held by Steven Stamkos set in 2011-12 when he scored 60. Brayden Point is currently at 10. Chances are there will be a couple of overtime games over the next couple of weeks so there is a good chance Point matches or beats the record. The young man is clutch.
As for the game tonight…
The Islanders currently sit at 72 points, 10 points shy of the second wild card spot. While they haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff consideration, their season is for all but over. They are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games and fading. John Tavares shares the lead in points with rookie Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee leads the team with 36 goals.
The Lightning have won their last two games - one by stymying the Oilers offense and the other by staging a furious comeback against the Maple Leafs. The victories helped wash the bad taste of the loss to Boston out of their mouths and it is hopefully a sign that they are rounding back into playoff shape.
Ryan Callahan is not making the the short two game road trip after leaving the Toronto game with an injury. How long he is out is yet to be known which makes the return of Palat even more important. It’s doubtful that the Lightning will rush Callahan back soon as they do have a decently deep roster at forward right now and there is a rumor that they may call up another player from Syracuse just in case.
The Islanders are still bad. Their offensive numbers are mediocre but their defensive numbers are terrible. They’ve given up an outrageous number of goals this season. That’s partially because they’ve had below average goaltending but even more because they’ve been just awful on defense.
The Lightning should be able to take advantage of this glaring weakness. When the Bolts have room to skate and make plays, they can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Look for them to be just that tonight at both 5v5 and on the power play if they get the opportunity.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines:
Forward line combinations from #Bolts practice:— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) March 21, 2018
D pairings from today’s #Bolts practice:— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) March 21, 2018
New York Islanders Lines
Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd - Brock Nelson - Tanner Fritz
Ross Johnston - Casey Cizikas - Chris Wagner
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock
Dennis Seidenberg - Adam Pelech