The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Nashville Predators in overtime on Tuesday night. It was a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair that saw a lot of physical play including hits by both teams that were over the line. In short, it was basically a playoff game. Hopefully, the win is an indication that either the style of play the Lightning are looking to evolve to is starting to take effect, or some bounces are finally going their way after a couple of weeks of solid play without results.
One thing is certain, this win needs to be the start of a stretch of play that sees the Lightning on the victorious side more often than not. They have to start clawing their way up the standings. Having a stretch of game against “easier” opponents would be nice. Unfortunately that stretch may have already happened for the Bolts.
Remember when they won six of eight games and things seemed to be turning the corner? Well part of the reason things seemed easier is because, well, there were. Those wins came against Buffalo (3 times), the Blackhawks, and the Ducks. Not exactly a murders’ row of competition this season.
Following that stretch the Lightning lost their next three games as the quality of the teams they faced increased. In fact two of those losses came to teams that ESPN has ranked in the top five teams in their Relative Power Index. Is this an accurate representation of how strong teams are in the NHL? Sure, why not? It seems to be as good as any as it takes a team’s winning percentage as well as their opponents’ winning percentages into consideration.
Washington is currently on top of the list and the Lightning lost to them in overtime. St. Louis is fourth and Tampa Bay lost a one-goal game to them as well (for the record Carolina is sixteenth). What’s kind of interesting is that based on those rankings, the last “good team” the Lightning beat was Pittsburgh (ranked seventh) way back on October 23rd. The only other team they have beaten in that stretch that was ranked in the top half was the Rangers (15th).
That’s not great for a team that is supposed to be among the elite in the NHL. However, there also needs to be a little context added. According to ESPN’s calculations, the Lightning have had the hardest schedule in the league so far this season. Their Strength of Schedule is .587, just above the Florida Panthers.
So things are bound to get easier, right? Well, not for long. Their next two games are against Minnesota (20th) and San Jose (26th). Then they run into a gauntlet consisting of the Islanders (3rd), Panthers (6th), Boston (2nd), and finally the Capitals (1st). Brutal.
The Lightning aren’t going to get any breaks from the schedule makers this winter. That means they’re going to have to start beating quality opponents. If they play like they did against the Predators, especially over the last two periods, their chances of picking up two points a night will be pretty good.
The Game vs. Nashville:
The Lightning start slow, but pull off the overtime win. [Raw Charge]
A view of the game from the other side of the ice. [On the Forecheck]
Welcome back Cory Conacher - [Tampa Bay Lightning]
“Everything is perfectly alright now. We’re fine. We’re all fine now. Thank you. How are you?” Andrei Vasileveskiy isn’t worried. - [The Athletic]
Alex Volkov needs some recommendations on more things to do in Syracuse when he’s off the ice. Part one of his interview with Sport24 - [Raw Charge]
One step forward, two steps back for the Crunch - [Raw Charge]
Manon Rheaume is getting a statue in Quebec City. That’s awesome. [CBC.ca]
Around the Sport:
Jack Eichel is no Connor McDavid, but he’s still pretty good - [The Hockey News]
Matt Stajan played 34 of his 1,003 career NHL games against the Lightning. He scored nine goals in those games. On Tuesday he officially announced his retirement. [NHLPA]
If today is your birthday - Happy birthday! You share it with one of the Lightning immortals - Jassen Cullimore. A member of the 2004 Stanley Cup team, Cullimore was the epitome of the stay-at-home defender. The physical defenseman played in 408 games during his Lightning career (4th all time for Lightning blueliners), recording 15 goals, 38 assists and 396 penalty minutes (12th all time in franchise history). Not bad for a player that Tampa Bay claimed off of waivers. He’s still involved with the organization as the Director of Community Hockey for the Lightning Foundation and Community Relations.