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Lightning Round: Looking forward to the second half

Some story lines to keep an eye on after the break.

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NHL: JUN 20 NHL Awards Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hang in there Lightning fans. We’re almost halfway through the bye week. Monday is right around the corner and the Bolts will be back on the ice against Dallas before you know it. The All Star break marks the unofficial halfway mark of the season (the Lightning have played 48 games so they are well past the actual midpoint).

Will the Lightning catch the Bruins?

With a strong run of play the Lightning have narrowed the deficit to eight points (with three games in hand). They do have two head-to-head matches in the beginning of March which could be key to deciding who is going to win the division. Overall, the second half of the season should be a little easier for the Lightning compared to the first forty-one games. So, if you’re sitting on a “Lightning to win the Atlantic” betting slip (currently +190), don’t tear it up just yet.

Can Steven Stamkos get to 90 points?

He has 48 points in 45 games with 39 left to go. He’s tracking to be right at the number right now. If he hits that mark, he’ll become the first player in Lightning history to have 90 or more points in five different seasons. Since Stamkos entered the league in 2008-09, the only other player in the league to have four 90+ point seasons is Sidney Crosby, so Stamkos can claim superiority in that category as well.

Points may not be the best way to measure a player’s production, but if he’s near 90, then things are most likely going well for the Lightning.

Will Mathieu Joseph or Alex Volkov make it back to the Lightning?

Both have struggled at the NHL level this season and then were reassigned to Syracuse. With the Crunch both have also seemingly found their game. Joseph is skating with more confidence and aggression while Volkov has rediscovered his scoring touch.

Unfortunately, it may not matter unless there is an injury in Tampa. Carter Verhaeghe looks like he’s found his NHL legs and Mitchell Stephens has given the club no reason (other than on paper to save some salary cap money) to send him back to Syracuse. The club is rolling with the line-up they have right now and it’s unlikely Julien BriseBois is going to do anything to upset that chemistry.

Can Alex Killorn score 30 goals?

I guess 30 is the new 20. Prior to this year he’s never hit the twenty goal mark and has received his fair share of criticism on social media for it despite showing string performances in other areas of his game. This year he’s shattered his previous mark in goals and reached the hallowed 20-goal plateau with almost forty games to play. So let’s move that target one more time for him.

The Organization:

The Syracuse Crunch 3-2 in overtime to the Laval Rocket. More importantly, they lost goaltender Scott Wedgewood to what looked like a lower body injury. He had just returned from missing six weeks after suffering a lower body injury....in Laval. Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh had the goals for Syracuse. [Syracuse Crunch]

Jimmy Huntington was assigned to Orlando prior to the Crunch’s game. Last time he was down there long enough to turn around and catch a flight back to Syracuse. Chances are he’ll be with the Solar Bears a bit longer this time. [Orlando Solar Bears]

The Lightning player poll is in. Joe Smith asked a bunch of questions and had 18 players answer. Braydon Coburn was named as the person that spends the most time in the weight room. I call foul. We all know the correct answer to that question is Julien BriseBois. Victor Hedman is the best dressed. That I agree with. [The Athletic]

The Game:

There were only two games in the NHL last night. Columbus maintained their strong play of late by taking down the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3 while Minnesota beat Detroit 4-2. Providing a glimmer of hope in a distressingly dark and dismal season for the Red Wings, top prospect Filip Zadina scored both of their goals. [ESPN Scoreboard]

The NHL has declared Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup winning goal in 2010 as the Goal of the Decade. That’s cool. It was a nice goal for Chicago fans. I’m sure in the thousands of games since then there were more entertaining ones, but hey that’s just like their opinion, man. Personally I’ll take Brayden Point dancing around a future hall of fame defenseman. [NBCSports]

Philadelphia has had a marketing success over the last season and a half with their new mascot, Gritty. Yesterday a report surfaced that may dull some of that social media shine as the employee inside the suit was accused of hitting a teenager in the back. Details are a bit murky at this point. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Auston Matthews is going to the All Star Game. He isn’t playing though. A wrist injury is going to keep him out of the game. Brady Tkachuk is replacing him in St. Louis. [Sportsnet]

Connor McDavid hurt his knee in the final game of last season. OK, hurt is a bit of an understatement. Connor McDavid shredded his knee in that game. Or in medical terms, “The (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) is cut right in half. The back of the knee joint, there’s a lining; it’s completely torn”. Oh, and he had a crack in his tibia. [31 Thoughts]

Birthdays:

Happy Birthday! Congratulations, you share your birthday with former Bolt Darrin Rumble. He was a first round pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987 and made his debut at aged 22. Rumble played two seasons for the Ottawa Senators in the early 1990s and then spent the next decade or so primarily in the AHL and IHL with occasional looks in the NHL with the Flyers and Saint Louis.

He signed with the Lightning in September of 2002 and played in 24 games over the next two seasons before retiring. He never recorded a point in a Tampa Bay uniform. That’s the second most appearances without a point by a non-goaltender in franchise history. Only Ian Herbers (37 games) had more games without a point.