The Tampa Bay Lightning’s next ten games neatly take up the rest of January, starting today and going through January 31, including January 18-26 off for the All-Star Break. Alan will break down the skater statistics behind the last ten games later today, but what do the next ten games look like? Here’s a quick look at the next few weeks.
Tuesday January 7 vs. Vancouver (First meeting of the season) [middling]
Thursday January 9 vs. Arizona (First meeting of the season) [middling]
Weekend Metro back-to-back
Saturday January 11 at Philadelphia (First meeting of the season) [tough]
Sunday January 12 at New Jersey (1-0-0) [bad]
Tuesday January 14 vs. LA Kings (First meeting of the season) [bad]
Thursday January 16 at Minnesota (0-1-0) [bad]
Friday January 17 at Winnipeg (0-1-0) [middling]
18th - 26th
Monday January 27 at Dallas (First meeting of the season) [tough]
Wednesday January 29 at LA Kings (Second meeting of two) [bad]
Friday January 31 at Anaheim (1-0-0) [bad]
As you can see, Tampa will not meet any divisional rivals during this stretch, meaning that this next bunch of games will be two-point matches. Half of these games are the first time this season that Tampa will meet these Metro, Pacific, and Central teams.
In Geo’s second half of the season breakdown, he mentions that this part of the season is fairly evenly split between good opponents (calculated by points %) with 14 games, middling opponents with 15 games, and bad opponents with 14 games. In the next ten games, Bolts will meet five bad teams, three middling ones, and only two tough ones, but seven of the games will be played on the road.
As Geo says, the rest of January is the time to keep banking points, because February is gonna be tough:
The Lightning will play 14 games in February. Six teams are in the Top 10, six are in the Middle 10, and two are in the Bottom 10. Thankfully they’ll only have two back-to-backs in February, though the first one is on February 1st after they play the Anaheim Ducks on January 31st. The second back to back is against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.
I wonder if Groulx will get his moment to shine?
Who will we be telling about the Lexus Club jersey rule come April? Probably the Toronto Maple Leafs, for the very first time in Tampa Bay Lightning playoff history. Alan wrote about this potential meetup.
Add all that together and it’s a recipe for a first round series between the Lightning and the Leafs. It seems almost certain that Boston, Toronto, and Tampa will be the top three teams from the Atlantic. And probably the only playoff teams with the Metro being the much better Eastern Conference division so far. So unless the Leafs or Lightning can overtake the Bruins in the second half of the season, get ready for an all blue and white first round.
Brayden Point had a beauty of a goal against the Hurricanes for the third goal of the game. He found the puck on his stick at the front of the net. He make a little forehand fake, but then went to the backhand to roof the puck. He stepped away from the front of the net and had a little arm pump and leg raise celebration. You can just barely see it on the video below, but Kucherov came over and mirrored his celebration, making a little bit of fun with Point. And then you can see Point’s happy smile and laugh.
Joe Smith wrote up his thoughts on the first half of the season for The Athletic. (Paid content.)
But there has to be a bit of concern after veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Ottawa and didn’t play Sunday in Carolina after suffering an upper-body injury. It’s unclear what the exact injury is, but it didn’t look good when Ottawa’s Matt Tkachuk hit McDonagh high Saturday, and Colin White caught him inadvertently with an elbow to the head. While one source said it’s not believed to be a concussion, Cooper did not have an update or timetable on McDonagh’s injury Saturday or Sunday, so we’ll have to wait and see how he does this week when the team is back in Tampa.
The Beast broke through against the league’s best penalty kill in the first period. In a span of 2:02 on two separate penalties, Daniel Leavens and David Vallorani both connected for a 2-0 Brampton lead. Lipanov cut the Beast lead in half at the 8:13 mark with his 7th goal of the season.
This was when the warning lights should have been going off. I think, knowing what we knew at the time, it had made total sense to keep Babcock going into 2018-19. But once that season got rolling, it was too easy to get into a mindset that only the playoffs really mattered, to handwave away bad results because all that really counted was what they did against Boston. They’d be in with a chance there.
And speaking of the Leafs: