The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t played since Friday’s win against the Chicago Blackhawks. There was some benefit to their unplanned time off - mainly the ability to get some more practice in after an abbreviated training camp. No matter how talented, no coach in the history of sports has ever thought that his team has had enough practice.
The downside is that there is only so much you can do in practice. At some point it’s nice to see some different colored uniforms on the other side of the ice. The Lightning will return against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that is struggling to find their identity for this season while dealing with the fact that their best player doesn’t want to play for them right now.
No matter how much turmoil is brewing in Tort’s clubhouse, the Blue Jackets will be a tougher test for the Lightning than the Chicago hockey team was. Columbus might not be able to score, but they can still lock other teams down as they’ve allowed three or fewer goals in three of their first four games.
If the Lightning’s offense rolls during the next two games, it’ll be a good sign that the Bolts are truly ready to defend their title in the rough-and-tumble Central Division. Should they stumble then things can get a little uncomfortable with a tough stretch against Carolina and Nashville up next (barring any more COVID-related postponements).
In past seasons, teams have stumbled a little after their bye weeks, but those usually come midway through the seasons and involve a lot more downtime for the players. With this break coming so close to the beginning of the season, it’ll be more like those games against Chicago were exhibition games (sorry Hawks fans) and this is the real start to the season.
Are two postseason meetings enough to establish a rivalry? For two teams that normally aren’t in the same division, they’ve seen a lot of each other over the last few years. Now with eight games between them this year, there is plenty of time to develop some animosity towards each other if it’s not already there.
The second game of the series was supposed to be at 7:00 pm on Saturday. The league has switched the start time to 2:00 pm. The reason stated? So that it can be shown during prime time in Europe. Yea! Afternoon hockey.
Just like in the playoffs, the Lightning’s broadcast crew (both radio and TV) are not traveling for road games, instead working them from deep in the bowels of Amalie Arena. Dave Mishkin breaks down what that process is like.
Kind of Lightning related - the Florida Panthers assigned goaltender Sam Montembeault to Syracuse. They kind of needed some more bodies in net for the season. He’ll likely share the goaltending duties with Spencer Martin once the season is under way.
The Washington Capitals appear to be the first team to get into trouble with the league for violating Covid protocols while on the road. The league fined them $100,000 and four players (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, and Ilya Samsonov) were placed on the COVID Protocol Related Absences list.
Old friend JT Brown is heading overseas. After spending last season in the Minnesota Wild organization, the 30-year-old winger has agreed to play with Björklöven in Sweden.
I’m excited to join @Bjorkloven for the rest of the season. Can’t wait to get over there and compete.— JT Brown (@JTBrown23) January 20, 2021
Dr. Lexi Brown also shared the news as well as a look into how things are a little different (and not in a good way) for players looking to play in the AHL this season and why they might choose to play in Europe instead.
Since I’m not tweeting on eggshells anymore, I wish the AHL would offer some financial assistance to their players. European teams cover living expenses, while the AHL is currently offering only 40% of salaries. Many players will be paying to play this season.— Lexi Brown, PhD (@lexilafleur) January 20, 2021
Power Rankings? Sure, it’s been a week and most teams have at least three games played, so why not? Not surprisingly, despite playing only two games, the Lightning are on top of the list. Can they hold off the Las Vegas Golden Knights?
The NHL has officially postponed the Carolina Hurricanes next two home games (both against the Florida Panthers) and the team has closed their practice facilities after several players were added to the COVID Protocol Related Absence List. Their next scheduled game (Tuesday, January 26th) is against the Lightning.
It was a good idea to have pucks embedded with tracking technology, right? Imagine all the new information that could be gleaned from that. Well, it would have been if the puck actually worked. After complaints that pucks didn’t slide as normal and were “terrible” the NHL pulled them from rotation and replaced them with boring, normal pucks. They expect a new supply of fancy pucks soon that will be tested for game play a little better.
Hockey is back today for Lightning fans. Enjoy (and keep wearing your mask).