Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Capital One Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN
Opponent SBNation Site: Japers’ Rink
The last time these two teams met, they were playing in the round-robin of the 2020 NHL Playoffs in the bubble in Toronto and the Lightning haven’t won their two back-to-back Stanley Cups yet. One year later both teams remain amongst the Stanley Cup contenders, but face different challenges: while the Lightning are trying to win their third consecutive championship, the Capitals are wondering if they’re still able to achieve something with their quickly aging roster.
The Lightning’s first two games of the season weren’t what many Bolts fans were expecting from their favourite team at the start of the season and it’s easy to start overreacting after two less than impressive performances. The Lightning still haven’t had a lead this season, their defense seem sloppy and slow, and Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t playing on his usual level — all of those things are wearing down the nerves of fans already.
The second half of the game against the Detroit Red Wings brought some relief. Despite trailing twice 1-3 and 3-6, the Bolts didn’t give up and rallied back to take an overtime win. The Lightning’s offense have finally got it together with Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov casually recording four-point games and the power play started looking as dangerous as it was during the playoffs. This game could become a turning point for the Lightning, as Steven Stamkos noted in his post-game interview.
Steven Stamkos said this was the kind of win that can “catapult” a team. “I don’t even know how to describe that one.”— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) October 15, 2021
Speaking of Stamkos, the Lightning’s captain had a stellar game. He recorded two power play goals — both were scored from his favourite spot in the left circle with a one-timer shot in a range of 1:12 minutes — bringing his team within one goal versus Detroit and giving them hope. This season is very important for Stamkos, as he’s fighting for probably his last chance to make the Olympic roster. It’s still very early into the season, but it’s worth noting that Stamkos is currently sharing a lead in a scoring race in the league with five points in two games.
The Lightning isn’t expected to make some big changes ahead of tonight’s game in Washington. During the previous game, the Lightning’s coaching staff kept switching Pat Marron and Mathieu Joseph in their bottom-six and Taylor Raddysh isn’t still looking very confident, taking a four-minute penalty in the last game against Detroit, so we will probably see Boris Katchouk making his NHL debut very soon.
Unlike the Lightning, the Caps started their season with a big win over the New York Rangers. The Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who left one of the last pre-season games due to injury, returned like nothing happened and scored two goals and two assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had a very questionable previous season and was reportedly on the verge of being traded, returned to the Capitals first line, recording three assists on that night. In the absence of Nicklas Backstrom, who was recently placed on a long-term injured reserve and is still recovering from a hip injury, more responsibility will be laid on Kuznetsov.
Despite remaining one of the oldest teams in the NHL, the Capitals have some very promising rookies making the team this season. A 19-year-old forward, Hendrix Lapierre, scored his first NHL goal in his first game on Wednesday night and 22-year-old defenceman Martin Fehervary played on the first pair alongside with John Carlson on the opening night. Connor McMichael, a first-rounder from the 2019 NHL Draft, also had an impressive training camp with the Capitals and very close to making the team.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Corey Perry - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr
Washington Capitals Lines
Alexander Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TomWilson
Anthony Mantha - Lars Eller - Daniel Sprong
Conor Sheary - Hendrix Lapierre - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Nik Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Justin Schultz