Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins: GAME SIX
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: PPG Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, ATTSN-PT
Opponent SBNation Site: PensBurgh
The last time these two teams met, the rag-tag collection of Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins put a damper on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s opening night banner-raising ceremony. An empty-net inflated 6-2 loss kicked off this weird, lead-less start to the season, so why not end it against the very same (and still Crosby-less) Penguins team?
At some point the chances the Lightning have been racking up over the past two or three games have to start going in, right? I know we all may be a little frustrated or annoyed with them right now, but a win over the Penguins would get them back on the right groove heading into a Thursday night game against the Arizona Coyotes who are still winless after a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday. Win tonight, win Thursday and lo and behold we have ourselves a winning streak!
Is it too early to start tinkering with the lines? For the most part, Coach Cooper has resisted making any permanent changes to his personnel, except for the one game Corey Perry found himself on the top line. He has swapped players around mid-game to get things going (to little or no avail) and after six games, maybe it is time to move things around for more than two or three minutes a game. Personally, I think he goes one more game with the current set-up and then tinkers a little if they are unable to produce any offense again.
One bright spot has definitely been the fourth line of Boris Katchouk, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Thrown together after the Nikita Kucherov injury, the veteran and two rookies have been more than holding their own while on the ice. According to Natural Stat Trick, in 22:57 of 5v5 ice time over three games they are posting a 65.52 CF% and a 87.26 xGF%. Granted they haven’t scored any goals, but they haven’t conceded any either. Monday’s game against Buffalo was one of their best as they spent a lot of time disrupting the Sabres breakout with a solid forecheck and hard play in the neutral zone.
Overall, the Lightning really just have to keep plugging away at what they’re doing. Keep generating possession and getting the puck on net. Based on his post-game comments yesterday, Coach Cooper would like to see a few more quality shots, it seems he thought there were a couple of occasions last night that players opted to pass instead of shoot. This scoring slump is going to get busted with deflection and rebound goals, not pretty passing plays.
On the other side of the ice, the Penguins have yet to lose in regulation despite missing several key players besides Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin is still out, as is Jeff Carter. Now, they add Kris Letang to the out of action group, as he is isolating after a confirmed positive COVID test. While you may not recognize many of the names on the roster, they’ve been playing solid hockey as they’ve only allowed 12 goals in the 5 games, and 4 of those came in their overtime loss to Florida. Most recently they routed the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-1, a few days ago.
Tristan Jarry has been solid in net with a 1.47 GAA and .943 SV% while posting a 3.27 GSAA at 5v5. This is the type of netminding the Penguins were hoping for when they chose him over Matt Murray a few seasons ago. Of course, consistency has always been Jarry’s Achillies Heel so maybe it’s time for him to post a dud, right?
The Lightning are finishing up their first of twelve back-to-back contests this year. Last season they were 5-3-1 in the second half of back-to-backs, that’s a pretty successful mark and one that they hopefully keep rolling.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Matieu Joseph
Alex Barre-Boulet- Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr
We will assume that Patrick Maroon is still out of the line-up and that Vasy gets the start.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Jake Guentzel - Evan Rodrigues - Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker - Drew O’Connor - Danton Heinen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Dominik Simon - Brian Boyle - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Mark Friedman
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Based on Monday’s practice
To put y’all in a good mood here is Benedict Cumberbatch not being able to say “Penguins”