Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, BSSO
Opponent SBNation Site: Canes Country
Part of the reason the Tampa Bay Lightning have strung together a recent successful run (4-0-1) is that they’ve locked things down defensively. Until they allowed three goals against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, they hadn’t allowed more that two in four straight games. A lot of that is due in part to Andrei Vasilevskiy returning to playoff form, but the team on a whole is starting to find their defensive rhythm, something that was a hallmark of their two Stanley Cup runs.
Tonight that improved play will probably face it’s toughest test so far as the Carolina Hurricanes come into town looking to bounce back from their only loss of the season, a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers. The five goals they allowed are the highwater mark of the season for them.
Both teams have built their reputation on generating offense and it’s well deserved. The Hurricanes are currently third in the league with an average goals scored of 3.90 through their first ten games. The Lightning, despite missing their premier offensive weapon in Nikita Kucherov, are a respectable eleventh at 3.18 goals per game.
Based on those numbers, one would expect tonight’s clash to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth tilt that features a lot of goals. You might even be inclined to bet the over in goals scored (currently sitting at 6.0 according to several online betting houses). After all, there is no way this finishes as a 2-1 or 3-2 game, right?
Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Both teams have incentive to prioritize defense over offense. For the Lightning, they will be playing without one of their mainstays on defense, Mikhail Sergachev. As he sits out the second game of his two-game suspension, the Bolts will look to make up for his absence by spreading the minutes out over the other five defenders in the line-up, two of whom are likely to be Cal Foote and Fredrik Claesson.
While they still have the talent to absorb the temporary loss of Sergachev on the blueline, they are more likely to be successful against the Hurricanes if the forwards are doing their part to help out on defense. That means focusing on backchecking and hanging out in their own zone to help give their defense options on the breakout. Carolina is going to attack with speed and agression on the forecheck, if the Lightning forwards get to antsy to start their transition to offense, they will leave Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak, and the rest out on islands with limited options to clear. That usually leads to bad things happening.
As for the Hurricanes, after a nice stretch of allowing three goals in a game just once over their first six outings, their opponents have tallied three or more times in three of the last four games. Granted they’ve won two of those games, but high-scoring wins tend to be a regular season trend that doesn’t hold up in the playoffs. Carolina will want to show that they can win a play-off style match-up where keeping pucks out of your own net is more important than putting them in the opponents.
After surrendering four goals in the first period to Florida in their last outing, they will want to make sure to get off to a strong defensive start so they will be focused on maintaining their structure as opposed to attacking at will. They are also battling a little bit of an injury bug with Nino Niederreiter, Brett Pesce, and Antti Raanta all expected to be out of the line-up. Alex Lyon was recalled to back up Fredrik Anderssen in net due to Raanta’s injury.
Of course, it’s always possible that both teams are willing to say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” and turn this into a track meet, which will be highly entertaining for everyone except the coaching staffs. However, if we know anything about coaches in the NHL, it’s that they prefer caution over chaos so expect both sides to try and reign things in a bit.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Anthony Cirelli
Alex Killorn — Steven Stamkos — Mathieu Joseph
Patrick Maroon — Ross Colton — Corey Perry
Taylor Raddysh — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Alex Barre-Boulet
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Fredrik Claesson — Cal Foote
Lines are based on yesterday’s practice. There is a chance that Boris Katchouk draws in for Raddysh or Barre-Boulet.
Carolina Hurricanes Lines
Jordan Martinook - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Seth Jarvis - Derek Stepan - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin - Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei - Tony DeAngelo
Ian Cole - Brendan Smith
Lines based off of dailyfaceoff.com. Will update if we hear anything different.