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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers preview: Play better hockey

Despite the injuries, the solution should be simple.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

There really isn’t any reason to go beyond that headline. No need to delve into high danger chances or Corsi or saves above average. The Tampa Bay need to be better at the whole hockey thing. The good news is that they did show signs of life in the third period in their last game before the injury to Anthony Cirelli took a little wind out of their sails.

Even with Steven Stamkos (lower body/COVID protocol) and Cirelli (upper body) out of the lineup, the Lightning still have enough firepower to compete with the Florida Panthers, a team riding a really hot top line and an incendiary power play. Seriously, the first thing I would write on the board if I was Jon Cooper would be “DON’T TAKE PENALTIES”. After converting only one of their three opportunities against the Lightning on Thursday, the Panthers’ success rate actually fell to 36.7%. Still, scoring 11 power play goals in 11 games is pretty impressive. Is it sustainable? Probably not.

The Lightning also have to be better along the boards. For one of the few times all season they were outworked in puck battles by their opponent. Coupled with the speed of the Florida forwards and it made for a long night for the Lightning. It’s not often that a Lightning team under Jon Cooper will be outclassed two nights in a row by the same team. If you think back to the playoffs, they may have lost a few games, but they never lost two in a row.

For the Panthers, they have to match the intensity that they had from the get-go in the last game. They were visually amped up on Thursday and really, really wanted to take it to the Stanley Cup champs. Doing it once can be easy, doing it twice against an experienced team like the Lightning will be much harder. They did spread things around a little with twelve different players recording a point, and will need a similar performance if they want to take the second game.

Fun With Graphs/Charts/Pictures

The above photo shows the shot locations at even strength for the Panthers last game. Quite simply, they shot from every on the ice. That’s not a bad strategy against Andrei Vasilevskiy as it keeps him moving around in the crease. As athletic as he is, if you can get him moving from side to side and guessing when and where the shot is coming from he’s going to have a hard night.

It’s also tough for the Lightning defense as they’re constantly having to get ready for shots, going down to block them, and chasing after rebounds. The more you can get a defense moving, the easier it is for you to score a goal.

By contrast here are the Lightning’s shot locations from the same game:

Their offense is generated by working low-to-high and getting shots from the defense in order to generate deflections in front or rebounds. They got the shots from the points, but weren’t able to generate the second chances, mainly because they were losing the puck battles that we’re used to seeing them win. Florida did an excellent job of packing the front of the net and controlling the puck after the initial shot.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines


Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Mathieu Joseph

Blake Coleman - Gemel Smith - Barclay Goodrow

Pat Maroon - Alex Volkov


Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn / Cal Foote


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

This is what we are guessing as of the time of publication. Will update if we hear anything different.

Florida Panthers Lines


Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Brett Connolly

Jonathan Huberdeau - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist

Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Owen Tippett

Ryan Lomberg - Juho Lammikko - Noel Acciari


MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Markus Nutivaara - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas


Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger