Time: 4:00 pm ET
Location: Amalie Arena
Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey
Lets preface this by saying that we’re assuming Curtis McElhinney is going to start this afternoon as the Lightning kick off another back-to-back series this weekend. If McElhinney starts Saturday, that leaves Andrei Vasilevskiy to start on Sunday against Florida. Coach Cooper will likely want his number one goalie starting against the team the Lightning are fighting for first place.
For McElhinney it’ll also be a chance for him to gain a little revenge against the ‘Hawks. He was in net for the 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago back on March 5th, the only game in the six-game series so far that the Lightning haven’t beaten their 2015 Stanley Cup Finals foe. It’s been a rough month for the Bolts back-up goaltender. He’s made three starts and has yet to pick up a victory.
In just over 179 minutes of ice time he’s allowed 11 goals on 74 shots against with a .851 SV%. His underlying numbers aren’t much better. The only bright spot I can really find is that he is sporting an .872 SV% in all high-danger situations. That’s slightly higher than Vasilevskiy’s .862. Good for him!
He’s also been better shorthanded than at even strength. McElhinney is rocking a .900 SV% and a 1.14 GSAA while facing roughly 48 shots per 60 minutes played. He’s faced 8 high-danger chances down a player and stopped them all. So, it’s obvious that the Lightning need to take more penalties while he’s in net, right?
It’s not been an easy start of the season for McElhinney. After going almost an entire year without starting a meaningful game, he didn’t get much action in the first month of the season, only appearing in three games. With the stops and starts to the season, it was hard to work him into the line-up, yet he managed to win twice in his first three games, including a stellar performance against Carolina where he stopped 31 of 32 shots. This month he has seen a little more playing time, a start today would be his fourth in the last ten days.
Most goalies like to see a little more action in order to get into a rhythm, even the back-ups. He’s getting beat from distance (average goal distance 29.53 feet) which is an indication he isn’t tracking the puck well or that his positioning is off a little bit on shots. Those are the things that are hard to duplicate in practice, no matter how good your teammates are.
Even through we’re halfway through the season it’s still a little too early to write off his season. He is a a veteran netminder and knows how to get out of slumps. Still, it is definitely something to keep an eye on. McElhinney is 37-years-old this season and time might be catching up with him. While it’s doubtful the Lightning will go out and trade for another back-up due to the cap situation they find themselves in, but if McElhinney doesn’t put together a couple of strong starts, they might give Christopher Gibson a shot in net.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
(based on the previous game)
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli
Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Johnson - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Chicago Blackhawks Lines
(based on the previous game)
Alex DeBrincat - Phillip Kurashev - Patrick Kane
Dominik Kubalik - David Kampf - Brandon Hagel
Mattias Janmark - Carl Soderberg - - Pius Suter
Matthew Highmore - Lucas Wallmark - Ryan Carpenter
Duncan Keith - Adam Boqvist
Calvin De Haan - Connor Murphy
Nikita Zadorov - Ian Mitchell