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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers Preview and Game Day Thread

Can the Bolts find victory in South Florida?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Five Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers: GAME# 5

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: FLA Live Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, HULU

DraftKings Line: Lightning -1.5 O/U 6.5

Opponent SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

Preview:

Alright. We’re officially past all of the opening week hoopla. It’s time to get serious about things, right? The first Sunshine State Scrap of the season is taking place tonight down in Sunrise. Hey remember last time the Lightning played down there?

That was a good time wasn’t it? Feel free to get the t-shirt to remember it. Or to send to your friend who happens to be a Florida Panthers fan.

There haven’t been many good times so far this season for the Lightning as they’ve fumbled their way to a 1-3 start to the season. Not great, but if you remember it took seven games for them to pick up their first regulation win last season and were 2-4 (with two overtime wins) through their first six last year and they still made it to the Stanley Cup.

So lets not hit the panic button just yet. I mean, you can dust the button off if you want, but just don’t hit it. Yes the 5v5 offense is hurting at this point with just 5 of their goals coming at even strength. Only two teams that are openly tanking (Arizona and Chicago) have scored fewer goals at 5v5. The good news is that the Lightning have bolstered that a bit by scoring five more goals on the power play, Unfortunately they are still 30th in goals scored, so that’s not great.

If they weren’t getting chances it would be a little more worrisome, but they are getting some looks at the net, they just aren’t burying them at the moment. Natural Stat Trick has them at 9.31 expected goals at 5v5 which is middle of the pack in the league (15th). Their 122 scoring chances is 8th in the league and their 48 high-danger chances is 11th. They will start converting their chances because they are too talented to continue shooting at (checks notes) 7.2%. For comparison sake, since they’ve begun their current run of success with this core, they’ve shot, on average, at 10.7%.

There has been some grumbling that Coach Cooper should break up the top line of Brandon Hagel, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov which has yet to score a goal at 5v5 in 38 minutes together. Here’s the thing, they really should have scored a few by now (expected goals is 2.19) but the universe is conspiring against them a bit at the moment. They have positive numbers in unblocked shot attempts (58.18%) and scoring chances (62.79%) and have generated 10 high-danger chances. The puck just hasn’t gone in for them yet. It will.

Coach Cooper is adopting the “each day is better than the day before” approach to things, which is good. This line-up has had a bit of a shake up over the offseason. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to take a few games to figure things out. We should start seeing things get better for them on offense.

That being said it does look like he’s mixing up the middle six with Vlad Namestnikov stepping up to the second line and Nick Paul moving back to the middle of the ice on the third line. If they can get some push from those middle lines (and knock if off with the stupid turnovers) things will turn around pretty quickly.

Florida will provide a nice test for them. Their frenemies to the south are off to a quick start, 3-1 with wins over the Flyers, Sabres, and Islanders. They’re scoring a respectable 3.5 goals per game while allowing 3.00 per game. Despite losing Jonathan Huberdeau to a trade and Anthony Duclair to injury, they still have plenty of depth as 11 different Panthers have recorded goals so far on the season. The new guy, Matthew Tkachuk, is leading them in points with 6 so far.

However, their defense could be a little suspect. They lost MacKenzie Weegar and Ben Chiarot in the offseason. Injuries have taken Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour this season (although Montour could be back in the line-up tonight). Gustav Forsling and Radko Gudas topped their team in ice time against the Flyers in their last game, which is nice, but do you really want Gudas playing 25 minute a game?

This could be a good chance for the Lightning to right the ship a little bit as it should be a festive atmosphere down in Sunrise and they might be able to take advantage of a team that they’ve had some success in scoring against in the past.

Comparison chart:

Tampa Bay vs. Florida Comparison

Game #5 Tampa Bay Lightning Florida Panthers
Game #5 Tampa Bay Lightning Florida Panthers
Overall Record 1-3-0 3-1
Home Record 0-1-0 1-0-0
Road Record 1-2-0 2-1-0
Goals For 10 14
Goals Against 14 12
xGF 12.29 16.15
xGA 16.72 12.95
PP% 33.3% 11.1%
PK% 71.4% 87.5%
Stats via NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Vlad Namestnikov

Ross Colton - Nick Paul - Corey Perry

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Cole Koepke

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Nick Perbix

Ian Cole - Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Lines based on practice yesterday.

Florida Panthers

Forward Lines

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart

Matthew Tkachuk - Sam Bennett - Rudolfs Balcers

Eetu Luostarinen - Anton Lundell - Colin White

Ryan Lomberg - Nick Cousins - Patric Hornqvist

Defense Pairings

Matt Kiersted - Gustav Forsling

Josh Mahura - Radko Gudas

Lucas Carlsson - Marc Staal

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight

Lines as predicted by Daily Face Off. We will keep an eye on things and see if they change.