Time: 7:00 PM Eastern Standard
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, BSSWX, ESPN+
Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D
For 55 minutes against the Washington Capitals on Sunday the Tampa Bay Lightning played as well as they have all season long. The won the 5v5 battle, the power play battle, and the penalty kill battle. Sure, things slid off the rails a little at the end when they allowed needless goals to Lars Eller and Garnet Hathaway, but overall it was one of the strongest games they’ve played over the first month and a half.
Now, they just have to do it again. And again. And again. Consistency has not been consistent for a team that prides themselves on that being one of their best attributes. With 15 games under their belt the time for excuses seems to have run out and it’s time for them to be held accountable. Prior to the game on Sunday, Coach Cooper mentioned that some players in the room may not be all that happy with him so it’s likely that the relaxed, easy going coach may have turned up the intensity a bit.
Whether is was the message from the head coach, or the fact that they were playing the Capitals back-to-back, there was a bit of urgency to their game on Sunday that has been missing for most of their season. Sure, they were physical and didn’t allow the Caps to push them around, but they were also much cleaner in their execution, especially on the power play. The passes across the middle of the ice had a lot more purpose and weren’t just floated out there to be picked off.
When they did make mistakes, as will happen to all teams in every game, they covered them up and didn’t allow Washington to build momentum from shift to shift. Quick and accurate passing out of the d-zone nullified any attempt at a forecheck by the Caps for most of the game.
Now, they just have to duplicate that effort. It’s easy to take it to the next level when playing against a team that took out your teammate with an illegal head shot. Doing it against a team you see twice a year is a little bit harder, but veteran teams like the Lightning should be able to find the motivation.
They will be up against one of the better teams in the Western Conference in the Dallas Stars. After dropping two straight games, they bounced back with a convincing 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Jason Robertson scored, because that’s what Jason Robertson does. The 23-year-old winger has 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) on the season and is on track to blow out his breakout season from last year where he put up 79 points (41 goals, 38 assists) in 74 games.
Roope Hintz (6 goals) and the ageless Joe Pavelski (8 goals) join him on one of the best lines in hockey. Only the Boston Bruins have have scored more goals on average than the Stars 3.73 per game. For a Lightning team that has allowed fewer than 3 goals in a game exactly 3 times this season (all wins) that is a bit troublesome.
Unlike the Lightning, the Stars have also managed to keep the puck out of the net, ranking 4th in goals against at 2.53 per game. When he’s healthy Jake Oettinger may be the best goaltender in the Western Conference as he’s posted a 1.80 GAA, .938 SV%, and a 7.34 goals saved above expected in the 9 games he’s appeared in so far this season. Old friend Scott Wedgewood has been solid, if not spectacular as his back-up.
One of the bigger surprises on the team has been 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston. The 2021 first-round pick made the roster out of camp and has stuck around despite being junior eligible. He’s added 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) in his 15 games and has added depth to the third line with Jamie Benn and Ty Dellandrea.
The Stars will be a good test to see if Sunday’s performance against the Capitals was just a fluke or if they’re on the path to righting their season.
Dallas Stars vs Tampa Bay Lightning Comparison
|Game #16||Tampa Bay Lightning||Dallas Stars|
|Game #16||Tampa Bay Lightning||Dallas Stars|
Tampa Bay Lightning
Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Steven Stamkos - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn
Ross Colton - Vlad Namestnikov - Corey Perry
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Cole Koepke
Victor Hedman - Ian Cole
Mikhail Sergachev - Nick Perbix
Haydn Fleury - Philippe Myers
Lines based on Monday’s practice.
Dallas Stars Potential Lines
Jason Robertson – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski
Mason Marchment – Tyler Seguin – Matej Blumel
Jamie Benn – Wyatt Johnston – Ty Dellandrea
Joel Kiviranta – Radek Faksa – Denis Gurianov
Miro Heiskanen – Colin Miller
Ryan Suter – Nils Lundkvist
Esa Lindell – Jani Hakanpaa
Lines based on Monday’s practice. Gurianov hasn’t played in the last two games due to an upper-body injury. If he isn’t able to go, Luke Glendening may cycle into the line-up.