Time: 7:00 pm ET
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NHLN, TVAS, CITY, SNE, BSSUN
Opponent SB Nation Site: Habs Eyes on the Prize
After struggling throughout the month of March, the Tampa Bay Lightning seem to have found their game recently. They started the last month of the regular season with a confident win against the Chicago Blackhawks, extending their winning streak to four games. The parity between them and their closest rivals — the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers — however, remained the same: the Bolts are just one point ahead of the Leafs and six points behind the Panthers. The Lightning will play against the Leafs, who are currently the most probable Lightning’s first-round opponent on Monday, but before then they’re hosting the Montreal Canadiens tonight — the first team eliminated from the playoff contention this season.
The Lightning’s both most recent acquirements Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul have been one of the main reasons why the team have finally got out of the slump. Both players alongside with Ross Colton created a very strong line, adding to their team very much-needed secondary scoring. It’s not yet the Yanni Gourde’s line caliber performance, which the Lightning obviously hoped to recreate, but their numbers are pretty impressive: last night they recorded stellar 95.65 xGF%, completely outplaying their opponents on the ice. The Blackhawks are probably not the best blueprint, but those numbers still look inspiring ahead of the playoffs. Both Hagel and Paul have also been a significant part of the Lightning’s penalty kill, which allowed just one goal over the last five games.
The Hagel-Paul-Colton line was absolutely dominant this evening for #GoBolts .— Matthew S Esteves (@MatthewSEsteves) April 2, 2022
Scoring Chances 10-0
Bringing together the Lightning’s most dangerous offensive weapons in Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov has also paid off. Both Point and Stamkos are currently on five-game point streaks: Stamkos has 9 (4+5) points over that span, while Points has 8 (3+5) points in those games. Meanwhile Kucherov has seven points over the same stretch with five assists in two previous games.
The Bolts are playing the second leg of the back-to-back tonight, so no big changes aren’t expected apart from Brian Elliott, who should take a spot in the Lightning’s net after Andrei Vasilevskiy played last night.
Meanwhile the Montreal Canadiens are coming off a three-game losing streak. Many things have changed in the Canadiens organization since their last meeting back in December. Most notably the Canadiens named former Lightning player Martin St. Louis their new interim head coach and another former Bolt, Vincent Lecavalier, as their special advisor to hockey operations. In less than one year since playing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens have almost completely rebuilt their front office.
At the previous trade deadline, Montreal had said goodbye to some of their significant players, including Artturi Lehkonen, Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot, giving more ice time to their younger players. Martin St. Louis has yesterday confirmed that their defenceman prospect Jordan Harris will make his NHL debut, pushing Chris Wideman to the bench. Meanwhile Brendan Gallagher hasn’t played since March 17 due to his lower-body injury and isn’t expected to play tonight either. On the other hand, Ryan Poehling, who hasn’t played since March 13, will return to the line-up.
The Lightning will play their third and the last game against the Habs this season. The Bolts have already clinched the season-series against them after beating them twice in December.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Steven Stamkos — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn
Brandon Hagel — Nick Paul — Ross Colton
Patrick Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Mikhail Sergachev — Erik Cernak
Zach Bogosian — Cal Foote
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
Rem Pitlick — Nick Suzuki — Cole Caufield
Mike Hoffman — Jake Evans — Josh Anderson
Paul Byron — Christian Dvorak — Joel Armia
Jesse Ylonen — Ryan Poehling — Tyler Pitlick
Joel Edmundson — Justin Barron
Alexander Romanov — David Savard
Corey Schueneman — Jordan Harris