Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, BSOH, ESPN+
Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon
While trap games, where teams overlook opponents for more compelling match-ups in the near future, are a common thing in sports, I’m not sure trap weeks are a thing. If they are, then the Lightning could be in for one in the final week of the season.
Their final three games of the 2021-22 regular season include two against the Columbus Blue Jackets and one against the New York Islanders. Both of their opponents have been eliminated from the playoff race and are building towards the future. With a potential first round against a dynamic Toronto Maple Leafs team, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Lightning enter the week with a “just get it over with” mentality.
At least last week they had the challenge of playing against the Leafs and the Florida Panthers, two teams that they needed to remind that they can hang with in the postseason. Which they did with resounding success. Couple that with the White House visit on Monday and a letdown could be expected for this week.
This is where championship teams show their true mettle. If this Lightning team has truly turned a corner, they will simply go about their business and execute their game plan as they prepare for the postseason. That’s a trait that has set them apart over the last couple of seasons that we haven’t seen at times this year. Finishing with a couple of strong wins would be a good sign that they aren’t affected by any mental fatigue from the long season.
If they are able to limit turnovers, effectively clear their zone instead of just flinging the puck out, and convert their offensive chances over the next week it will show that they are ready for the playoffs. Staying healthy would be a nice bonus as well. They may have left Sunrise with a victory on Sunday, but they also left with a couple of beat-up defensemen. Both Jan Rutta and Mikhail Sergachev did not finish the game.
Sergachev didn’t play after his second period fight that resulted in a pretty big cut above his eye while Rutta only skated two shifts in the third period. Neither is expected to be out long term, but it is something to keep an eye on over the next week. Expect Coach Cooper to be monitoring all of his players to make sure he can build in whatever rest he can for them. Going with an 11/7 line-up not only allows him to rest a forward, he can also manage the minutes of his defense a little better down the stretch.
As for the Blue Jackets, they are different team than the one the Lightning defeated 7-2 back in early January. Due to trades, injuries, and call-ups there could be six different players in the line-up than from the previous match. Kent Johnson and Nick Blankenburg were still with the University of Michigan and dreaming of a national title when the teams last met and are now part of the future for the Blue Jackets.
A 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers snapped a 4-game winless streak for them and showed that they had a little firepower on the roster. Blankenburg had the eventual game-winning goal while 18-year-old Cole Sillinger posted a goal and an assist. They need that boost from the youngsters as veterans Zach Werenski and Patrik Laine missed the game and are day-to-day.
The Lightning should win this game, and win it easily (Vegas odds has them at about a -385 favorite) but they need to make sure they don’t take the Blue Jackets for granted. The young players will be looking to test their skill against the league’s best and will be more than happy to jump on any turnovers, the bane of the Lightning’s season, that are available to them. Tampa Bay needs to go out, play their game, and move on.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli (?) - Brandon Hagel
Brayden Point - Nick Paul - Ross Colton -
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta (?)
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Zach Bogosian
Cal Foote (?)
Columbus Blue Jackets Potential Lines
Gustav Nyquist - Jack Roslovic - Jakub Voracek
Yegor Chinakov - Cole Sillinger - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson - Sean Kuraly - Carson Meyer
Kent Johnson - Justin Danforth - Emil Bemstrom
Vladislav Gavrikov - Nick Blankenburg
Jake Bean - Andrew Peeke
Dean Kukan - Gabriel Carlsson
Lines per Daily Face-Off