Time: 7:00 PM EST
Location: FLA Live Arena
Broadcast Information: TNT, CBC
Opponent SBNation Site: Litterbox Cats
In one of those weird scheduling quirks that pop up every once in a while, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers are meeting in the playoffs almost exactly one year after kicking off their playoff series last season. On May 16th, 2021 the Lightning defeated the Panthers, 5-4, on a late Brayden Point goal to pick up the win (in Sunrise) in Game One of their opening round series. The highlight of the game was Nikita Kucherov returning from his season-long injury to post two goals and an assist in the Lightning victory.
Things are a little different this year as the two teams reacquaint themselves in the postseason. The most glaring difference is the lack of Brayden Point. He is unlikely to play early in the series due to the injury suffered in Game Seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs. His absence leaves a huge hole in the Lightning line-up and they are immediately forced into ‘next man up’ status with that next man likely being Riley Nash.
As vital as he is to the Lightning, Point is just one player, and it’s going to take a total team effort to defeat the Panthers this time around. They no longer are just happy to be in the playoffs and the ouster at the gloves of the Lightning in last year’s series has left a bad taste in their mouth. While some of the players have changed, the bulk of the roster remember watching the Lightning celebrate the series victory last year and want to flip the script.
So what can we look forward to in Game One?
There were a ton of goals scored last season between the two teams. In Game One they combined for 9 goals, 11 in Game Three, and 8 in Game Four. While they both still possess the offensive fire power to rack up those kind of scores, it’s unlikely they want to get in those types of shootouts. Both teams should be more concerned with preventing goals than scoring them. We saw in the Toronto series, in Games Six and Seven, when the Lightning focused on their defense they had a lot more success.
This is probably more for Florida than Tampa, but the Lightning found out early in the Toronto series what happens when a game is littered with penalties. Coach Cooper likes to roll his four lines, especially early in the game, and the Lightning are better when they are able to get into a flow. The Panthers got caught up in the emotion last season and picked up a lot of retaliatory penalties that the Bolts made them pay for. The Lightning scored 8 power play goals in the series while the Panthers scored 6.
On Monday, Andrei Vasilevskiy talked about how the Lightning seemed to lack a little emotion early in their last series. They found it when their backs were against the wall and facing elimination. They have to carry that feeling over into this series and not give games away early.
Expect the teams to come out a little cautious, but once the first couple of hits are thrown, things will pick up and the pace should be pretty incredible. If the refs let them play it could be a pretty fun Game One.
Florida Panthers Potential Lines
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Claude Giroux
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair
Noel Acciari - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist
Ben Chiarot - Aaron Ekblad
Gus Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Brandon Montour - Radko Gudas
Based on practices.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn
Brandon Hagel - Riley Nash - Ross Colton
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh - Jan Rutta/Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Lines based on Monday practice.