Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread
It should be a fast-paced, fun game tonight.
Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #57
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, MSG-B, ESPN+, HULU
Opponent SBNation Site: Die by the Blade (They have a GoFundMe page as well)
DraftKings NHL Line: Lightning -1.5 O/U 7
If nothing else this should be a highly entertaining game. The Buffalo Sabres roll into town after a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, yet are still fighting for a wild card spot. Not only are they a team that likes to score goal, they’re not too bad at giving them up. Their 3.69 goals for/game is third in the league while their 3.49 goals against/game is the eighth highest total in the NHL. Mix that in with a 24.9% power play and you can expect Andrei Vasilevskiy to have his work cut out for him tonight.
The Sabres aren’t really a shot volume team as their 32.4 shots per game is 12th in the league (tied with the Lightning), but they are an accurate team as their 11.39% shooting percentage trails only the Seattle Kraken. They also don’t generate a ton of high-danger chances as their 11.78 HDCF/60 at 5v5 is 18th in the league.
It looks like they’re generating offense mostly by their top players converting their chances. Tage Thompson is a big (both literally and figuratively) reason for their success as the 6’6”, 220 pound center is having a career year with 36 goals in 55 games. His shooting percentage is at 16.7% which is about 4% higher than his career average.
Buffalo boasts four other players with 20 or more goals in Alex Tuch (27), Victor Olofsson (23), Jeff Skinner (22), and Dylan Cozens (20). All four of those players are have a higher shooting percentage this year than compared to their career average. Hey, sometimes you just run into a year like that. They are a bunch of young players (well, except for Skinner) learning and improving and it’s all come together for them this year.
Of course, they’ve needed all of the offense they can get to help out their young defense and average goaltending. Craig Anderson, when he’s been healthy, has been good, but he’s only appeared in 19 games this season. In those games he’s 8-7-2 with a 2.79 GAA, .915 SV% and 6.42 GSAx which are solid starting numbers. His replacements, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Eric Comrie, are both under water in the GSAx category posting -6.89 and -7.75 numbers respectively while having sub .900 SV%.
Still, the team itself is in the wild card hunt, entering tonight’s action four points behind the Florida Panthers for the second wild card spot with four games in hand (and a match-up in Sunrise tomorrow). The Lightning actually get to have some fun with the teams chasing the wild card spots as they have games against the Sabres, the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Panthers over the next week - all teams bunched up in that fight to play either the Bruins or Carolina Panthers in the first round.
As for the Bolts, they’d like to build on the thumping they gave the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, a 6-1 win that saw goals from 6 different players. Seeing the middle six lines produce offense is heartening for a squad that has relied on their dynamic top line and a strong power play for much of the season. If they can get Ross Colton, Nick Paul, Vlad Namestnikov, and Anthony Cirelli filling the net on a regular basis down the stretch it will go a long way to making them a tough out in the postseason.
Second line center Steven Stamkos is always happy to see the Sabres as he has 44 points (21 goals and 23 assists) in 47 career games against them, including his first career goal scored all the way back in 2008. Nikita Kucherov also enjoys playing against the Sabres as he has 17 goals in 30 career games, the second highest goal total against any franchise (19 goals against Detroit).
As for the likely starter tonight, Andrei Vasilevskiy is 12-1-1 in his career against the Sabres with a 1.77 GAA and .935 SV% with 2 shutouts. It will be tough to make that 3, but with the way he’s been playing for the last couple of months, don’t count out the possiblity.
Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning Comparison
|Game #57||Tampa Bay Lightning||Buffalo Sabres|
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos - Alex Killorn
Ross Colton - Nick Paul - Patrick Maroon
Vlad Namestnikov - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
Ian Cole - Nick Perbix
Buffalo Sabres Potential Lines
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka – Dylan Cozens – Victor Olofsson
Casey Mittelstadt – Peyton Krebs – Jack Quinn
Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson – Owen Power
Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin