Moving forward; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Montreal Canadiens preview
Much of the narrative today will be focused on the Bolts seeking revenge for a season-ending sweep in the first round of last year's playoffs, for better or for worse.
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable), RDS | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Habs Eyes on the Prize
The playoff sweep happened.
Yes, the Montreal Canadiens have won their last four games versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, as SB Nation Canadiens blog Habs Eyes on the Prize has been excited to point out:
The Canadiens de Montréal are hoping to go 4-0-0 by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5th straight time, read our... http://t.co/Az1osGiPGs— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) October 13, 2014
Of course, last season ended for the Habs not much longer after it did for the Bolts. Only one team hoists Lord Stanley's Cup in the spring. It was not the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was also not the Montreal Canadiens. The Atlantic Divisional battle begins anew tonight and last year's playoff series loss means nothing. A regulation loss tonight, however, would mean a 4-0-0 Montreal Canadiens squad and a 5-point hole for first place in the division.
Both teams made significant upgrades over the course of the offseason. While national writers continue to fawn over the Lightning and their additions of Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and Ryan Callahan, the Habs quietly improved their team just as much and have the results so far to show it. Their biggest move was getting franchise lynchpin P.K. Subban signed long-term, but they made a few shrewd additions in dealing Danny Briere for P.A. Parenteau and signing Tom Gilbert to shore up their top-4 defense group. Manny Malhotra adds serviceable center depth, and they already have a strong forward core built around offensive dynamo Max Pacioretty and do-everything center Tomas Plekanec.
As for the Lightning, their lines this morning looked like this:
#TBLightning lines at morning skate: Stamkos-Callahan-Palat; Filppula-Johnson-Killorn; Boyle-Connolly-Morrow; Namestnikov-Kucherov-Brown— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) October 13, 2014
The Habs will counter with this lineup:
Trios #Habs: Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher, Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Parenteau, Bourque-Eller-Sekac et Weise-Malhotra-Prust— Marc Antoine Godin (@MAGodin) October 13, 2014
Eric Brewer will make his season debut for the Lightning on defense, with Andrej Sustr scratched in his place. It's unclear where Brewer (who has played the right side, next to Victor Hedman, before) will slot into the lineup, but one of him, Jason Garrison, or Matt Carle will need to slide over to the right side with Sustr out. Jonathan Drouin is nearing his NHL debut, but it won't be tonight; he's still recovering from a fractured thumb.
Starting goalies are what you expect, but with Ben Bishop now healthy, the Lightning's #1 will get his chance to go head to head with his counterpart, Carey Price. Much has been made about the Bishop injury and Anders Lindback's play in the playoffs last year as a point of failure for the Lightning and the main contributing factor to the Habs' sweep; unfortunately for the Bolts, that sells short just how good Montreal's game plan was for the Lightning and how well-executed it was over 4 games.