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Lightning Round: Looking ahead to Tampa Bay’s December schedule

The Tampa Bay Lightning closed out the month of November with a hard-fought loss to the Boston Bruins. We’ll wrap up the month in a future post, but the quick version is that it was better than October, but there is plenty of room for improvement. On Thursday, they will head over to the City of Brotherly Love to kick off the December portion of the schedule. Much like in November, there will be plenty of opportunity for the home fans to see them in Tampa.

The Lightning have 14 games with 9 of them in Amalie Arena. After they wrap up the road trip in Philadelphia on Thursday, they will be home for six in a row. That’s followed by a four game stretch on the road before they end up with three more at home. The road trip isn’t a bad one as they roll through Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, and Buffalo.

The road trip does include a back-to-back against the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. It’s one of two they have on the month and the second follows the week after as they have the Canadiens and Rangers back-to-back at home.

Other than that it’s a pretty set schedule. They are off on Sundays and Mondays all month long (two days off in a row every week is a nice little treat) while they have a game every Saturday night except for Christmas Eve. That is also the only week they have a Friday game.

There will be no need to stock up on coffee as there are no start times past 7:00 PM EST. Two of the Saturday games have earlier starts. On December 10th, their home game against the Florida Panthers will start at 4:30 PM EST, while their New Year’s Eve match-up with the Coyotes will see the puck drop at 5:00 PM EST.

As of this morning, the Lightning enter the league in the tenth spot and only two teams on their schedule (Seattle and Toronto) are ranked higher in the standings. Five of the teams (Philadelphia, Nashville, Columbus, Buffalo, and Arizona) are among the NHL’s bottom ten teams.  Overall, the their opponents have a combined record of 108-95-35.

After playing games against eight Western Conference opponents in the first two months, the Lightning only see three of them this month (Seattle, Nashville, and Arizona). Their fellow Atlantic Division foes have been relative strangers so far this year as Tampa Bay has had only had five interdivision games. That changes a bit as they have eight this month. They will see three of the foes twice this month (Toronto, Detroit, and Montreal).

Lightning / NHL News

Lightning lose 3-1 to the Bruins [Raw Charge]

There were a lot of positives in their loss to the Boston Bruins, but the biggest positive, two points, didn’t materialize.

Mishkin’s Extra Shift [NHL.com]

“…they had a couple of miscues that proved to be costly. A d-zone turnover early in the game led to Taylor Hall’s deflection goal. Then, while on a penalty kill in the opening minutes of the third period, the Lightning couldn’t come up with the puck during a scrum along the boards. Once the Bruins won the puck, the Lightning penalty killers were out of position and, after a couple of passes, Hall finished a shot into an open net.”

Roope Hintz signed long-term extension [Defending Big D]

Hintz was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft. Through four seasons in the NHL so far, Hintz has established himself as a top two-way forward in the NHL. He’s scored 88 goals and 194 points through 261 games. Not only can Hintz play top minutes and consistently produce offensively, he is an underrated two-way forward. He kills penalties on one of the top penalty killing teams in the league and is a consistent shorthanded threat.

Auston Matthews could be in line for a scoring surge [TSN]

But look at expected goal rates for Matthews. Though it is sliding intra-season, it is well above his historical averages – the same historical averages that have allowed him to average 51 goals per 82 games over the course of his career. So long as the ice time remains elevated, and the team doesn’t make any foolish lineup changes – Matthews is playing most of his minutes with Michael Bunting and William Nylander right now – I expect his shooting percentage (10 per cent) to regress quickly towards his career averages (16 per cent).

Alex Ovechkin passes Wayne Gretzky for most road goals of all time [RMNB]

Alex Ovechkin just overtook Wayne Gretzky on a nuanced, but impressive goals record.

Ovechkin scored twice in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks.

The goals were Ovi’s 402nd and 403rd road goals of his career, tying and then leap-frogging The Great One.

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