Drama! Goalies! 3-1-0 Teams! Tampa Bay Lightning versus Pittsburgh Penguins preview
One of the NHL's elite franchises rolls into town for the flip-side of back-to-back games, but in this early going the Pens aren't as other-worldly as they are known to play like.
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Pensburgh, The Pensblog
There's constant drama in pro sports, though we tend to see larger stories as the drama instead of the smaller stories. By "larger" I mean things happening with the more visible or high-end players... So while there's actually drama that's played out over the last four games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first big dramatic story - that's subjective, by the way - is Ben Bishop and his horrendously ambiguous lower-body injury.
"Horrendously ambiguous" is just mocking these injury listings, with no offense intended toward the team (or the league for that matter). We (as fans) should be used to this by now, but the ambiguity is still worth pointing out.
Back to Bishop's status - he's actually just day-to-day per the team... Yet yesterday was a day of action (the injury status) and reaction, chronicled by Clare on Raw Charge. Rookie Kristers Gudlevskis was called up (for practice in Tampa), and later in the he was sent to Syracuse while goaltender Cedrick Desjardins was recalled from the Crunch. All of this translates into one obvious truth: Anders Lindback starts tonight versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ben Bishop recuperates.
Lindback had the opening-night start, and wasn't horrible as-so-much as the team was brutal in front of him. Steady 5-on-5 play translated into humiliating man-advantage play, giving up two shorthanded goals (one was a penalty shot). Seeing it was one game, one start, try not to have a knee-jerk reaction to Lindy starting, please. It's unwarranted.
Now, if you want to dread something, dread the opponent. It's the Pittsburgh Penguins in all their early going glory worldliness. You see, the Pens are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, but they haven't lit up the league in their first four games. In fact, they have only scored one more goal than the Lightning up to this point (15 as to 14). Their power play unit is a middling 15th in the NHL (22.2%) and their penalty kill is just below the league's middle point (80% kill rate, good for 17th in the league).
But, hey, they're 3-1-0 and only suffered their first loss of the season last night.
To Florida. Who was playing back-to-back games after being humiliated at Times Palace on Thursday night.
Four games is too small a sample size to get worked up over or think something is wrong. Sidney Crosby is among the top 30 scorers in the NHL (28th, 2 goals, 3 assists). So slow going early on isn't anything to get worked up about, get back to me if Pittsburgh's status remains the same through November.
While Ben Bishop has a minor issue, the Pens Tomas Vokoun is out with a major one: Blood clot in his pelvis. It's also not the first time Vokoun ha suffered blood clots. Marc-Andre Fleury has gotten the bulk (3 of 4) starts for the Penguins in Vokoun's absence and has been the goalie of record of all Penguins wins to date. He's posted a 1.00 GAA and a .963 save percentage, though his opponents are a mixed bag: New Jersey is winless in 5 games, Buffalo is winless, and the Carolina Hurricanes are 2nd in the Metro Division with a 3-1-0 record.
Suffice it to say, if the Lightning can continue their swarm attack and play responsible hockey on top of it, they could prove a road bump for Fleury.
Yet, after last night's 6-3 loss, I don't expect the Pens to simply lie down, they'll look to rectify things and get back on track... And we all know they have the skill on their roster to do just that.
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