Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread

Back home and looking to clinch a playoff spot

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #76

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, NBCSWA. HULU, ESPN+

Opponent SBNation Site: Japers’ Rink


Before we take a look at tonight’s game I just wanted to let y’all know this will be the final new content post under the Vox Media/SBNation brand for us. Due to the data migration process, they have asked us to wrap up posting here by this evening so that means the recap will be located at our temporary website: https://raw-charge.ghost.io/

That is where we will be posting moving forward, so when you get a chance, head over there and sign up so that you don’t miss a thing! We hope to have the www.rawcharge.com domain up and running within the next week. Thank you for bearing with us during the transition period. It’s exciting/challenging/stress-inducing/freeing all at the same time.

Okay, back to Tampa Bay Lightning hockey!

The Bolts have had a few chances to sweep road trips this season and managed to lose the final game or two, which is always a bit of a disappointment for an overall successful trip. On their most recent trip they flipped the script a bit. After not being able to secure victories in Montreal and Ottawa, they played hard (but lost) in Boston, and then finished things off with one of their best road wins of the season, a 4-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now they’re back home and looking to build on that win as the season winds down. They need just four points to clinch their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason and fifteenth trip overall in franchise history. They can’t quite clinch tonight, but they can come pretty close. A win over the Capitals, coupled with a Florida loss to Montreal, would eliminate the Panthers from catching them for the third spot in the Atlantic. Buffalo, who has only played 73 games so far, is still lingering, but if they lose to the Rangers on Friday, Tampa Bay would be in. I believe that’s how the math works, but I was often told there would be no math, so take it for what it’s worth.

To me, the biggest takeaway from the win against the Hurricanes was that the Lightning were much, much better in their own zone. They limited the Corsi Kings of the NHL to just 44 shot attempts at 5v5. Considering Carolina averages 67.09, that’s not too shabby. They also limited them to 10 high-danger chances versus their 14.66 per 60 on the season. When Carolina did get through, Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to make the save.

There was an element of a playoff-style win to the game. Coach Cooper preaches that it is more important to keep pucks out of your own net than it is to put pucks into the opponent’s net. Taking care of the defense and letting the offense take care of itself has led them to a lot of postseason victories over the past three seasons and to see them execute that against a quality team brightens that glimmer of a hope that the team is getting itself into playoff mode.

They are now back at home for a quick two-game home stand that starts tonight against the Washington Capitals. The Caps aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but for all intents and purposes tossed in the towel around the trade deadline and have started focusing on next year. Well, and seeing what Alex Ovechkin can do this year.

The 37-year-old forward comes into tonight’s game with 42 goals on the season (good for 7th in the league) and 822 in his career. While 50 goals might be out of his reach, he should hit 45 for the thirteenth time in his NHL career. It’s really unparalleled consistency and the main reason he will likely catch Wayne Gretzky as the all time goals scored leader.

I’m not going to say he’s going to score tonight, but it would be going against the grain if the Lightning manage to keep him off out of the goals scored column. There are two franchises he’s recorded 50 career markers against - the Atlanta Thrashes/Winnipeg Jets (53) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (50). Considering he didn’t score against them in the first two meetings this season, you may even say he’s due.

As for the Bolts, there were some changes in the line-up against Carolina as Ian Cole was held out as a coach’s decision with Hayden Fleury taking his spot. We’ll see if that was just a chance to give the veteran a break or if it continues as the coaching staff continues to search for the best combinations on defense. We also saw a new line of Brandon Hagel - Nick Paul - Ross Colton put together. While they didn’t score, they did lead the team in scoring chances at 5v5 with 7 and shot attempts with 13. Hopefully, if they stay together, it can kickstart Nick Paul’s goal scoring as he only has one in his last 30+ games.

The Lightning have strung two solid efforts together, hopefully they can keep that trend going tonight to close out March with a win and get one step closer to clinching a playoff spot.

Comparison chart:

Capitals at Lightning Comparison

Game #76Tampa Bay LightningWashington Capitals
Overall Record43-26-634-32-9
Home Record25-7-517-14-6
Road Record18-19-117-18-3
Goals For254235
Goals Against228229

Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines

Forward Lines

Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Brandon Hagel - Nick Paul - Ross Colton

Pat Maroon - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn

Tanner Jeannot - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Nick Perbix

Mikhail Sergachev - Darren Raddysh

Haydn Fleury/Ian Cole - Erik Cernak


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Washington Capitals Potential Lines

Forward Lines

Alex Ovechkin - Dylan Strome - Tom Wilson

Aliaksei Protas - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Anthony Mantha - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Craig Smith

Conor Sheary - Nic Dowd - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defense Pairings

Martin Fehervary - John Carlson

Rasmus Sandin - Nick Jensen

Alexander Alexeyev - Trevor Van Riemsdyk


Charlie Lindgren

Darcy Kuemper