The Tampa Bay Lightning (34-26-9) will not go quietly in the night. Two weeks ago, most everyone thought the Bolts were finished this season. They had traded key players for pieces of the future, they had shown inconsistencies throughout the season, and you could just see something was missing from their game. I’m not sure what changed, but one thing for sure is that they will not go down without a fight.
Currently on a four game winning streak, the Lightning face two big matchups verses the Toronto Maple Leafs (31-23-14) and Washington Capitals (45-17-7) to close out the week. With just 13 games left in the 2016-17 NHL season, Tampa Bay is right on the cusp of a playoff spot. In moments like this, there is only one thing for them to do and that is just keep winning. Let’s take a look at these huge matchups with Crashing The Net!
Minnesota Wild (43-19-6)
When: Thursday, March 9th – 7:30PM
Shots: 33-29 MIN
Power Play: 1/3
Penalty Kill: 4/4
Key Moment: The tale of Andrei Vasilevskiy adds another chapter as he led the Lightning to a 4-1 win over a devastating Western Conference foe. This was more a collection of moments as Vasilevskiy stifled the Minnesota offense and didn’t let one pass until late in the third. This enabled his team to stack a lead and claim the W.
Florida Panthers (30-27-11)
When: Saturday, March 11th – 7:00PM
Shots: 34-34 EVEN
Power Play: 1/4
Penalty Kill: 3/3
Key Moment: Down quickly 2-0 in the first period, the Lightning fought their way back to tie it up in the second. In the third, Ondrej Palat would display some tip in magic and score late to give Tampa Bay the eventual game winner.
New York Rangers (44-24-2)
When: Monday, March 13th – 7:00PM
Shots: 28-16 NYR
Power Play: 1/2
Penalty Kill: 1/1
Key Moment: Happy Birthday Brayden Point! The Lightning rookie celebrated his twenty-first birthday with not only a goal in the first, but the game winner in the third. Point has been stellar since returning from injury a month ago.
Ottawa Senators (39-22-7)
When: Tuesday, March 14th – 7:30PM
Shots: 37-32 TBL
Power Play: 0/1
Penalty Kill: 2/2
Key Moment: This was indeed a goalie matchup between Vasilevskiy and Ottawa’s Mike Condon. Both teams traded chances and kept the physical play at a peak in this thrilling matchup. It would take overtime to decide this one and it would be Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman to end it off a dazzling pass from Palat.
Lightning Statistics From Last Week:
Games Played: 4
Points: 8 out of 8
Goals For: 12
Goals Allowed: 6
Power Play: 3/10 = 30.0%
Penalty Kill: 10/10 = 100.00%
Toronto Maple Leafs (31-23-14)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Thursday, March 16th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, RSNO
This is a big one. With only 13 games left in the season, the Lightning, Maple Leafs, and New York Islanders are congested in a race for a wild card spot. With a win here, the Lightning would not only put some separation from the Maple Leafs but, pending on the Islanders’ outcome against the Winnipeg Jets, they could hold that playoff spot for the time being. This is the third of four meetings between these two clubs this season and so far they have split the series.
With the stakes at their peak, these two final games against Toronto are must wins for the Bolts. If you thought it would be easy, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Toronto has been hot lately winning three of their last four games and carrying the second best power play in the entire NHL. Taking a magnifying glass to the Maple Leafs, you notice that their statistical achievements this season are quite impressive. They have scored 205 goals and display one of the most aggressive offensive units in the league. How did they obtain this so quickly when they were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season?
With two breakout rookies named Auston Matthews (31G, 24A) and Mitchell Marner (17G, 37A). Matthews and Marner are like peas and carrots for the Toronto faithful. They have combined for 20.1% of the Maple Leafs points, feed off one another on the first line, and lead Toronto’s explosive power play. The Lightning will need to put a curfew on these young guns if they want to pull this one out.
Now taking a look at the other side of the spectrum for the Maple Leafs would be a glance at their goals allowed which is ranked in the top ten worst in the NHL. Their goaltending has been mediocre this season and it’s held the team back from becoming true contenders. With the Lightning’s knack for putting the biscuit in the basket, they should try and apply a shoot first approach for this one. In their last five, Tampa Bay has been outshot 3 out of 5 games due to utilizing a flashing move set. To beat the Maple Leafs, they’ll need to get back to the basics and focus on imposing their offensive will.
Washington Capitals (45-17-7)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Saturday, March 18th – 7:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, CSMA
The Lightning close out the week against an old foe named the Washington Capitals. These two clubs have met twice this season and have traded wins setting up a classic showdown on Saturday night to see who claims the series. This will be quite a task for the Lightning as the 2015-16 Presidents Trophy Capitals have been a terror in the NHL over the last two years. They are currently holding the Metropolitan Division at ransom and are successfully defending their title as the winningest team in the league.
However, now is the time for Tampa Bay to strike as Washington has been slumping recently. They have lost four of their last five games and just managed to snap their losing streak against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Not only that, but star goaltender Braden Holtby (35W, 2.03GAA, .926Sv%) has been a shell of his usual self recently having went 1-3 and saving 81.1% of shots against in that span.
Don’t Play The Fool
Still you can’t keep a good team down for long and it’s only a matter of time until Washington gets kicked into the right gear. This season they have posted top ten results in goals, power play, and their penalty kill. Not only that, but they have let by the least amount of goals in the NHL at 149. While Holtby has been struggling, he is one great game away from getting back into form.
To combat this, the Lightning will need to continue that shoot first mentality from Thursday night’s game and give Vasilevskiy all that he needs to go toe to toe with Washington’s best. The best way for them to do this is to keep the Capital threat to the sides of the ice. There’s a high chance that Washington will aim to pepper Vasilevskiy with shots so Tampa Bay should lessen the deadliness of them at all costs.
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