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Crashing The Net: On The Road Again

The Tampa Bay Lightning look start a five-game road trip this week against key foes to the north in Detroit, New York, Buffalo, and Philadelphia. Tampa Bay has had trouble this month winning consecutive games, but fortunately for them, they have also rebounded well, avoiding any prolonged losing streaks. They hope to end this inconsistency and show that they are the speedy and resilient Tampa Bay team everyone projected them to be. Here is this week’s Crashing The Net!

Last Week: The same problems that have plagued the Lightning this year showed up once again last week; being down early in the first, defensive zone mistakes, and sloppiness were on full display as the Lightning were only able to claim 2 out of 6 points against the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks.

The BB&T Center is rapidly becoming a house of horrors for the Lightning as they faced the Panthers (7-7-1) in Sunrise, Florida on Monday night. The Bolts dropped their first game in the Panthers’ den this season, as their struggles in Sunrise carried over from last year. This time, as it has many times in the past, would be due to the stellar effort of Florida’s goaltender, Roberto Luongo (5W, 2.30GAA, .916SV%). Luongo would smother thirty-four of Tampa Bay’s thirty-five shots, and the one that sneaked by him could only be called fluky at best. The puck would be mishandled by Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic (0G, 4A) behind the net causing it to slide right to Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat (2G, 4A), who chipped it past an unaware Luongo. Besides that, the veteran Florida goalie would entertain the Panther faithful with a full on robbery of all of the scoring attempts Tampa Bay could muster. Florida would go on to win the game 3-1 behind a goal from former Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Marchessault, who leads his team with fourteen points.

The Lightning would head back to Amalie Arena for a short two-game home stand starting Thursday night against the Islanders (5-7-3). With a sour taste in their mouth, they came out firing on all cylinders, dominating play as they have against New York this season. Their power play would shine in this eventual 4-1 win, going 2-for-6 on the night. It would be kick started by Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos (8G, 9A) 8:03 into the first with a wrister from his office above the right hash marks. From there, Tampa Bay would not look back, as they soon found themselves up by three midway through the second period. The game for Tampa Bay would also prove to not be all about the offense, as a 31-save outing by Andrei Vasilevskiy was one to be admired.

Tampa Bay would hope to build off of Thursday and string together their first winning streak of the month, but unfortunately the hockey gods weren’t having it as they were beaten by San Jose on Saturday. Though the Lightning played a decent first period, they once again found themselves down two goals heading into the second. The opening goal was a bit controversial as two Lightning sweaters collided with San Jose forward Patrick Marleau (4G, 1A) into Tampa Bay’s goalie, Ben Bishop. Bishop would make the initial save, but the momentum would send the puck into the net and after much review, the officials deemed it to be a valid goal since Tampa Bay collided with Bishop first. From there it wouldn’t get much better as the Lightning would soon find themselves suffering a 3-1 defeat by the hands of the razor toothed west coast club to end the roller coaster of a home stand.

Standout Moment of The Week:  The standout moment of the week for me was Vasilevskiy’s (3W, 2.00GAA, .932SV%) 31-save performance against New York. Not only did he come up with several big time saves, this win would snap a two-game losing streak for the young goaltender. Vasilevskiy is considered Tampa Bay’s future when it comes to netminding, and with performances like this, it’s hard to argue with that statement.

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 3

Wins: 1

Loses: 2

Points: 2

Goals For: 6

Goals Allowed: 7

Power Play: 2/10 = 20%

Penalty Kill: 2/5 = 60%

Upcoming Games:

New York Islanders (5-7-3)

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn

When: Monday, November 14th – 7:00PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, MSG+

To start off the week, Tampa Bay clashes with the Islanders, a team they’re probably on a first name basis with after playing them twice so far this month. Lucky for the Lightning, they have taken both of those contests in dominating fashion, outscoring the Islanders 10-2. Since last year’s playoffs, the Lightning have won six straight against this northern foe. This will be the third and final meeting between the clubs this season with Tampa Bay hoping to complete the sweep. Don’t let the previous two games fool you though, as the Islanders have plenty of talent to snag the win.

With a team struggling as much as the Islanders are right now, look for them to come out swinging in front of their home crowd. The Islanders looking to make the biggest statement are their goalies, Jaroslav Halak (3W, 3.00GAA, .907SV%) and Thomas Greiss (2W, 2.71GAA, .909SV%), who have both been pulled after the first period against the Lightning. Embarrassment, frustration, and a desire to win make an interesting formula against a team that has manhandled them twice already this season. Keep your eyes peeled for the intensity New York will come out with and how Tampa Bay is able match it.

Detroit Red Wings (8-7-1)

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

When: Tuesday, November 15th – 7:30PM

Where to Watch: NBCSN, FSDT

The Red Wings and Lightning have developed quite a rivalry these last two years. Tampa Bay has faced Detroit in the first round of the 2014-15 & 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs and has eliminated them in both. This will be the second meeting between these clubs this year with the Lightning taking the opener by a score of 6-4. Detroit is coming off a 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens (13-2-1) and have had a difficult November so far, going 2-4 in the month.

This game will be the second of a back-to-back, so the Lightning need to attack Detroit’s vulnerabilities and keep their legs under them. One weakness the Lightning have to capitalize on is Detroit’s penalty kill, which is ranked 26th in the league. This is important because the Bolts’ power play has been hot, so look for Tampa Bay to emphasize pressure on the man advantage. This, as we saw during the Islanders game, can help dictate a favorable pace to the game for the Lightning if they can score when given these opportune chances.

Buffalo Sabres (5-6-4)

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo

When: Thursday, November 17th – 7:00PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, MSGB

Thursday night, the Lightning find themselves facing the Sabres in the first of four meetings this season. Last year, the Lightning took the series 3-1-0, just one year after sweeping the Sabres. Tampa Bay has played Buffalo well in the last several meetings, but this is a new year and the Lighting need to formulate some new strategies to combat the 2016-17 Sabres.

With star Jack Eichel (24G, 32A in 2015-16) sidelined with a high ankle sprain since the beginning of the season and the club only putting up 29 goals so far this season, the Sabres have looked for the spectacular goaltending of Robin Lehner (4W, 2.36GA, .923SV%) to keep them afloat. The former Ottawa Senator has proven to be a workhorse for the Sabres, facing an average of 30 shots per game. In order for the Lightning to get past him, they’ll have to shoot early and often.

Philadelphia Flyers (7-7-2)

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

When: Saturday, November 19th – 1:00PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, CSNP

To close out the week, the Lightning face the Flyers for the first of three meetings this season. One thing about Philadelphia games you can expect to see this season is a plethora of goals for both parties. The Flyers have scored 53 goals so far, which is second best in the entire league, but have also given up 58, which is 29th overall.

Look for this matchup to be a gunslinger show with each fast-paced team trying to outscore the other. Tampa Bay needs to watch out for top dish masters, Claude Giroux (4G, 12A) and Jakub Voracek (6G, 10A), as they head a team that likes to pass, with 92 assists to their credit this season. I anticipate this one being the most exciting of the four match-ups this week.

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