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Crashing The Net: Struggling Bolts Look For Canada’s Blessing

The Tampa Bay Lightning (14-13-2) visit our friends up north this week as they tussle with the Calgary Flames (16-13-2), Vancouver Canucks (12-16-2), and Edmonton Oilers (15-12-5). The Bolts partake on this trip eager to end the struggles that have seen them lose seven of their last eight games. With forward Jonathan Drouin (6 G, 7 A) leading the attack, can the Lightning get their groove back in Canada? Let’s take a look ahead in Crashing The Net!

Last Week:

On Thursday night, the Lightning welcomed the Vancouver Canucks (12-16-2) into their home and Vancouver definitely didn’t wipe their feet. They embarrassed Tampa Bay by scoring early and then rubbing the hometown boy’s faces in it throughout the night. Canuck forwards Jack Skille (3 G, 1 A) and defenseman Erik Gudbranson (1 G, 5 A) surged Vancouver to an early 2-0 lead in the first. This would be complemented by a Jayson Megna (3 G, 0 A) goal 6:01 into the second and the Canucks quickly found themselves with a three-goal cushion. That is until Drouin tarnished Canuck goaltender Ryan Miller’s 38-save gem with a score midway through the second giving the Lightning hope. That small breath of life would then be extinguished during the final seconds of the period as Megna struck again just, giving Vancouver a 4-1 lead into the third. That would be the end of goaltender Ben Bishop’s (8W, 2.86 GAA, .906 SV%) night as he was pulled after giving up four goals on 20 shots. The third period for the Lightning would end with a whimper as hallway through, Vancouver’s Skille would knot another one to make it a 5-1 final. The Lightning left the ice flabbergasted and embarrassed as they searched for answers.

Two days later, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins (19-7-3) arrived at Amalie Arena for their first meeting with the Bolts since last year’s playoffs. The Lightning faithful were electric, hungry for revenge on the team that kept them from their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in as many seasons. The first period saw both teams with moments of success, however the first goal would go to the Penguins as star forward Sydney Crosby (21 G, 11 A) scored on Bolts goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (6 W, 2.44 GAA, .925 SV%) halfway through the first. Minutes later, Drouin responded with his own tally on the power play tying the game at one apiece. The second period showed us the Lightning of old as they came out with solid play and spurts of explosiveness that saw Valtteri Filppula (6 G, 12 A) score his sixth of the season and give Tampa Bay their first lead of the game. The barrage would not stop there as Drouin found pay dirt on a dish by Jason Garrison (1 G, 3 A) to put the Lightning up by two. Feeling confident and ready to put this one away, Tampa Bay all of a sudden hit a hurdle known as Pittsburgh’s power play. With a handful of minutes left in the second, the Penguins went on the power play due to a holding penalty by Andrej Sustr (0 G, 4 A) and this would be the beginning of the end. Evgeni Malkin (12 G, 20 A) powered through the Tampa Bay penalty kill and beat Vasilevskiy to bring the Penguins within one to close out the second. The momentum would carry on into the third as power play goals from Crosby and Malkin again put the Lightning on the chase. Unfortunately, like many times already this season, the mountain was too high to climb for the Bolts and they surrendered this one to the Penguins 4-3.

Standout Moment of The Week:  The standout moment of the week for me was Drouin’s two-goal performance against Pittsburgh. Drouin, who has looked lost since coming back from injury, is starting to find his play again at a pivotal time for the Bolts. His ability to sense out the situation and capitalize on an opportunity is much needed for the Lightning. Hopefully the young star can help Tampa Bay correct itself with performances like the one he had Saturday night.

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 2

Wins: 0

Loses: 2

Points: 0 out of 4

Goals For: 4

Goals Allowed: 9

Power Play: 1/7 = 14.2%

Penalty Kill: 5/8 = 62.5%

Upcoming Games: 

Calgary Flames (16-13-2)

Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Canada

When: Wednesday, December 14th – 9:30PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, RSN

Fresh off a few days rest, the Lightning look to start off their three game road trip in Canada with a much-needed win. To do this, they’ll have to best a team that is straight fire right now in the Flames, who have won six straight. For the Bolts to be victorious here, they’ll need to tighten up their five-on-five play because Calgary rarely takes penalties. They have been credited with a completely levelheaded style of play, which they draw strength from to compensate for a lackluster power play.

Led by a breakout backup goaltender in Chad Johnson (13 W, 1.98 GAA, .932 SV%), the Flames have won three of their last five games by just a single goal. They have been able to do this with a keen focus on their defensive elements and assisting Johnson in the strong areas of his game. For the Lightning to combat this, they will need to mimic this themselves. Tampa Bay needs to approach this one with a defensive outlook as the Flames have proven the last six games that they can grind one of out if need be. With this mindset, the Bolts could possibly outscore Calgary and snap their three-game skid.

Vancouver Canucks (12-16-2)

Where: Rogers Arena, Canada

When: Friday, December 16th – 10:00PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, RSNP

Round two with an opponent who drubbed them a few nights ago is what the Lightning have in store for them when they visit the Rogers Arena on Friday. Since that forgettable night, Vancouver has lost three in a row and returns home to stop the wound with another win over Tampa Bay. They outplayed the Bolts by capitalizing on their plethora of mistakes. The Lightning cannot afford to let this happen again. They will need to keep their game honest and the defense has to step up.

Several times on Thursday night, they left Bishop out to dry and showed no gusto against enemies screening him in front of the net. This sloppy play caused lucrative bounces for the Canucks and key mistakes that led to the Bolts’ eventual downfall. This has to end now for the Lightning to even the season series against the Canucks. The Bolts need to come out strong, fast, and determined to prove to Vancouver that they will not let them dictate this game as they did before.

Edmonton Oilers (15-12-5)

Where: Rogers Place, Canada

When: Saturday, December 17th – 10:00PM

Where to Watch: Fox Sun Sports, CBC

To end the Canada trip, the Lightning invade the Rogers Place on Saturday night and face one of the most dynamic NHL players in Connor McDavid (12 G, 27 A). Led by this young star, the Oilers have found themselves poised to become one of the top contenders in the league. They are fourth in scoring with 93 goals and 5th in assists. Their power play is 9th in the league, while their penalty kill equally as good. The Lightning will have a tall task on Saturday night.

However, this is the time to face Edmonton, as they are currently slumping as well. They have lost five of their last six and, due to goaltending and defensive lapses, have found themselves giving up the 7th most goals in the league. Tampa Bay will need to pepper Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot (14 W, 2.57 GAA, .916 SV%) and he has shown his Achilles heel recently in his penchant to give up rebounds. The Lightning will need to jump on those juicy opportunities and water down the massive force that is McDavid.

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