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Crashing The Net: Bolts Go West To Start Six-Game Road Trek

The Tampa Bay Lightning (21-20-4) start the week with a west coast swing to begin a six-game road trip that could prove to be do or die for their season. With injuries a constant this year, Tampa Bay has hiccuped through the 2016-17 season and find themselves at a pivotal point where they are hanging onto relevancy by their fingernails. Big match-ups this week against the Los Angeles Kings (22-17-4), Anaheim Ducks (24-13-9), San Jose Sharks (26-16-2), and Arizona Coyotes (13-24-6) will either make or break the Bolts and there is no better a time for them to put up or shut up. Let’s a take a look at the week ahead with Crashing The Net!

Last Week:

Buffalo Sabres (17-17-9)
When: Thursday, January 12th – 7:30PM
Result: Win
Score: 4-2
Shots: 29-26 TBL
Power Play: 2/5
Penalty Kill: 4/4
Key Moment: Ondrej Palat (9G, 13A) would provide the fireworks that helped the Lightning take over here. Having already helped tie the game in the first period, Palat struck again in the second followed by Nikita Kucherov (17G, 24A) to give the Bolts a nice two-goal cushion which turned out to be the deciding factor as they went on to defeat the Sabres.

Columbus Blue Jackets (29-9-4)
When: Friday, January 13th – 8:00PM
Result: Loss
Score: 3-1
Shots: 32-31 TBL
Power Play: 0/3
Penalty Kill: 3/4
Key Moment: The night was full of appreciation for retired Bolt Martin St. Louis. Unfortunately for the Lightning, an opportune power play goal for the Blue Jackets by forward Nick Foligno (15G, 21A) put Columbus on top 2-1 in the third period, and they never looked back. It was a shame due to the fact that Tampa Bay outplayed the Jackets in the first period, only to let this one slip between their fingers. The Blue Jackets put an exclamation point with an empty netter and won 3-1.

Holiday Game: 

Los Angeles Kings (22-18-4)
When: Monday, January 16th – 4:00PM
Result: Win
Score: 2-1
Shots: 32-29 LAK
Power Play: 0/2
Penalty Kill: 3/3
Key Moment: In this holiday matinee, there were several key moments that led to the Bolts’ victory and most of them came from goaltender Ben Bishop (11w, 2.67 GAA, .910 Sv%). When the Bolts scored in the second to take a 2-1 lead, it was Bishop who stole the show flashing shades of his 2015-16 self. Bishop would go on to make 31 consecutive saves and lead the Lightning to their 3-1 victory over the Kings.

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 3
Wins: 2
Losses: 1
Points: 4 out of 6 Points
Goals For: 7
Goals Allowed: 6
Power Play: 2/10 = 20.0%
Penalty Kill: 10/11 = 90.9%

Upcoming Games:

Anaheim Ducks (24-13-9)
Where: Honda Center
When: Tuesday, January 17th – 10:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, RSN

The Lightning continue their west coast trek against the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night. The Ducks have been on quite a tear during the month of January as they have won six of their eight played during the month. This will be the first of two meetings, with the other contest coming in early February, so this game will still be fresh in the team’s minds then.

There have been a lot of key factors that has helped the Ducks lead their division this season, with the most prominent one being their uncanny ability to shut teams out as of late. In this month already, the Ducks have shut out three opponents and have not let in more than three goals in all other contests. This has been an overall team effort as all three of those goose eggs were by different Anaheim goaltenders. Looking over the Ducks’ statistics, they are in the middle of the pack in goals, goals against, and shots per game, but are in the top 10 in power play percentage and power play goals. Anaheim hasn’t been overly reliant on their power play, but the Lightning will need to stay out of the box against the Ducks even though their penalty kill has improved as of late.

San Jose Sharks (26-16-2)
Where: SAP Center
When: Thursday, January 19th – 10:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, CSCA, RSN

On Thursday night, the Bolts visit the San Jose Sharks, a team that has already got the best of them earlier this season with a 3-1 win at Amalie Arena. The Sharks have been looking solid as of late, and led by two bearded producers in Brent Burns (18G, 27A) and Joe Thornton (3G, 24A), currently hold onto third place in the Pacific Division, which as of this writing is five points ahead of the fourth place Calgary Flames. It hasn’t been all the men with “chin curtains” doing the work as the Sharks have been impressive in keeping the puck out of their net, ranking fourth in the league in goals against.

Where the Lightning need to shine here is against San Jose’s large frame. The Sharks are a very broad team and know how to get away with using their physicality to impose their will against their opponents. One would think that something like that would rack up the penalty minutes for a team, but that person would be wrong, because the Sharks are one of the least penalized teams in the league with only 354 PIM this season. This is where the Lightning need to utilize their speed. What’s one way to draw penalties? By keeping the guys in the other jerseys chasing you. If the Bolts can do this, watch for their 3rd-ranked power play to meet up with San Jose’s average penalty kill, and hopefully the Bolts can find twine as a result.

Arizona Coyotes (13-24-6)
Where: Gila River Arena
When:Saturday, January 21st – 8:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, FAZ+

To conclude the week, Tampa Bay meets up with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night for their first meeting of the season. The lowly Coyotes might not have a impressive spot in the standings, but will prove to be a challenge for the Lightning. When you have a game at the end of a week against a team that has been struggling the entire season, it’s can be easy to find yourself underestimating them. The Coyotes are bottom ten in goals, power play, penalty kill, and goals against and, on paper, this looks like an easy win. The Bolts cannot think that here as any points in this juncture are vital.

The Lightning need to step on the gas and attack Arizona with any weapon they have because a loss to a team you should beat plummets the confidence, something that has been in short supply in Tampa Bay. For the Lightning to be successful here, they need to play an entire sixty minute game from start to finish. No sitting on their heels, no second guesses. Take the game to the Coyotes and never let up. In doing that, they will not only earn a win, but a new breath of hope going into the final games of their road trip.

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