After a five day break, the Bolts hosted the Vancouver Canucks. They hoped to get some offensive momentum going in just their second game in the opening nine days of the season. They did the opposite in a 4-1 loss that saw them lose an early lead. The defeat was a head-scratching one for a team that entered the season primed to score at will. “We’re not finishing,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Anders Nillson had 33 saves and the Canucks got scoring from young guns Elias Petterson and Brock Boeser. Andrei Vasilevskiy was far from the problem, posting 24 saves on 26 shots.
After this defeat, it was a breath of fresh air for Lightning fans to see the team firing on all cylinders Saturday night at home against Columbus. Victor Hedman opened the festivities just a minute in and the Bolts never looked back. Nikita Kucherov got his first of the year, Brayden Point buried two and Vasilevskiy was yet again rock solid, making 30 saves. Cooper was impressed at the work of his power play, which was 4-for-7 in a strong showing.
Now, the Lightning welcome a familiar foe as they continue the homestead against Carolina, ending a two-day break. This week on Crashing The Net, we take a look at the upcoming slate of four games for the Bolts, in which they’ll test the waters on the road for the first time this season.
Tuesday, October 16 vs Carolina Hurricanes
First up, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes enter this road game with some swagger; off to a 4-0-1 start before their first regulation loss against a tough Winnipeg squad Sunday. The Hurricanes are getting all kinds of scoring all throughout their lineup.
A 5-4 win in Minnesota in overtime gave fans a glimpse of how impressive Sebastian Aho can be. The young Finnish forward posted two goals and four points in the win. Captain Justin Williams got in on the action with three points of his own. Goaltender Curtis McElhinney has been a welcome addition to a strong lineup.
Carolina does not play on Monday, but the Bolts will still be the more well-rested group in this former Southeast division division clash Tuesday night.
Thursday, October 18 vs Detroit Red Wings
Next up, the messy Motown Red Wings. Through their first five, they have been outscored 23-11. Most recently, they were bullied in Boston, taking a 8-2 shot to the chin at TD Garden. The Wings have been poor at every position.
On Thursday, they enter Amalie Arena, which has been a house of horrors for Jeff Blashill’s squad as of late. That’s ironic, as the Wings’ old barn, Joe Louis Arena, used to torment the Lightning. The tables have turned though, and the Bolts, who have eliminated Detroit from the playoffs twice in recent memory, enter the game a confident bunch.
Detroit will be in Montreal on Monday, then rest until they meet the Bolts. Both teams should be fresh, however the Lightning will hope to continue their momentum, while Detroit hopes to exorcise their demons and get anything going offensively. The Lightning will most likely have Vasilevskiy in net. Meanwhile, Detroit will have a decision on their hands in net in the second game of a back-to-back against a scary Lightning offense.
Saturday, October 20 vs Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild have been sluggish to start the 2018-19 campaign. Despite the Wild holding a mediocre 1-1-2 record, this will be a measuring stick game for the Bolts. The Wild are a deep team, with a word class goaltender, and strength at every position, for that matter.
Minnesota will be in Dallas Friday before returning home to take on Tampa. Again, there is uncertainty regarding who will start opposite Andrei Vasilevskiy in this one, however one would figure Minnesota would give Devan Dubnyk the nod against the Lightning. He has found his stride in Minnesota, and stymied the Bolts before. It will be important for the Lightning to get traffic in front of him, and lots of pucks on net, something which has already been a mantra from head coach Jon Cooper in the early-going.
The Wild are better than their record shows, and have improved as of late, collecting points in their last three and beating a strong, veteran-savvy Chicago team at home. This cross-conference game will be a tough test for both squads.
Sunday, October 21 vs Chicago Blackhawks
The first back-to-back of the year for the Lightning will feature an equally-winded Chicago Blackhawks squad, who will be in Columbus Saturday before returning home to face the Bolts in a 2015 Stanley Cup Final rematch.
You could say the Hawks like to play close hockey games. Incredibly enough, Chicago has needed extra minutes in all five of their games to open the season, the first team in NHL history to do so. This one figures to be a tight one as well, as two teams who pride themselves on their depth and smart plays with the puck go head-to-head in the Windy City.
The Lightning will need to be stout defensively. This is a Hawks team that has scored at least five goals in two of their opening five games. And though the Lightning may be the more skilled bunch, the Blackhawks lineup is scattered with veteran leaders who rarely turn the puck over, and prevent their goaltenders from facing too many quality looks. They also possess a vast array of game-breakers offensively. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ highlight reels speak for themselves.
It’ll take a four-line effort in Chicago for Tampa Bay to pick up a road win in this five-game trip.
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