The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to another hot start, and with 10 wins in 14 games, the Lightning now sit atop the Atlantic Division with 21 points. Last week, the Lightning split a pair at home against New Jersey and Nashville at home, then swept a back-to-back against Montreal and Ottawa on the road. This week, there will be no traveling for the Lightning, as they look to continue their winning ways with a three game home-stand starting tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.
“We are who we thought they were.” Dennis Green blessed sports fans with a classic quote in 2006 after a tough loss to the Chicago Bears. When asked about the Bears in a post-game press conference, he exclaimed in frustration, “We are who we thought they were!” This quote comes to mind when watching the Lightning. They are exactly who we thought they were; a really, really good hockey team winning a lot of games and showcasing their status as legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.
Last week, the Lightning thoroughly beat a New Jersey Devils team off to a solid start by an 8-3 score. Despite falling 4-1 to Nashville two nights later, the Lightning displayed a tremendous effort and could have come out on top. I know what you’re thinking, but bare with me. Nashville was the toughest opponent the Lightning have faced so far this season, and if it wasn’t for an unbelievable performance by Pekka Rinne and Nashville getting some serious puck luck, Tampa Bay would have handily won that game.
Tampa Bay dominated every facet of that contest, but sometimes a great goaltender can steal a win for a team. Rinne won the game for Nashville, but if these two teams meet again, in say a best-of-seven series, I’d put my money on the Lightning.
The Lightning concluded last week with that back-to-back in Canada, facing the Montreal Canadians and Ottawa Senators. Tampa Bay convincingly beat Montreal 4-1, followed by completing an incredible come-from-behind 4-3 overtime victory against Ottawa on Sunday night.
Tuesday, November 6th vs. Edmonton Oilers, 7:30 pm
The Oilers got off to a slow start this year losing their first two games of the season, but have since righted the ship winning eight of their next 11 games. Connor McDavid continues to show why he is an elite player in this league. McDavid currently sits tied for second in the NHL with 21 points, and also set an NHL record by notching either a goal or an assist on Edmonton’s first nine goals of the season.
Edmonton currently sits at third place in the Pacific Division, trailing the first-place Calgary Flames by two points. Statistically, Edmonton is in the upper half of the league in goals per game, goals against, and power play percentage. The Oilers’ penalty kill is 26th in the league and might be their biggest weakness besides scoring depth. Tampa Bay has faced teams built like Edmonton who have a great top line and not much else to impress and have had success. The most recent example being the Colorado Avalanche who own arguably the best line in the NHL. This game will depend on how well the Lightning can contain McDavid and the Oilers’ top six forwards.
This will be third game of a four-game trip for the Oilers, as they won in Detroit 4-3 on Saturday and lost in Washington 4-2 last night.
Thursday, November 8th, vs New York Islanders, 7:30 pm
The Islanders are one of the most surprising teams this year. Heading into Monday night, they sit atop the Metropolitan Division at 8-4-1 even though they lost John Tavares and made a head coaching change in the off season. Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz is very familiar with this Lightning team after leading the Capitals to victory against them in the Eastern Conference Final. Trotz has the Islanders playing very stingy defense and their goaltending has improved, as the Islanders are third in the NHL in goals against, only giving up 2.3 goals per game.
The Islanders don’t have any singular player lighting up the stats sheets, but they are in the top half of the league in most team statistics. In addition to being third in goals against, they are also 12th in goals scored, averaging 3.2 per game. The Islanders also have the 13th-ranked power play unit and the 14th-ranked penalty kill. The Islanders haven’t made the postseason since the 2015-16 season when the Lightning eliminated them in the second round. They seem poised to end that streak this season. The Islanders had won five in a row before falling in a shootout by a 4-3 score on home ice last night to Montreal. They will be off until they take on the Lightning.
Saturday, November 10th vs Ottawa Senators, 7 pm
When Ottawa enters Amalie Arena on Saturday, it’s hard to believe they will have anything on their minds besides revenge. After Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Lightning, Ottawa gets a second chance less than a week later. Following an embarrassing offseason, the Senators have struggled to close out games. After starting 4-2-1, the Sens have gone 1-4-2 in their last seven games. They have also lost three of their four overtime games this season.
Scoring goals hasn’t been the problem for the Senators, as they average 3.2 per game. The Senators problems lie almost solely on the defensive play of this team. A team who’s an abysmal 31st in the league in goals against and 29th on the penalty kill.
The Senators are on a homestand this week, taking on New Jersey and Vegas before heading down to Florida to play the Lightning and the Panthers in back-to-back contests.
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