After 16 games without a regulation loss, the Lightning’s point streak has finally come to an end. Tampa Bay closed out their west coast trip in San Jose on Saturday night and came up short, losing 5-2. They say all good things must end and unfortunately, that included the Lightning’s second-longest point streak in franchise history, one in which they earned 31 of a possible 32 points.
Alas, Bolt fans, let’s not let one loss sour the mood too much. Tampa bay is still on a historic pace. They are currently projected to earn over 130 points come season’s end. The Lightning’s domination has cemented them in first place in the league, currently 10 points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the Lightning have run away in the league standings, Nikita Kucherov has climbed into number one in the points race.
Kucherov currently has 69 points in 42 games, averaging an impressive 1.64 point per game. Kucherov produced at a historic pace in the month of December, earning him the NHL’s First Star of the Month, with four games in which he earned at least four points en route to a total of 30 last month.
Up next on the schedule for the Lightning comes a quick two-game home stand before starting a three-game road trip against an Atlantic Division foe.
Tuesday, Jan 8 at 7:30pm vs Columbus
The last time Tampa Bay faced Columbus was October 13 in the third game of the season. At the time, the Lightning were 1-1 and coming off a 4-1 loss to Vancouver. Unfortunately for Columbus, the Lightning got their mojo back and dominated the game, winning it 8-2. Since their first meeting, Columbus has been having a solid season, currently at third place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 24-14-3. The Blue Jackets will be wrapping up a three-game road trip at Amalie Arena, having lost to Carolina while beating Florida in overtime.
Columbus has benefited from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky slowly returning to form. The former Vezina Trophy winner got off to a rough start, but has started to hit his stride as of late. Bobrovsky has faced the 11th-most shots against this season (893). Even with his heavy workload, he has managed a .908 save percentage and his 18 wins is the third-highest among goalies. While Columbus has won games despite the volume of shots allowed, this recipe is one that benefits the Lightning, who lead the NHL in scoring.
Thursday, Jan 10 at 7:30 vs Carolina
Carolina took the NHL by storm at the start of the season by going 4-1 and introducing their post-victory team celebrations. While they are still having a better season than many expected, they have gravitated back towards the mean. They currently sit at fifth place in the Metropolitan with a record of 19-17-5.
Carolina plays a very up tempo style, a style that allows them utilizes their speed to create scoring chances. Creating scoring chances hasn’t been a problem for Carolina, who leads the league in shot attempts with just under 36 per game. However, even though they lead the league in shots, they only average 2.5 goals per game. The first time these two teams met Tampa Bay won 4-2 thanks to a Tyler Johnson hat trick and a great performance by Louis Domingue.
Saturday, Jan 12 at 7:00 at Buffalo
Meeting for the third time this year, the Lightning will start a three-game road trip against the Sabres. The season series is currently split at 1-1. The first time these two teams met Carter Hutton stole the show for the Sabres. Tampa Bay largely dominated the game, but Hutton slammed the door shut, resulting in a 2-1 loss. The second meeting was an offensive shootout that ended with a beautiful game-winner by Cedric Paquette, giving them a 5-4 win. That victory for the Bolts stopped the Sabres’ 10-game mid-November winning streak in its tracks
Since that streak ended, the Sabres have fallen back to fourth in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston. While they’re holding on to the final wild card spot, Buffalo was won only five games in their last 17 (5-8-4). In addition to scoring just 2.79 goals per game on average this season, tied for 23rd, their power play unit has also been sub-par, converting on only 18% of their opportunities. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is converting on 30% of their power play chances, the best percentage in the NHL.
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