After winning four of five on the road this past week, the Tampa Bay Lightning return home to take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.
Going into this past road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning had yet to find any real consistency at home and away from Amalie Arena, but after picking up eight of a possible 10 points over the five-game swing through the Eastern and Western Conferences, they found a spark and climbed back into the thick of things in the Atlantic Division.
And though the team may have lost its guiding figure, captain Steven Stamkos, early on in the trip, the Lightning didn’t let that affect their morale and continued to have success the rest of the way.
For some perspective, the Tampa Bay Lightning have gone 37-27-5 in 69 games without Stamkos since the 2013-14 season and have scored 189 goals for in the process. As you can see, the team is 10 games above .500 without one of its best shooters and offensive talents and the group has shown it can win in the regular season and playoffs with him not on the ice.
That speaks of the true depth the Lightning have in place and as such, they’re able to spread the offense around to fill the void. Even then, making up for the loss won’t be easy, but as they’ve displayed in the past, it can be done.
But back to the team as a whole and the game at hand tonight.
Following a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday, the Lightning returned to Tampa Bay with a 4-1-0 record over the road trip, including a four-game win streak that ended against the Preds two nights ago. Despite the loss, Tampa Bay sits in second place in the division with a 12-7-1 record overall and 25 points, just five behind the
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay sits in second place in the division with a 12-7-1 record overall and 25 points, just five behind the first-place Montreal Canadiens, and plus-13 goal differential.
Additionally, the Lightning outscored its opponents 16-7 over the trip and posted two shutouts, courtesy of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The young netminder was brilliant this past week and earned back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his career. After blanking the
After blanking the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, Vasilevskiy became the first Lightning goaltender to post two consecutive shutouts since Dwayne Roloson did it back in 2011. The future is certainly bright in net in Tampa Bay and we’re just getting a taste of what’s to come.
So, before the puck drops on tonight’s game against the Flyers, let’s take a look what both teams have faced recently.
Coming into tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning sit in second place in the Atlantic, as previously mentioned, and currently own the fourth-best record in the NHL. Additionally, the team is in the top-10 on both the Power Play and Penalty Kill and sits highly in the goals for per game category, scoring an average of 3.05 goals per game, which is good for sixth in the league.
Much credit goes toward the first-year assistant coach, Todd Richards, who came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets, for revitalizing the Power Play this season for the Lightning. If you can recall, Tampa Bay was awful last season on the man advantage and the team’s poor effort in 2015-16 cost them some extra wins and points.
This year, the Power Play has actually helped the Lightning win some games and we hope they keep it up as the season moves along.
Possession-wise, the Lightning have dipped just below 50 percent in both the SAT and USAT categories at 5-on-5 and sit in 19th in the league in shots for percentage, at 49.24 percent, per Corsica.Hockey. In addition, Tampa Bay has a PDO (sum of 5v5 shooting percentage and 5v5 save percentage – 100 is usually the average) of 98.80 at home since the start of the season.
As for the slow starts we’ve become accustomed to as of late, the Tampa Bay Lightning have picked things up recently and begun to score more in the first period and grab the lead first. The team is 12th in the NHL in first period goals with 15 and is in the top-10 in second and third period goals. Also, they’ve scored the ninth most goals at even strength in the league with 41, and 61 overall.
Something interesting to note of is that the Lightning have the fifth most wins (7) when outshot by an opponent in the NHL and they currently give up relatively the same amount of shots that they put on net, 30.4 and 30.2, respectively.
Finally, on the injury front, Stamkos is out, of course, but per Bryan Burns of the team’s official website, defenseman Anton Stralman was out on the ice this morning and was wearing a red no-contact jersey. It appears he will be out again tonight for the fourth straight game, but was placed in one of the projected lineups, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Also, forward Brian Boyle is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury and as a result, Erik Condra was called up from the Syracuse Crunch earlier today, which has become a common trend lately with all the injuries.
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As for the Flyers, they’re coming off of a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers last night, but over the course of the season thus far, they haven’t gotten much going on the road. In nine away games, Philadelphia has a 4-4-1 record and a minus-5 goal differential.
However, the Flyers currently possess the second best Power Play in the NHL, converting on 27.1 percent of their opportunities, and are averaging 3.15 goals per game, which is tied for third in the league. As such, scoring hasn’t been an issue for them, but on the flip side, Philadelphia is last in the NHL in goals against per game (3.30) and is in the bottom-10 in Penalty Kill percentage (79.7 percent).
Head-to-head, the two sides have two of the best units on the man advantage, but one side has the advantage on the Penalty Kill (Lightning – ninth in the NHL, killing off 84.6 of their penalties), so something has to give.
And despite superior goaltending from the Tampa Bay Lightning, I still think this has the potential to be a high-scoring game and the special teams factor will likely make a difference (Tampa Bay went 1-for-2 on the PP, while Philadelphia went 0-for-5 on Saturday afternoon).
Both of the Flyers’ goaltenders have a sub-.900 save percentage and have around or above a 3.00 goals against average on the year compared to tonight’s starter in net for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has a 5-1-0 record, .953 save percentage and a 1.43 goals against average in seven starts.
Possession-wise, the Flyers are sixth in the league in SAT percentage (52.04) and fifth in USAT percentage (53.11) at 5-on-5 and are fourth in shots for per game with an average of 32.1. On the other hand, the Flyers allow a 54.45 SAT percentage against per 60 minutes and give up an average of 27.6 shots per game.
Finally, both teams are hovering around 10 percent in team shooting percentage overall and are in the top-10 in the league in that category.
Essentially, these are two high scoring teams with two of the best Power Play units in the NHL and neither side is afraid to shoot the puck (though the Flyers lead the league in missed shots with 282). Like I said before, tonight’s second meeting of the season has the potential to be a high scoring affair or a blowout, for that matter.
The two goaltenders who will look to keep the pucks out tonight are Vasilevskiy for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steve Mason (likely) for the Philadelphia Flyers. Mason earned the win for the Flyers last night against the Panthers, stopping 38 of 39 shots in a 3-1 win.
Some players to keep an eye on tonight for both teams include Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who has 23 points on the season and seven points in his previous five games, and Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, who comes into tonight with 18 points and six in the past six games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to pick up another two points against a tired Philadelphia Flyers team and continue the success they had over the last five-game road trip. If they can pull out a win tonight, Bolts Nation will have much to be thankful for on Thursday.