March 4, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) waits for the puck drop on a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning Take on the Montreal Canadiens


After a well fought loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to finish out their two game home stand as the Montreal Canadiens come to town to face off with the Bolts on Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Feb 12, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz (61) attempts to steal the puck from Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, it may seem like the Bolts and the Canadiens are on two very different paths. Right now the Canadiens are currently 15-5-4 on the season, while the Lightning are 10-13-1; the Canadiens are currently number one in the Northeast Division, and the Lightning are tied with the Washington Capitals for third place in the Southeast Division, but the Lightning have a super-secret weapon. The Lightning have heart, a fighting spirit, and a burning fire inside that pushes them forward.

Do you know what the fuel is that keeps their fire burning?

It’s YOU, the Bolts Nation; their Thunder.

What to look for from Montreal:

Today, the Montreal Canadiens have recalled Defenseman Greg Pateryn from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. The 6’2” 214 pound defenseman from Sterling Heights, Michigan has played in 22 games this season with the Bulldogs. He has netted 4 goals and has 4 assists for a total of 8 points.

Defenseman Alexei Emelin has scored 6 points in his last 6 games. Most recently, he got an assist on LW Brandon Prust’s goal against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.

This brings me to Brandon Prust. The Canadiens left winger leads the NHL in penalty minutes having spent a total of 81 minutes in the penalty box so far this season. I am almost certain that we will see a tie-up between Prust and someone like Pierre-Cedric Labrie or B.J. Crombeen before the night is over.

There is also P.K. Subban to deal with. Subban has earned a point in 12 of the 18 games that he has played this season. He is also on a five game point streak. During those games, he has netted 3 goals and 4 assists. The latest of these points came against the Lightning’s divisional rival the Carolina Hurricanes. Subban notched an assist in the first period on a goal by defenseman Josh Gorges, and then he netted a goal on a Power Play in the third while Carolina RW Alexander Semin sat in the box for High Sticking.

What to look for from the Lightning:

With the addition of Ryan Malone back into the Lightning line up, they will definitely have a strong addition to their top lines. In the 11 games that he has played this season, Malone has 4 goals and 2 assists for a total of 6 points. The most recent of those points came Thursday night when he assisted on the Lightning’s only goal, scored by Steven Stamkos, against the Jets.

Speaking of Steven Stamkos, he still leads the NHL in goals with a total of 18. Combine the 18 goals that he has netted so far this season with the 17 assists that he has registered in the 24 appearances that he has made for the Bolts this season, and you get 35 points. This places him in second place in the league in points, only to be topped by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby who has 39 points. Consistency is the key for Stamkos. He has scored goals in 9 of his last 11 games.

Then, there is Ondrej Palat. The 6 foot tall, 180 pound LW from Frydek-Mistek, Czech Republic has been invaluable to the Lightning since being called up from the Syracuse Crunch. In his first 2 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he earned an assist in each of them. Then, in Thursday’s game against Winnipeg, he had a beautiful scoring chance against Winnipeg goaltender Al Montoya, but was ultimately denied by the crossbar. While he was with the Syracuse Crunch, he netted 11 goals and earned 33 assists for a total of 44 points. This puts him in third place for points amongst the Crunch, and seventh in the AHL for assists.

So Far This Season:

This is the second of three meetings between the Lightning and the Canadiens. The first of which, the Lightning fell to the Canadiens in a 4-3 loss in a shootout at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on February 12th. After this Saturday’s game, the teams will meet again on Thursday, April 18th, this time in Montreal.

As of late, the Lightning’s Power Play has fallen extremely flat. For a team whose PP started out as one of the most dangerous in the league, they have gone 3 for 27 over the seven games. They have simply got to stop the bleeding if they plan to overcome these numbers. As I have said all season long, the ability to capitalize on all opportunities in front of you will have a great deal to do with the final outcome of a series.

My Take on the Matter:

The Lightning may have lost their first encounter with the Canadiens, but the Lightning has something that the Canadiens cannot take away from them. That is their will to fight and their determination to win games. While you may not see it in the numbers right now, this is a team that started out with an absolute fire. The Lightning were 6-1 on their first 7 games of the season.

While the Lightning may have hit some serious bumps while on the road as of late, whether this be due to injuries, or the switching of the lines, if you have seen as many games as I have as of late, the team seems to be coming back together. The defense has shown improvement over the course of the last few games, as much as the offense has shown more of that fire that we have come to know as their 3rd period push.

I think if the Lightning can channel some of that fire and let it burn for all 60 minutes of Saturday’s game, the Montreal Canadiens will be in store for one heck of a battle.

So it is time, Bolts Nation. It is time for you to go marching into the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night with your jerseys on, your face painted, and that Lightning spirit ready to scream your heads off.

Your team needs you. Without the Thunder, there is no Lightning. Be the Thunder.

 

What is YOUR take on the situation? What do you feel the Lightning Power Play needs to do to bring itself out of their recent slump? Who in the locker room do you feel could be a catalyst for this change? Sound off in the comments below. Let your voice be heard and get a chance to have your comments featured in an upcoming Bolts By the Bay article.

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Tags: Montreal Canadiens Tampa Bay Lightning