The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to get back on track tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers in what could be a crucial game. The Flyers have not been much better than the Lightning this season; they have a 13-15-1 record and 27 points while the Lightning are 12-15-1 with 25 points. The Lightning in their last ten games, the Lightning have only won three times. The team still lies just 6 points out of a playoff spot but with only 14 games left. The Flyers, a team expected to easily make the playoffs once again, are sitting on the outside looking in. They have gone 5-5-0 in their last ten games and have not really shown any signs of getting it together either. Both teams come in with equal inconsistencies, thus creating an even match up.
The biggest problem for the Lightning, while many will have a tendency to point directly at goal tending, lies in defensive schemes and, more specifically, outlet passes. The Lightning, when struggling, have issues maintaining a solid structure in the defensive end. The lack of structure leads to missed coverage in egregious locations on the ice where one would think are high priority areas for defensive protection. The Lightning also struggle to complete passes out of the defensive zone to spring an offensive rush, or at least get the puck out of the zone. The Lightning have had a solid number of turnovers in the defensive zone while attempting to make an outlet pass. The turnovers are deadly, as they lead directly to another scoring chance or keep the offensive team in the zone for longer. This creates a situation where tired players are pinned in the defensive zone, and tired legs make it even more likely for missed coverage to occur.
For the Lightning to be successful against the Flyers, which they have been in recent seasons, there needs to be a solid defensive scheme for 60 minutes. The Flyers have a high powered offense, so eventually they will have a long session in their offensive zone. When this happens, the Lightning need to be sure to keep coverage. Communication seems to be an issue sometimes, so it is imperative that the team speak to each other in order to avoid lapses in defensive coverage. The goaltenders have been solid as of late despite the recent struggles. Mathieu Garon made 21 saves while facing 22 shots against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday (3/16) while in a loss to the Islanders on the 14th, Anders Lindback made 27 saves against 28 shots. These are solid numbers and are representative of some more consistent play in net for the Lightning that may eventually contribute to a playoff run.
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