Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle. In this feature, one of our Bolts will face off against an opposing player of the team the Lightning face next. We will see how the two match up against each other, their respective teams, and against the rest of the league.
In today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle, it’s an east vs. west game tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the Los Angeles Kings. This is game number three of a seven-game home stand for the Bolts that will end October 26th. Matched up tonight in The Face-Off Circle are a couple of centers that will most likely meet up in the real face-off circle tonight. For the Lightning, we have young gun Tyler Johnson going up against Kings’ alternate captain Anze Kopitar. PUCK DROP!
Anze Kopitar is by far one of my favorite players to watch in the NHL (besides any Lightning player of course). He is a 26-year old alternate captain that is excelling at every point of his game. He is a consistent twenty goal-scorer, with at least forty assists to add on to that, doing so in every season since joining the Kings in the NHL in 2006. Kopitar was the Kings’ first round pick in the 2005 draft but spent that first year in Slovenia playing for multiple teams and developing his skills. With seven years of experience already under his belt as well as a Stanley Cup Championship (2012), Kopitar is becoming one of the more skilled, yet unrecognized players in the NHL. Of course he isn’t as flashy and well-known as Sidney Crosby is to the rest of the country, but he sure is famous in L.A.
Now, Anze has only played five games against the Lightning, as his Kings are in the Western Conference and only play the Lightning once or twice a year. In those five games, Kopitar has done his part to help lead his team to victories. He has one goal and three assists in his five appearances vs. Tampa Bay, earning a 3-2 record against them so far. These stats may not seem too impressive but in five games, that is a fairly decent amount of work.
“Tyler, Tyler, Tyler….what are we going to do with you?” When I pose that question, the first thing in my mind says give him the puck and let him blaze his way up the ice, using his small 5’9″ body to weave around the defenders. However, I do have to take into consideration that the kid is ONLY 5’9″ going up against some of the biggest defenders in the game. But seriously, what are we going to do with Tyler Johnson? He is easily one of the most talented young kids in the NHL and even has the awards to prove it. He was WHL playoff MVP in 2008, WHL Western Conference Player of the Year in 2011, AHL Calder Cup Champion in 2012, and AHL All-Star, Top Goal Scorer and MVP in 2013. Johnson DEFINITELY has the talent and showed it in the fourteen games he played in for the Lightning last year, scoring three goals and adding three assists.
In his first full year as a Bolt, Johnson is taking very well to the fast-tempo of the NHL. He is showing that he can stick with veteran NHL players like Sidney Crosby and Milan Lucic. This will be Tyler’s first game against the Kings and I can’t wait to see how he does. Going up against a playoff MVP goalie in Jonathan Quick will be no easy task, especially the first time facing Quick. Johnson is at the slight disadvantage because he doesn’t know how truly talented Quick is but also at an advantage in the sense that Quick doesn’t know the talent of Johnson either. The match-up between those two should be interesting.
Tonight’s game will be very exciting to watch as the Kings come in with a three-game winning streak, while the Lightning try to regain composure after having their own three-game winning streak snapped by the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night. The crowd will definitely play a factor as it always does here in Tampa, with the fans yelling and Tesla coils going off every chance they can. Fatigue and injuries may also be a factor in this game. Look for Lightning goalie Ben Bishop to come back for the Bolts and shut down the Kings offense. Go Bolts!