Last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning earned their first shut out of the 2013-14 season in their 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Tonight, the Bolts head home to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to defend home ice against David Backes and the St. Louis Blues.
Right now, both teams are in very similar positions. The Lightning are 9-4-0 with 18 points, putting them in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.
On the other side of the ice, the St. Louis Blues are 8-1-2 also with 18 points, placing them in 7th place in the Western Conference.
Both teams are on an even keel, except we have one thing they don’t. We have goaltender Ben Bishop.
Right now, Bishop is 8-2 in his 10 appearances with a GAA of 2.17 and a Save Percentage of .924. Bishop spent 2 seasons with the St. Louis Blues before joining the Ottawa Senators. Bishop was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning late last season in a trade that saw star rookie Cory Conacher and a fourth round draft pick go to Ottawa in exchange for Bishop.
This will be the first time that the Lightning have gone up against the Blues in the regular season since acquiring Bishop.
It is unclear right now if Bishop will get his opportunity to face his former team tonight. Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper could elect to go with backup goaltender Anders Lindback in light of the Bolts’ back to back schedule.
I assume this will be a decision made later in the afternoon.
By the tale of the tape, as well as the score sheet, these two teams are pretty evenly matched.
|Goals Per Game||3.15||3.73|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.54||2.18|
|Shots on Goal||26.77||29.73|
|Power Play Goals||12||12|
|Power Play Percentage||22.6%||27.9%|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||84.6%||79.5%|
There are a lot of consistencies between the numbers of these two teams. If anything, a very slight advantage goes to St. Louis; however, as we both know, the Tampa Bay Lightning have never been one to back down from a fight.
There are going to be two keys to tonight’s game. The first of which is the special teams. The Lighting have a clear advantage on the Penalty Kill, and the Blues do average 5 minutes more in penalties than the Bolts, so they should be able to neutralize them there.
The Blues do have a slight advantage on the Power Play; however, if Tampa Bay can manage to keep themselves out of the box, this will all be a moot point.
Right now, center Steven Stamkos leads the Lightning in goals and points with 10 goals and 9 assists for a total of 19 points. On the other side of the ice, it is all about left wing Alexander Steen. Right now, Steen has 12 goals and 5 assists for a total of 17 points.
Stamkos has now scored a point in all of his last 5 games. Steen is currently on a 6-game scoring streak. Both of these guys have lethal shots, and both make expert snipers. It will be on the respective defenses to ward off all comers, and help protect their goaltender.
In order for the Bolts to remain successful this season, they are going to have to keep the pressure on their opponent much like they did in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday. They are going to have to put shots on goal and have players set in the proper positions. Placing someone like Malone in front of the net would be a good place to start. He is large enough to make an impact on the line; however, he is also small enough to be quick.
Will the Tampa Bay Lightning be able get start another win streak or will the Blues put a kink in the Bolts’ plans? We’ll all have to wait and see.
The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. EST