Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a real challenge on their hands. They are heading out on the four-game road trip through the West that is going to start in Arizona as the Lightning head into the Jobing.com Arena as they go head-to-head with former Lightning goaltender Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes. Let’s take a closer look at tonight’s matchup.
A lot of people believed that when Lightning center Steven Stamkos went down during the second period against the Boston Bruins on Monday that this young Lightning team would be finished for the season. However, all that changed when the Lightning closed their ranks, winning their next two games in a row.
The icing on the cake was when the Bolts sent the best team in the league, the Anaheim Ducks, quacking back to Anaheim with a 5-1 loss.
Now, the Lightning is heading out on the road, with their first stop being Phoenix.
These two teams are fairly evenly matched as far as the numbers are concerned.
|Goals Per Game||3.05||3.15|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.32||3.05|
|Shots on Goal||27.68||30.55|
|Penalty Minutes Per Game||13.05||11.4|
|Power Play Goals||14||15|
|Power Play Percentage||19.7%||20.5%|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||86.8%||77.9%|
Both of these teams are evenly matched right down the line. Goals Per Game, Shots on Goal, Penalty Minutes, and Power Play Goals; neither one of them have a clear advantage.
However, the point where these two teams do separate is their Penalty Kill. Out of the 38 times that the Lightning have been shorthanded this season, they have only allowed 6 goals on the Power Play. This places them at third in the NHL on the Penalty Kill.
On the other hand, the Coyotes have allowed only 7 goals on the Power Play; however, they have only found themselves shorthanded a total of 29 times this season. This places them near the bottom, 26th place to be exact, in regards to Penalty Kill Percentage.
Should the Lightning find themselves on the Power Play tonight in Phoenix, they need to use that opportunity for all it is worth and really pepper Mike Smith. Smith faced down 52 shots on Thursday when the Coyotes went up against the Chicago Blackhawks, allowing only 4 goals in regulation. This means that they are going to have to rapid fire on him in an attempt to throw him off of his game.
This will definitely be an interesting battle between the pipes tonight. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop is 13-2 this season with a GAA of 1.96 and a Save Percentage of .932. One the other side of the ice, Smith is 11-3 so far with a GAA of 2.87 and a Save Percentage of .918.
Taking Stamkos out of the equation, the Lightning have 5 players that are already above 10 points this season. Closing in on Stamkos’ numbers is right wing Martin St. Louis and center Valtteri Filppula. Both players have 8 goals apiece. St. Louis has 11 assists for a total of 19 points, and Filppula has 7 assists for a total of 15 points.
Right now, it is Shane Doan and Keith Yandle who are holding it down for the Coyotes. Coyotes captain Shane Doan currently leads his team in goal with 9. Defenseman Keith Yandle has a total of 1 goal and 15 assist for a total of 16 points. An offensively strong defenseman like him is a dangerous thing to come up against. He will b one of the players that the Lightning defense will have to keep their eyes on tonight.
Speaking of defensemen, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper says that defenseman Sami Salo will be returning to the lineup tonight in Phoenix. This is very good news, especially with all the other injuries that they have on their bench right now.
Currently, defenseman Keith Aulie is out with an Upper Body Injury, Defenseman Brian Lee is out with a knee injury, center Tom Pyatt is out with a broken collarbone, and then of course there is Steven Stamkos and his broken tibia.
The Lightning have shown that they are much more than a one trick pony. They definitely have tough road ahead of them, as they are about to go up against some of the best teams in the league. Three of the Lightning’s next 4 opponents are in the Top 5 teams in the league. However, with the Lightning’s newfound teamwork under captain Martin St. Louis, and their sheer determination to stay on top, I believe that the Bolts can come home from this road trip with a winning record for the run.
What do you think? Do you think the Bolts have what it takes to hang with some of the best teams in the league? What do you think they are going to have to do to stay on top? Sound off in the comments below and let us know your thoughts on the matter.