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Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Nov 27, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) is congratulated by teammates after he scored a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning swings open the doors to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to host captain Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So far, the Lightning have taken 2 of the three games in their home stand. Tonight, the Bolts look to win number three. The only thing standing in their way right now is the Penguins.

The Lightning are coming off of a spectacular 4-2 win at the Forum on Wednesday night against former Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Something very similar can be said about the Penguins. On Wednesday night, the Penguins emerged victorious with a 6-5 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So far, the Lightning have taken 2 of the three games on this home stand. Tonight, the Bolts will look to close out the home stand with win number three.

Unfortunately, the Penguins are going to have something to say about that.

Judging the by the numbers, it would seem that the Penguins have a slight advantage.

Penguins Bolts
Goals Per Game 2.92 2.92
Goals Against Per Game 2.42 2.52
Shots on Goal Per Game 31.88 28.2
Penalty Minutes Per Game 9.54 12.72
Power Play Goals 11 13
Power Play Percentage 24.2% 17.6%
Penalty Kill Percentage 85.1% 85.4%

 

The two teams are dead even when it comes to Goals Per Game and slightly similar in regards to Goals Against Per Game; however, this is where the numbers start to separate.

The Penguins spend slightly less time in the box than the Penguins do. On that note, they also seem to have a stronger power play than we do at the moment. Over the course of the last few games, the Lightning have spent a lot of time in the box for completely unnecessary penalties. If they do this against the Penguins, we could end up in a world of hurt.

This is also a team with arguably one of the best snipers in all the NHL, although we all hate to admit it. The defense is most definitely going to have to be on their game. One of the biggest keys to winning this game is going to be neutralizing Crosby and Malkin; no easy feat, for sure.

While I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we have the scoring prowess to come out on top against the Pens, there is one little issue that they are going to have to tie up. That is the overpassing game. On one of their power plays in the game against the Flyers, the Bolts spent over a minute simply passing the puck amongst the players in front of the net. While I have always been a huge proponent of quality over quantity, you simply can’t score a goal if you will not shoot the puck. If we can get over that, make sure that every single player is where they are supposed to be on the ice, and prepared for the rebound, the Bolts have a very good chance of coming out on top.

As one could imagine, it is the Crosby/Malkin combo that is holding down the scoring for the Penguins. Crosby leads the Pens in goals and points. His 13 goals and 20 assists give the captain 33 points so far this season. This is enough to propel Crosby to the top of the National Hockey League in points.

Malkin leads the Pens in assists with 24.

On the other side of the ice, it is captain Martin St. Louis that is leading the Lightning in points. His 10 goals and 14 assists give him a total of 24 points so far this season.

Right now, the battle between the pipes give a slight advantage to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has a 14-3-1 record with a GAA  of 2.08 and a .931 Save Percentage.

Back on the Pens side of the ice, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is 13-7 in his 22 appearances so far this season. He has a GAA of 2.16 and a Save Percentage of .915.

At the end of the day, the difference between these two goaltenders’ stats is not that great of a distance between the two; however, there is one main theme that separates the two; I believe that the Lightning will win.

What do you think the Lightning are going to have to do against the Penguins to ensure that the Bolts head back to the locker room with the two points? Do you think the defense will be able to shut down the Crosby/Malkin dynamic? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

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Topics: Martin St Louis, NHL, Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning

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