Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio (8) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning Looking for Two Points Tonight Against Phoenix


Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning will take the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as they go head to head with former Lightning goaltender Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Both of these teams are hungry and fighting desperately to hold on to the hopes of a post season. Right now, the Bolts are in a position to make a run at the playoffs should they be able to hold on to their current position.

The Coyotes are just outside of the wild card race; however there is more than enough hockey left for them to ease on into that position.

If the Lightning have it their way, the Coyotes will have to wait at least one more game to gain some ground.

Tonight’s game is another one of those circumstances where the win column doesn’t quite match up with the stats. Much like the Lightning, the Coyotes have been struggling ever since returning from the Olympic Break. The Coyotes have gone 29-24-11 this season as opposed to the Bolts’ 34-24-6; however, when you take a closer look at the numbers, you’ll see how deceiving the win column can be.

Coyotes

Bolts

Goals Per Game

 2.7

2.77

Goals Against Per Game

2.81

2.55

Shots on Goal Per Game

31.66

29.7

Penalty Minutes Per Game

10.53

10.75

Power Play Goals

47

34

Power Play Percentage

21.1%

16.8%

Penalty Kill Percentage

79.2%

80.3%

 

Just like with the game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Bolts are going to have to avoid the unnecessary penalties. While I will concede that our penalty kill has improved greatly as of late, the Coyotes are very dangerous on the Power Play.

They are 21.1% on the PP, which puts them in 5th place in the league while they have an extra attacker. This will not bode well for the Bolts if they allow themselves to be in this position.

I do have to give it to the Lightning, though. I was thoroughly impressed with the effort I saw from the team against the Bruins. Had the third goal not been allowed in, the Lightning could have sealed the deal in regulation, but that is another story for another day. I have noticed that the Lightning have more hustle lately, they are being more aggressive with the puck, and we are spending more time in the offensive zone.

Now, if we can just translate some of that time in the offensive zone into Shots on Goal, I think the Bolts will be in pretty good shape tonight.

When it comes to points, it would seem that there are three different leaders in Phoenix. Leading the way in goals scored is center Antoine Vermette. Vermette has 22 goals and 17 assists for a total of 39 points so far this season. The reigning leader in assists is defenseman Keith Yandle. Currently, he has 7 goals and 36 assists for a total of 43 points. However, when it comes to overall numbers, the man in front is right wing Radim Vrbata. He has a total of 18 goals and 25 assists for a total of 43 points.

Now, on the other side of the ice, things are a little bit simpler. The leader in goals and points is one in the same; center Valtteri Filppula. Filppula has 21 goals and 21 assists for a grand total of 42 points. However, leading in assists is defenseman Victor Hedman. Hedman has 11 goals and 30 assists for a total of 41 points, just one point behind Filppula.

When you think about it, there is a very strong possibility that much like the Boston game, this game could come down to a battle of the goaltenders.

Right now, the Bolts will be staring down former Lightning goaltender Mike Smith tonight. So far this season he has played in 54 games, going 22-19-10 in that time. He currently has a GAA of 2.72 and a Save Percentage of .913.

On the other side of the ice, we have Big Ben Bishop who will be getting the start for the Bolts tonight. Bishop has suited up for 49 contests so far this season. In that time, he has gone 29-11-5 with a GAA of 2.08 and a Save Percentage of .930.

The Coyotes had our number when we played them earlier in the season; however, things can always change in the blink of an eye. I think that the Lightning truly understand what has to be done, and that in order for them to hold onto the spot they are in right now, they are going to have to start winning some games here. Hopefully, that all gets started tonight.

What do you think are the keys to tonight’s game? Do you think the Bolts will find themselves in the post season this year? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

 

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