The Tampa Bay Lightning are seemingly trapped inside the longest losing streak that the team has seen the entire season. The team has only come out victorious in one encounter in the seven they have played since returning from the Olympic Break. This is a pattern that the Lightning will be looking to break when they defend home ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against in-state rival Florida Panthers tonight.
Right now, the Bolts hold the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. However, former Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier and the Philadelphia Flyers are hot on the Lightning’s skates with 73 points.
The Lightning will need to find ways to start bringing home two points per game if they want to maintain their position and cement their spot in the post season.
However, Rome was not built in a day, and neither will the Lightning’s post season.
Every great journey starts with the first strides, and tonight those strides will be made.
If you are looking at the stats alone, there is nothing that would prevent the Bolts from coming home with the win tonight; however, there is one thing that the stats do not account for. Tonight, we may very well be going up against veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo when the Lightning take the ice.
When Luongo is off, he is really off; however, when he is on, well…
In his very first game back between the pipes for the Panthers, Luongo delivered a shut out of the Buffalo Sabres; however, since then he has given up two games. The first of those was a 5-2 loss against the Boston Bruins and the second was a 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Two questions that the Lightning will need an answer to coming into this game; will they be facing Luongo in net tonight and which version of the goaltender will we see?
Now, when it comes to the numbers, the scale seems to tip towards the Tampa Bay Lightning. So far this season, the Bolts have gone 34-24-7 whereas the Florida Panthers have gone 24-34-7. The is some sort of subtle irony that two teams that come from so nearby can be having the most polar opposite of seasons.
Here is a quick look at the numbers for tonight’s encounter.
|Goals Per Game|| |
|Goals Against Per Game|| |
|Shots on Goal Per Game|| |
|Penalty Minutes Per Game|| |
|Power Play Goals|| |
|Power Play Percentage|| |
|Penalty Kill Percentage|| |
Unlike some of the other opponents that the Lightning has come up against lately, the Panthers have virtually no “power” on the power play. While the Bolts are certainly not number one in the league on the power play or penalty kill, the Panthers are sitting in very last place on the power play with their 9.8%.
There are a few things that the Lightning are going to need to do in order to come out on top tonight against the Florida Panthers. The most important of these things is to continue to take shots on goal. While I completely agree that not every shot is the “golden” shot, if you don’t shoot the puck at the net, you have a zero percent chance of it going in. Also, as I have said many times before, the best way to throw any goaltender off their game is to pepper them with shots.
Also, they need to not fall prey to unnecessary penalties. While the Panthers may not exactly have the most aggressive power play in the league, there is no need to open the door and invite them in like they brought the pie on Thanksgiving Day.
One thing I am hoping to see above everything else is aggressive puck handling. I want to see people fighting for the puck in the defensive zone, leading the charge and carrying the puck into the offensive zone, and people really fighting tooth and nail for every single second they are out on the ice. Bursting onto the scene with an early lead is all well and good, but if you can’t hold that lead until the final buzzer sounds, then all of your effort in the earlier periods is lost.
I have said this on numerous times, but it never hurts to say it again. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot of talented, young players on the team; players that are looking to be the next big thing in the National Hockey League. If we can find a way to maximize these players’ potential; like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, J.T. Brown, and so many more, then we would be an unstoppable force. All we have to do is find the right combination and then continue to build on that.
If anyone knows these guys better than anyone, and what is necessary to get the job done, that person is Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. He has been with many of these players before when he was the Head Coach of the Syracuse Crunch, so they know his system, and he knows their strengths and weaknesses. All he has to do is find the right combination, and hopefully, that will happen tonight against the Panthers.
What do you think are going to be the keys to success tonight against the Panthers? Do you think the Bolts are prepared to end their five game losing streak tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum? Let us know what you think in the comments below.