The Tampa Bay Lightning are continuing the party from this weekend’s Sunday With Stanley event with a celebration at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
However, as crazy as it may sound, there is something more important going on at the Forum tonight. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be fighting for two points that could keep them in the race to get their names on the greatest trophy in all of sports, Lord Stanley’s Cup, once again.
In order to do that, they have to get through Eddie Lack and the Canucks.
As far as the wins column goes, there is not much difference between the Bolts and the Canucks; however, there are some noticeable differences on the stat sheet. Thankfully, it is more of a back and forth than a one-sided slant.
The Bolts have done 36-24-7 so far this season, whereas the Canucks have gone 31-29-10. While this may seem as an advantage to the Lightning, the stat sheet shows a little more back and forth. Let’s take a quick look at the numbers.
|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|| |
Now, the top three stats do give the Bolts the slight advantage; however, this one could turn into a special teams showdown. The Bolts have a decidedly better Power Play unit; however, the Canucks are stronger on the penalty kill. The bright side there is that Lightning center Tyler Johnson has a thing for shorthanded goals, so it will be interesting to see how the Canucks answer that calling.
One thing that has me lightly worried, and it could be nothing at all, but I have noticed in the past few games that newly returned Lightning center Steven Stamkos has been hesitating a bit when it comes to really digging into a play. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say that I blame him after what he just went through; however, we need the entire team to take a cue from newly acquired right wing Ryan Callahan and really dig into a play and not be afraid to get into an aggressive situation.
The teams that we are going to be facing for the remainder of the season are big, scrappy, and play a very physical game. This is something that the Lightning is going to have to adapt to if they want to finish out the season strong.
Now, there are some things that the Lightning will need to watch out for tonight. One of those things is a six foot two inch center named Henrik Sedin. Sedin currently leads his team in Assists and Points. In the 62 games he has suited up for this season, he has earned 10 goals and 33 assists for a total of 43 points to accompany his plus-5 rating.
Leading the Canucks in goals is center Ryan Kesler. Kesler has already scored 22 goals and 18 assists for a total of 40 points in the 67 games he’s played so far this season.
On the other side of the ice, it is center Valtteri Filppula that is holding it down in Goals and Points for the Bolts. The six foot tall Finland native has scored 21 goals and 27 assists for a total of 58 points to accompany his plus-5 rating. When it comes to assists, it would be defenseman Victor Hedman that is holding it down for the Bolts. Hedman has 11 goals and 31 assists for a total of 42 points.
The goaltender matchup is where things are going to get interesting. It will be goaltender Eddie Lack in net tonight for the Canucks. So far this season, Lack has a GAA of 2.36 and a Save Percentage of .914.
He will be going up against the brick wall known as Big Ben Bishop. Bishop has earned himself a GAA of 2.10 and a Save Percentage of .929.
I know that I am a bit biased here, but if I had to put my money on a goaltender tonight, it would be Bishop. Those of us who have been watching the Bolts all season long know exactly what I mean. Bishop had struggled for a little bit after returning from the Olympic Break; however, over the last few encounters, we have watched as Bishop has almost completely returned to form, and has become the goaltender we all know he is.
There are going to be a few keys to tonight’s game. Most of them are no different than any other game. First of all, we need to stay out of the box. This is just a given. You never want to give the other team a man advantage that could result in the Bolts being put into a compromising position.
Secondly, we are going to have to attack the net. As I have said on numerous occasions, the best way to throw even the most seasoned goaltender off of their game is to pepper the net with as many shots as possible.
Third, and most importantly, the Bolts need to do exactly what they did against the New Jersey Devils; play a complete game. The team was offensive in both zones, they were transitioning well, fighting for the puck, taking shots on goal, and everything else necessary to not only put on a great show for the fans, but to walk away with the two points.
What do you think the Lightning need to do in order to walk away with the two points tonight? Do you think the Bolts can keep the momentum rolling and get a nice win streak going on to finish out the last few games of the season? Let us know what you think in the comments below.