After dropping two straight decisions on the road, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to avoid three straight losses tonight against the Rangers.
The month of October has been an interesting one for the Tampa Bay Lightning and as we wind down the first few weeks of the season, let’s reflect on what’s happened thus far.
To start off the 2016-17 NHL regular season, the Lightning opened up with a four-game homestand and did fairly well, going 3-1-0 before hitting their first road trip of the year. In each of those games, Tampa Bay never scored in the first period, but somehow made up the difference in the following periods.
That trend continued into the road trip, as the Tampa Bay Lightning still have not scored in the first period in all but one game, which was when they scored three in the opening frame against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tampa Bay Lightning
So far, their most “complete” of the season was against the Ottawa Senators just over two weeks ago, and despite not scoring in the first that go around, they finished the job and scored four goals over the next two periods.
There’s no doubt this team needs to have better starts and come out stronger in the first period. The past two games are great examples of how falling behind early, like they did on Saturday, or not getting a shot on goal until 10 minutes in, like on Thursday against Montreal, isn’t always a recipe for success, even if they’re able to mount a two or three goal comeback.
In addition, the Lightning did not take advantage of a tired New Jersey Devils team that was coming off an overtime loss the night before. Rather, it was Tampa Bay that looked tired and sluggish and it certainly showed.
The whole team looked off, they weren’t making crisp passes, and as hard as they tried, most of their shots weren’t making it on the net, as the Devils did a great job blocking those shots and clogging passing lanes.
The special teams side of things also wasn’t a factor, as the Lightning couldn’t convert on any of their four opportunities.
As you can see, it wasn’t a great night overall for the Tampa Bay Lightning and they’ll look to get back on track against the New York Rangers tonight. With that said, let’s take a look at this evening’s opponent.
Coming into tonight, the Rangers are currently sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division with five wins and three losses (10 pts.), and they have scored 29 goals, which is tied for fourth in the NHL, and given up 21, which is good for a plus-8 goal differential.
In addition, they’ve scored on 29.5 percent of the time on the Power Play and killed off 81.0 percent of their penalties. Both of those are respectable rates.
In terms of possession metrics, the Rangers are just above 50 percent in shot attempts for and are at 52.41 percent in the unblocked shot attempts category. As a team, they’re shooting a just over 10 percent at 5-on-5. Also, and this is important to note, the team is scoring an average of 3.63 goals per game and is giving up an average of 2.63 goals per game.
Essentially, the New York Rangers are getting plenty of offense from the forwards, and even the defense, doing alright possession-wise, and their blue line is holding up, despite the front office not addressing much of it in the off-season. Oh, and they have goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is one of the world’s best, but he hasn’t had that great of a start seven games in.
In order to emerge from Madison Square Garden with a much-needed win, there are a few key things that the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to do.
I’ve already “beaten the horse” on this one, but the Lightning have to come out with some fire in the opening period and try to take the lead. They make it much harder on themselves when having to chase the other team for most of the game.
The Lightning have had success against the Rangers in the past, for the most part, and New York just came off of a frustrating loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, so it’ll be especially important to get off to a fast start.
In keeping with that point, both teams are coming off disappointing losses and something has to give, so we hope the Lightning will be on the right side of things for most of the game.
That means taking advantage of any opportunities on the Power Play (they’ve gone four-for-15 on this current road trip, which is a solid 26.7 percent on the man advantage) and killing off any penalties against them, which is something they’ve done well (currently at 85.7 percent on the PK this season).
Finally, after having trouble getting pucks past two of the NHL’s elite goaltenders in Carey Price and Cory Schneider, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to find a way to spark the offense and get it going against goaltender Antti Raanta, the Rangers’ backup, who will get the start tonight (he gave up four goals against San Jose in his lone start this season).
On Thursday, it was more so them having trouble solving Price (it was a true goalie duel), while on Saturday, their shots just weren’t getting through to Schneider.
Though tonight’s meeting against the New York Rangers isn’t a do-or-die type scenario, it is an important game, nonetheless, as I’m sure the team doesn’t want a three game losing streak hanging over its head going into the final matchup of the road trip against the New York Islanders.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning stick to their gameplan tonight and stop worrying about being too perfect, then we could see a favorable outcome. If not, they’ll have one final game before heading home to figure things out.
As always, you can watch tonight’s game locally on Fox Sports Sun and listen on Lightning Radio at 970 WFLA. In addition, the game will be streamed online at Fox Sports Go. Continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates surrounding the team and more. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. Go Bolts!
Projected lines (not final):
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn – Tyler Johnson – Vladislav Namestnikov
Cory Conacher – Valtteri Filppula – Brayden Point
Cedric Paquette – Brian Boyle – J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn – Nikita Nesterov
New York Rangers
Mats Zuccarello – Mika Zibanejad – Pavel Buchnevich
Jimmy Vesey – Derek Stepan – Rick Nash
Mike Grabner – Kevin Hayes – JT Miller
Brandon Pirri – Oscar Lindberg – Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh – Nick Holden
Marc Staal – Kevin Klein
Brady Skjei – Dan Girardi