After hopping on the New York Islanders early during last week’s meeting in Brooklyn, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to do the same tonight.
Though they may have a positive goal differential, boast one of the best special teams units in the NHL and sit in the top-10 in the overall league standings, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been a bit inconsistent in the opening periods of a majority of their games and that has held them back in some ways.
Over the team’s first 13 games, the Lightning have only scored in the first period three times and in those games, they’ve scored seven goals total. In the rest of the games this season, the Lightning have either come back to win a game and scored in the latter two periods, fallen in overtime or the shootout or gave up an early or late lead and couldn’t overcome the deficit.
Now, I’m not saying it’s necessary to score in the first period to win games, but it certainly helps to jumpstart the team and it removes the added pressure of chasing the other team if they happen to score first.
Tampa Bay Lightning
As you can see, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been able to sting together wins, but not consistently enough. Aside from going 4-1-0 in the first five games, they haven’t been able to put together a nice, long winning streak and instead have endured a three game losing streak and gone 2-1-1 in their last four games.
Their issues with consistency on the whole can be addressed in a separate article, but as for tonight, hopefully they can back on track and string together a couple of wins before the team heads out on a five-game road trip starting on Monday against the Islanders.
If you have been following the team closely this season, you’ll know that these two teams will be fairly familiar with each other after tonight, having already met last week in Brooklyn, New York. But there was already some bad blood between the two before this season started, as the Lightning and Islanders met in the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the first meeting last Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning rolled over the Islanders after scoring three goals in the first period and then three more in the second. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop nearly mounted a shutout until New York defenseman Dennis Seidenberg scored late in the second period to make it a 6-1 game.
Nonetheless, Bishop stopped 18 of 19 shots and earned the win after a slow start to the season. As of late, the Lightning’s top netminder has been playing well, especially on Monday in the loss to the Florida Panthers. Despite not getting much goal support, Bishop put on a solid performance in South Florida, stopping 24 of 25 shots in the loss.
With Monday’s loss, he fell to 5-4-0 on the season with a 2.91 goals against average and .907 save percentage, both of which are far from his career average but don’t tell the whole story. He’ll get tonight off, though, as backup Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in net for the fifth time this season. Vasilevskiy’s last start came against the Boston Bruins last week, in which the Lightning lost in the shootout, 4-3 (2-1).
Injury-wise, the Lightning will be without forward Jonathan Drouin, who sustained a hit to the head last week and did not participate in today’s morning skate. Valtteri Filppula looks to be in the lineup despite getting scratched from the game on Monday and defenseman Anton Stralman will also be in the lineup after going through a body maintenance day Wednesday.
On the other side of things, the Islanders are coming off of a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home, in which they put up 32 shots and went 0-for-2 on the Power Play. They’ve struggled early on this season, though, and currently sit in 15th place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-6-2 record and a minus-3 goal differential.
Goals haven’t necessarily been hard to come by, as the team has scored 37 thus far, which is tied for ninth in the NHL, rather it’s the special teams side of things that have hurt them to this point. Currently, the Islanders sit at 26th in the league on the man advantage, converting at a 10.8 percent rate, and they’ve killed off 77.1 percent of their penalties, which is 25th overall in the NHL.
Additionally, New York is below 50 percent in SAT for at 46.63 percent, which is 27th in the league, and USAT for at 48.55 percent, which is 22nd in the NHL. Overall, they’re not doing that well possession-wise, on the surface level, and that’s something they’ll look to correct tonight against a Lightning team that can be vulnerable to slow starts, over-passing and turnovers in the neutral zone.
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Some players to watch out for include Seidenberg, who leads all New York defensemen in goals (4) and points (8), forward Brock Nelson, who is second on the team in points with 10 and has three points in the past five games, and captain John Tavares, who leads the team in goals (5) and points (11) and is always a scoring threat.
In addition, it appears that goaltender Jaroslav Halak will start his ninth game of the season, coming in with a 3-3-2 record, a 2.82 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.
While the Islanders will be looking for a much-needed second straight win, the Lightning want to get back on track following a disheartening loss against the Panthers on Monday. They’ll look to have a quick start and try to jump out to an early lead like they did last week against the same team. Though I don’t think the margin of victory will be the same, I can still see this being a high scoring game, which is something neither team is stranger to.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to be more consistent in the opening period and hopefully they’ll get off to a quick start tonight against the New York Islanders. Following tonight’s game, the team will take on the San Jose Sharks at home on Saturday and then head out for a five-game road trip starting on Monday against the same opponent.
As for tonight’s meeting, tune in locally at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Sun or on Lightning Radio at 970 WFLA. You can also watch the entire game on the run with the Fox Sports Go app in select areas. Go Bolts!
Projected lines (subject to change)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vladislav Namestnikov – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Brayden Point
Alex Killorn – Valtteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan
Brian Boyle – Cedric Paquette – J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn – Nikita Nesterov
New York Islanders
Josh Bailey – John Tavares – Cal Clutterbuck
Shane Prince – Ryan Strome – Alan Quine
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Jason Chimera
Andrew Ladd – Casey Cizikas – Nikolay Kulemin
Nick Leddy – Adam Pelech
Thomas Hickey – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin deHaan – Dennis Seidenberg