The Tampa Bay Lightning will face one of the top offensive teams in the NHL in the Columbus Blue Jackets and will also go up against one of its former coaches.
Following an exciting finish to a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning will face one of the league’s top scoring teams this season in the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Amalie Arena.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Lightning are seeking their second-straight win and look to improve to 5-1-0 this season without captain Steven Stamkos, who went down with a knee injury last week.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Both sides are in the top-10 in goals for per game and are in the top-three on the Power Play. The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the NHL in goals on the man advantage with 20 overall, compared to the Blue Jackets with 14.
On home ice, the Lightning have converted on 23.7 percent of their opportunities and scored nine goals, while the Blue Jackets have converted on 20.0 percent of their opportunities on the road and scored four goals, which is only a fraction of the ones they’ve scored at home.
On the flip side of special teams, the Lightning are eighth in the NHL on the Penalty Kill, with an 85.5 percent success rate in killing off opposing penalties (87.5 percent on home ice). As for the Blue Jackets, they’ve killed off 82.3 percent of their penalties overall and are 84.2 percent on the road.
As a whole, special teams-wise, the Power Play is the one to look at for this game and could be a factor in determining the outcome, though neither team on Wednesday could get it going, as Tampa Bay went 1-for-7 and Philadelphia whiffed on all four of their opportunities on the man advantage.
Before the puck drops on tonight’s meeting between Columbus and Tampa Bay, let’s take a closer look at each side.
Despite the two losses this week, the Columbus Blue Jackets are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games, have a plus-12 goal differential and scored seven goals on the Power Play. In addition, they’re just above 50 percent in SAT percentage and slightly below 50 percent in USAT percentage at 5-on-5 in those last 10 games. During that span, forward Cam Atkinson led the team in points with 12 and tied captain Nick Foligno in goals (5) and Power Play goals (PPG) with two.
Some of their signature wins this season have come against the Chicago Blackhawks (3-2 in regulation), Dallas Stars (two wins: 3-0, 3-2, both in regulation), Montreal Canadiens (10-0: largest margin of victory in franchise history) and the New York Rangers (4-2 in regulation).
Surprisingly to many, the Blue Jackets have played some decent hockey so far this season, compared to last year when Columbus couldn’t seem to keep the puck out of their own end and net (they gave up 248 goals in 2015-16, the second most behind Calgary).
This season, the John Tortorella-led Blue Jackets have given up the third least amount of goals this season (42) and have benefited from having most everyone on the team healthy, compared to last season when they were held back by injuries and poor goaltending.
Speaking of Tortorella and goaltending, the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning will again return to face his former team, as he coached against the Lightning three times last year with Columbus.
The 58-year-old Massachusetts native coached Team USA in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey prior to the regular season, and unfortunately for them, the team finished without a win in the main tournament.
Goaltending-wise, the Blue Jackets have received strong performances from their starting netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a 10-5-1 record, .929 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average with three shutouts, tied for second most in the NHL. He will get the start in net tonight for the Blue Jackets.
You know the story. The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their captain to a major injury and he will likely be out the maximum amount of time (four months). Despite that fact, the team has rallied and continued to receive offensive contributions from players on several lines.
The Lightning have had success without one of their best players and guiding figures before and they’ll look to have even more this time around.
As mentioned previously, the Lightning have one of the best Power Play units in the NHL and it has been surprisingly effective this season compared to last year when it sometimes seemed to hurt them.
The Power Play, now handled by first-year assistant coach with the Lightning, Todd Richards, is helping the team to win some extra games that they might not have won during the 2015-16 season. Though not perfect, it’s refreshing to see one side of special teams come alive for the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially with all of the talent on this roster.
Richards, who coached the Blue Jackets from 2011 to 2015, will face his former team for the first time since he was let go seven games into the 2015-16 regular season (Tortorella was brought in as a result). His expertise on the man advantage has certainly made a difference early on.
On the goaltending side of things, the Lightning may possess the best duo in the league when it comes to netminders. Though Ben Bishop is still the “go-to guy” in Tampa Bay, the young, blooming star in Andrei Vasilevskiy has impressed early on in his career and is predicted to be the future number one goaltender for the Lightning.
This season, Vasilevskiy is 6-1-1 with two shutouts, a .951 save percentage and a league-low 1.50 goals against average. In his last five starts, the 22-year-old Russia native has a 4-0-1 record, a .963 save percentage and a 1.18 goals against average with those two shutouts. It’s a promising sign for the future of goaltending in Tampa Bay and he’ll only continue to get better as the season progresses.
Vasilevskiy will sit tonight, though, as Bishop will start his 14th game of the season tonight against the Blue Jackets.
Since both teams can score on the Power Play, that could very well be a factor in tonight’s game. In recent memory, the meetings between the Lightning and Blue Jackets have been somewhat close games, but this one also has the potential to be a high-scoring affair or a “shootout,” if you will.
Look for the Lightning to build off their late third period rally against the Flyers on Wednesday and continue that momentum over into the 10th home game of the season. My prediction: 5-3 Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to make it two in a row following a victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. If they can do it, the Lightning will have won eight of their last 10 and 14th of the season to pull within three points of the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens. Tune it at 7:00 p.m. ET for pre-game and 7:30 p.m. for puck drop. Go Bolts!
Live Stream, TV Info and More
Game 22 Match-up: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Venue: Amalie Arena
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Opponent FanSided site: Union and Blue
Projected lines (subject to change)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Killorn – Vladislav Namestnikov – Nikita Kucherov
Brayden Point – Tyler Johnson – Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Drouin
Brian Boyle – Cedric Paquette – Erik Condra
Victor Hedman – Andrej Sustr
Nikita Nesterov – Braydon Coburn
Jason Garrison – Slater Koekkoek – Luke Witkowski (mixing in, depending on 11F/7D)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Saad – Alexander Wennberg – Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Josh Anderson – William Karlsson – Scott Hartnell
Markus Hannikainen – Lukas Sedlak – Sam Gagner
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Markus Nutivaara – Ryan Murray