The Tampa Bay Lightning desperately needs to make a statement with a victory over the Nashville Predators tonight from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a seriously rocky start to the season, but things definitely started to look up following the Lightning’s trip to Sweden for the 2019 NHL Global Series. Despite a few bumps along the way, the team started to look much more cohesive and started being much more aggressive with the puck.
The Lightning had a bit of a winning streak going over the last couple weeks of November, registering victories over the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, and Buffalo Sabres, respectively. Regrettably, things came to a screeching halt on November 27 when the Bolts fell 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues.
The Bolts have not registered a single victory since. The closest the team has come to victory since the Blues game was on November 29 when the Bolts picked up a point in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
As one could easily imagine, Lightning fans all around the Bolts Nation have been left scratching their heads wondering where the dominate team that captured the franchise’s first-ever Presidents Trophy last season. Granted, a team cannot be expected to be No. 1 one hundred percent of the time, but this is a stark contrast.
There is still plenty of time for the team to turn things around before the halfway point in the season, and this journey starts tonight at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. In just a few hours, the Lightning will take the ice to do battle with captain Roman Josi and the Nashville Predators.
The Lightning hasn’t exactly had an easy time with the Predators this season. The Bolts brought home a point on October 26 when the fell 3-2 to the Predators in Overtime. The Lightning was able to overcome early mistakes by picking up two goals in the second period only to allow two more unanswered goals by the Predators.
The Lightning has more than enough talent on the team to be one of the best teams in the league. The Bolts have Norris Trophy winners like Victor Hedman on defense, Vezina Trophy winners like Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes, and even Art Ross Trophy winners in Nikita Kucherov.
Despite the immense amount of talent on the team, the thing holding the team back right now is so ridiculously simple. One could argue the team has a bit of PTSD following their first-round exit from the playoffs last season, but the simple fact of the matter is its little mistakes throughout the season that have held them back.
Tonight’s battle against the Predators won’t be free of obstacles for the Lightning to overcome. Earlier today, the Lightning recalled Cory Conacher from the Syracuse Crunch. According to Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper, this move is a bit of insurance just in case Alex Killorn, who has been dealing with a lower-body injury, is not cleared in time for tonight’s Music City showdown.
Here’s a closer look at what the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to accomplish tonight in order to bring home a much-needed two points against the Nashville Predators.
Stay Out of the Penalty Box
This sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, this is something the Lightning has struggled with this season. Granted, on most nights, the Lightning’s penalty kill squad has been able to prevent and real crisis, but leaning on the PK is a solid way to get burned as the season progresses.
We are fully aware there are some penalties that are unavoidable and borderline necessary, but the team needs to be mindful of the difference between the two and not take a completely unnecessary penalty, thus opening the door for the Predators to capitalize on a man advantage.
Be More Aggressive with the Puck
There’s an old saying that goes, “The best defense is a good offense.” It’s really simple, if you keep the puck off the sticks of your opponents, it’s virtually impossible for them to score a goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a stellar goaltender, but he is not a magician.
The Lightning needs to be more aggressive with the puck. This means taking shots on goal, digging deep for rebounds, and fighting tooth and nail (hopefully not literally) to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Be Smart on Defense
There is no denying the Lightning’s defensive core has gotten a serious upgrade over the last couple of seasons. Victor Hedman has headlined the Lightning defense and has made significant strides towards getting the defense to where it needs to be.
In addition to Hedman’s leadership, players like Mikhail Sergachev have significantly upped their game on both sides of the ice. In the 24 games Sergachev has played so far this season, he has recorded three goals and 11 assists for a total of 14 points.
If the Lightning can cease to make continual minor mistakes on defense, the Bolts could find themselves with their first victory of the season against the Predators. If not, the season series will belong to Nashville.
As everyone here in the Bolts Nation knows, the Lightning has arguably one of the most talented teams in the NHL right now. It’s time the team starts playing like such. The Lightning will have their fair share of obstacles to overcome, but it’s nothing the team hasn’t dealt with in the past.
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The Nashville Predators are fresh off a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The Predators will assuredly be looking for a little redemption and will bring the fight to the Lightning. This will keep the Lightning on their toes for three periods of hockey and create the perfect opportunity for the Bolts to make a statement.