The Tampa Bay Lightning is headed into the weekend with a big task at hand as they prepare to face an Atlantic Division rival, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will host Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in a key divisional match tonight at 7 pm. The divisional foes meet for only the second time this season. The first was a 3-1 victory for the Lightning in Montreal back in October. The win continued a trend of domination by the Lightning, who have beaten the Habs in eight of their last ten meetings.
However, the Lightning will have their hands full tonight with a red hot team. The Habs enter tonight’s game as winners of three of their last four games and seven of their last ten. The Lightning had dropped two contests in a row in disappointing fashion before entering the Christmas break with a win over the Florida Panthers.
The Lightning has the perfect opportunity to build momentum heading into 2020 as they enter the second game of a six-game stretch against Atlantic Division rivals. However, to win six in a row, they will have to find consistency in their game which has avoided them so far this season. Tampa has yet to gain points in four or more games in a row all season. A feat they accomplished five times last season including points streaks of seven, sixteen, and fourteen games.
The Canadiens are just two points ahead of the Lightning in a packed Atlantic Division that features five teams vying for the final two guaranteed playoff positions. All five teams are separated by just four points.
Montreal currently holds the third and final divisional playoff spot, but Tampa has two games in hand. Giving them more than enough time to make up the two points that divide them from the playoffs. However, the Lightning will have to compete with the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres, who are one point ahead of the bolts, for the final playoff spot.
Meanwhile, Montreal has its sights set on the second seed in the Atlantic Division. Currently held by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens are just two points behind their original six rivals, but Toronto is also red hot. Having won five in a row before the Christmas break.
Match Up To Watch: Goaltending
Both teams are expected to start their former Vezina Trophy-winning net-minders, who are having seasons they would like to forget. Montreal’s Carey Price, the 2014-2015 Vezina Trophy Winner, enters tonight’s game with a .906 save percentage 36th among all qualifying goaltenders (12 or more games played). Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy has maintained a slightly better save percentage of .908. Good for 31st among qualifying goaltenders. Far from where he wants to be.
Price, who was once widely considered the best goaltender in the league, has struggled to find his game since 2016-2017 when he finished 3rd in Vezina voting. If Vasilevskiy and Price want to give their team a chance to win, they will have to be on their game in the face of two of the best offenses in the league.
Vasilevskiy will have his hands full containing Montreal who has one of the most persistent offenses in the league. The Canadiens shoot the puck more than any team in the league; averaging 35.2 shots per game. They also rank 10th in goals for per game with 3.22.
On the other end of the ice, Price will have no easy task containing the Lightning who are third in the league with 3.51 goals game and tenth in the league with 33.1 shots per game. Needless to say, neither goaltender should expect a light workload tonight.
Despite having less than stellar seasons, Price and Vasilevskiy are capable of completely dominating games and shutting down their opponents for a full 60 minutes. If one goaltender comes out ready to play, it will be a long night for their opponent. Expect both teams to rely on their goaltenders to keep them in the fight throughout the game.
Tampa Bay Lightning Captain, Steven Stamkos enters tonight’s game with 798 career points. Just two shy of hitting the 800 point milestone. He will become just the third player behind Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis to score 800 points in a Lightning uniform.
There is definitely a good number of storylines about to play out in the Bolts Nation. Here’s hoping the Tampa Bay Lightning can find some consistency and use this prime opportunity to make up some ground in the standings.