The Tampa Bay Lightning took the show on the road to Orlando for the first of three consecutive preseason meetings with the Florida Panthers.
Tampa Bay fell 3-2 to the Panthers in a contest that picked up right where the two sides left off following their six-game playoff slugfest last spring. This was as entertaining of a preseason game as you will ever see, and the two sides will get to do it again with two more meetings on Thursday and Saturday.
After a preseason matchup this physical, amassing almost 100 minutes in penalties, it’s hard to think about much beyond the seemingly endless scrums. But let’s look into what we learned from this one.
1. The rough stuff
This rivalry is nasty. The two clubs wasted no time in easing into their season series. After meeting 14 times over the course of the previous season, it seemed like no time at all had passed since these foes exchanged blows. After a relatively quiet first period, the second period re-lit the fuse, and scrums broke out with regularity throughout the remainder of the game
2. New faces to the rivalry
After Sam Bennett ran over Andrei Vasilevskiy in the second period, Corey Perry got in on the action and squared off in his first fight in a Lightning Sweater. While Zach Bogosian is not new to the Lightning, he is new since the rivalry with Florida took off. Bogosian also collected a fighting major of his own in the third period. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare even got his first taste of the action by finding the back of the net in the first period. Bellemare won’t be a regular on the scoresheet but his impact as the new fourth line center will be noticeable.
3. Vasilevskiy gets his first action of preseason
Okay enough about all the fighting. Andrei Vasilevksiy was back in the Lightning crease and looked pretty sharp for his first game action. The numbers were not that great as he made 16 saves on just 19 shots. In the fist period he made several flashy saves, including a sequence of top-quality stops while the Lightning were on the penalty kill.
4. Mixing up penalty kill units
Speaking of the penalty kill, the Lightning still have some work to do to determine who will be part of their penalty kill group of forwards. Bellemare will surely be part of this group along with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli. On Tuesday, the Lightning gave several players looks on the penalty kill including Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph. Two wildcards in the mix were Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh. If one of either Katchouk or Raddysh can carve out a role on the penalty kill, they may earn themselves a spot in the lineup.
5. Barre-Boulet gets opportunity with top line
The experimentation with players in different role even included the Lightning’s top line. Nikita Kucherov was not in the lineup Thursday and Alex Barre-Boulet got the chance to skate alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. Barre-Boulet likely won’t see this role in the regular lineup, but the opportunity to show his stuff with Point and Palat shows that this coaching staff wants to test the waters on how Barre-Boulet can fit into the Lightning lineup. After appearing in just 15 games in his first NHL season, ABB is likely looking at a regular role this year with Tampa Bay.