The Tampa Bay Lightning have started off their season with a 2-2-0 record, keeping them at a solid .500 throughout the first couple weeks of the season. The Colorado Avalanche, on the other hand, have not had a great start to their season Theylost their third game in a row Thursday night, bringing them to a 1-3-0 record so far this season.
While both teams have had their struggles, they both also have some of the best players in the NHL, with the Lightning currently having Stamkos, Point, Hedman, and Vasilevskiy, and the Avalanche having Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, and Darcy Keumper. Both rosters are stacked with not only some of the best players in the league, but also some of the best depth in the entire league.
Tampa Bay will have to play their second game since losing Nikita Kucherov to a groin injury, keeping him out for at least 10 weeks, which could have him returning in late December/early January. The loss of Kucherov will hit the Lightning hard, as we saw in the 2020-21 season when the Lightning finished third in their division. Mind you, the Lightning were injury ridden then, but the loss of Kucherov didn’t help.
Both teams are looking to move up in their division and get themselves in a comfortable spot before they hit the ten game mark, and eventually the quarter of the season. With these two teams arguably being the best two teams in the league, it will be interesting to see who has the upper hand against each other.
As we inch closer to Saturday night, which team has the upper hand in this star studded matchup, and how has each team performed so far?
Let’s start with the Lightning. The Tampa Bay Lightning have had multiple players shine through the first four games of the season, both point wise and play wise. Here are the Lightning’s top point scorer’s:
Steven Stamkos (LW): 3G, 4A, 7P
Victor Hedman (D): 0G, 6A, 7P
Anthony Cirelli (C): 1G, 2A, 3P
Not too much of a surprise seeing Stamkos and Hedman on here, but a name that is surprisingly not here is Brayden Point, who is currently sitting at just two points on the year. He’s been playing well, but hasn’t been able to cash in on his opportunities so far.
Some of the flaws that this team currently has are not the biggest issues, but have affected games and led to losses. First off, the defense on the team has been struggling, with many high scoring games going against the Lightning (Red Wings with 6 goals, Panthers with 4, Penguins with 6). The defense has gotten better though over the last week, as the team is starting to get more used to the new dynamic of the team.
Now let’s look at the Avalanches top point scorer’s:
J.T. Compher (LW): 2G, 2A, 4P
Mikko Rantanen (RW): 2G, 2A, 4P
Nazem Kadri (C): 1G, 3A, 4P
Probably not the names you were expecting from this. On a side note, Nathan MacKinnon did miss two games due to having COVID-19, but he has put up a point per game so far. The Avalanche have had some pretty good shifts with these players, and they’ve helped the Avalanche at least not lose too badly.
Now for the flaws. Where is Cale Makar? Why is he playing so poorly on defense? -9, only 1 point, and hasn’t really played the greatest hockey so far this season. This is probably just a rough start, but if he plays like this on Saturday, that will hurt the team a lot. Another flaw is the inconsistent goaltending by Darcy Keumper, who has a .890% save and 3.79 GAA. While Vasilevskiy doesn’t have the greatest stats so far this season, those still aren’t great stats for a goaltender who has arguably the best defense in front of him. Speaking of goaltenders, let’s compare each goaltender’s stats
Vasilevskiy (TBL): 4GP, 2-2-0, .893% save, 3.21 GAA
Keumper (COL): 3GP, 1-2-0, .890% save, 3.79 GAA
Johansson (COL): 1GP, 0-1-0, .919% save, 3.05 GAA
Not the greatest stats, but Vasilevskiy and Johansson are the top goaltenders so far for their teams, but don’t be surprised to see Keumper go up against Vasilevskiy in this matchup.
Score: 5-2 Lightning
Shots: 41 Lightning/28 Avalanche
Top Performer: Brayden Point (3G, 0A)
Overall Performance: A+
The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to play harder now that their top scorer in Nikita Kucherov is gone, and with Colorado’s defensive struggles and Keumper’s rough start, I expect for the Lightning to have a good game, especially with the four day rest they have between this and their last game. Brayden Point will also have a great night, now that he has more room to perform without Kucherov in the lineup, and the possibility of Steven Stamkos bumping up to the first line.