After yet another long wait for fans, the Tampa Bay Lightning face off against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the second time the Lightning face them so far this season. Tampa Bay sits at a comfortable 6-3-3 record, while Florida sits at 10-2-2. Only thing with that is the Panthers have struggled as of late, currently riding a three game losing streak.
This game marks the end of a confusing stretch of the schedule for the Lightning, as games have been scattered, and usually have come with very long wait times. The Lightning will be playing their fifth game of the month, when many teams have played more than that. It looks like the schedule is starting to look more normal and consistent after Saturday night’s game.
As we prepare to watch what’s expected to be a fun game, a thing to notice is that both teams have star counterparts. Examples of this are Steven Stamkos and Aleksander Barkov play alike, and Victor Hedman and Aaron Ekblad do as well. The best way to really see similarities, though, is to compare different players.
We will start with the Lightning, who haven’t had many differences with point leaders, as they have stayed the same for the last half dozen or so games, but it’s good to see the differences between these scores and those before.
Steven Stamkos: 7G 8A 15P
Alex Killorn: 7G 5A 12P
Victor Hedman: 1G 9A 10P
The offense on this team is a bit inconsistent to start the season. Some games are very good, and the Lightning are able to use their opportunities to their advantage. There’s also a mix of bad, where the Lightning just can’t finish plays, and when there’s an opening, somehow missing the net with what seemed like an opening to sneak the puck in.
The defense hasn’t been something to brag about. Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev have been their best defensive players, while the other defensive players have had their struggles this season. The one thing the Lightning need is to train both offense and defense to work better together on moving the puck out, or even slightly dumping it. Defense is a key thing to look out there for
Now to move on to the Panthers, who have had a fantastic start to the season. With the loss of former head coach Joel Quenniville, however, they have seen their struggles against teams everyone thought they could beat. These include the New Jersey Devils, who beat them 7-5, and the Penguins, who they lost to in shootout.
Aleksander Barkov: 9G 6A 15P
Anthony Duclair: 8G 5A 13P
Jonathan Huberdeau: 3G 10A 13P
The offense on this team has been insane, it seems nearly impossible to go through. They have the perfect mix of guys and a team we could see win the cup in coming years. Nothing much to complain with about the offense except they need can addmore depth, especially since they’re looking like a playoff contender at the moment.
The defense has been good. It could use some work, like every team’s defense, but it is still a very good and respectable defensive group. One thing they should consider doing is trading for a more physical defenseman that could play with Ekblad.
So far, it seems to be that Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Lightning, while Sergei Bobrovsky will be in net for the Panthers. Vasilevskiy sits at a .920% save and a 2.35 GAA. Bobrovsky sits at a .946% save and 1.73 GAA. Bobrovsky, as seen here, has been the better goaltender so far this season, so it’s expected for him to be very good Saturday night, and give Spencer Knight a break after losing two in a row.
Score: 4-2 Panthers
Shots: 25 Lightning/43 Panthers
Top Performer: Mathieu Joseph (2G 0A 2P)
Overall Performance: D
The reasoning for such low predictions is just because the Lightning haven’t played the way fans expected them too, and Florida is a very good team. Joseph has been the best bottom line player on the team and creates multiple opportunities for himself every game, but just can’t finish on them, which seems to be the case with multiple players. This game will be a fun one to watch, but might not have the outcome wanted by Lightning fans.
The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Florida Panthers at home at 4pm EST