You Like Jazz?: Previewing the Lightning vs Blues Matchup

The Tampa Bay Lightning return home from St. Louis to face off against the St. Louis Blues for the second game in a row. The Lightning currently sit on a 12-5-4 record, and the Blues sit on a 12-7-3 record. Both teams have played very well this season, but have run into some struggles of late.

The Lightning faced off against the Blues on Tuesday night, where the Blues came back from a 3-0 deficit. Brian Elliott did not look to be playing his best, and the Blues came back to win the game 4-3 in the shootout. The loss was a disappointing one for the Lightning, there’s a lot to expect to change as we head into today’s game.

Top Players:

Since the Lightning have had the same three scoring leaders, in the same order for most of this season, we will be going over the best three players over the last few games. Many players have stepped it up with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point out of the lineup, and have kept the Lightning on their feet as we near the 1/3 mark of the season.

Corey Perry: Perry has been a beast in the last few games, playing the best hockey we have seen in a while. After his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers a week ago, he has been able to keep up with the goal-scoring and has been able to make many opportunities in the offensive zone. He went from having one point in nearly twenty games, to going up to six points. Perry has a point in each of the last five games.

Anthony Cirelli: Even with an injured face, Cirelli is killing it on the ice. We are seeing some of the best two-way play by Cirelli in his entire career, and his offensive abilities are shining. Without him, the Lightning would be struggling a lot more. He took up the top center roll Tuesday with Stamkos out of the lineup.

Mikhail Sergachev: All fans can say right now about Sergachev is WOW! He has played extremely well lately, looking like a star player. Not only is his defense as good as many defensive stars in the league, but his offense is also very strong.

One thing to note about the Lightning’s offense is that three forwards are currently injured. Kucherov and Point out for multiple weeks, and Joseph is out for an unspecified amount of time. On Tuesday’s game, Steven Stamkos was also missing, as he was in Tampa to await the birth of his second child.

The defense has been good lately, but without the offense being able to play in the offensive zone as strongly, they have had to do a lot more work. Not much to say except that they are overworked as of now, and aren’t looking as strong.

Now for the St. Louis Blues, who have been a surprise among the NHL community with their strong start to the season. The Blues have a plethora of players nobody expected to play so well, and it’s helped them become a top team in the league.

Jordan Kyrou: 9G, 14A, 23P
Robert Thomas: 2G, 18A, 20P
Vladimir Tarasenko: 7G 12A 19P

The offense for the Blues has played exceptionally, and with Kyrou and Thomas stepping up for the lack of production from Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn, it shows that the Blues have a very strong future in these two young players.

The defense has also been very good, but not as strong as many people would have expected. The defense lets in 32 shots on average per game, which is very poor compared to a lot of teams, whose average is below the 30 mark.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.15 GAA, .926sv% ) has played very well in net, giving himself two shutouts in his last three starts against the Philadelphia Flyers and Seattle Kraken. He is expected to face off against Ville Husso (1.76GAA, .936sv%) in between the pipes. The Blues announced this afternoon that Jordan Binnington was placed in the COVID-19 protocol. Binnington shut out the Lightning at home in 2019.

Predictions:

Score: 3-2 Lightning
Shots: 32 Lightning/27 Blues

Top Performer: Anthony Cirelli (1G 1A 2P)
Overall Performance: B

Reasoning:

The Lightning and Blues have comparable offense with two of Tampa’s stars being injured and a key depth player also injured. The defense, however, strongly favors the Lightning. With Vasilevskiy in net, the Lightning should have less trouble maintaining a lead. As mentioned earlier, the main reason for Tuesday’s loss was Elliott’s weak play in net, letting in easy goals to allow the Blues come back in the third period. If Stamkos is back in the lineup as well, this will give the Lightning even more energy.