The Tampa Bay Lightning faced off against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, a game highly anticipated by both fanbases. The Lightning, who recently got their franchise forward in Nikita Kucherov back from LTIR, were looking for their third straight win. Unfortunately, the Bruins had different plans and defeated the Lightning 5-2 with the help of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
There are multiple reasons why the Lightning played so poorly today. With lineups all mixed up with Kucherov’s return, staff coming back from having covid, and knowing that at any moment a game could be canceled, it makes things hard on both the coaching staff and players.
Here’s a breakdown of what happened on Saturday.
1. The Defense Needs to Play Better
One thing fans immediately noticed on Saturday was that while Vasilevskiy had poor numbers, the goals scored on him weren’t easy saves. When the defense isn’t able to help out the way they’re supposed to, it makes it hard for goaltenders to make the saves they’re expected to make. Many of the goals scored today could’ve been avoided if the defense was there to prevent them and cover both Pastrnak and Marchand. This is the first game in a while that the defense has made these critical mistakes so often, so there’s no need to be worried about this being a constant issue. The defense was also in a tough spot with Ryan McDonagh missing the game with a lower body injury after blocking a shot in Thursday night’s game.
2. The Offense Needs to Finish Its Chances
One of the main issues this season is that the offense can get a lot of shots on net, but it doesn’t lead to as many successful scoring opportunities. This has been a common theme for the last stretch of games, where the Lightning get more shots on net, but can’t seem to score. In this one, the Lightning were especially hurt by not converting on the powerplay. They went scoreless on their four powerplay chances, including failing to score on a 5-on-3.
3. Kucherov Still Needs Time to Adjust
Kucherov has been out since the third game of the season and finally returned to the ice against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, missing over thirty games. With so many games missed, it’s expected for a player to struggle at first. Kucherov notched two assists against the Flames but finished off Saturday with no points. This isn’t something to worry about, as every player struggles after such a long time.
4. Despite Losing, The Lightning Are Still On Top
Every team loses. The Pittsburgh Penguins got their win streak broken on Saturday, and the Toronto Maple Leafs lost their game after being up 4-0 against the struggling Colorado Avalanche. The Lightning are tied for first in the league on points, even after this loss. If the Lightning can get past this game and give it their all against the Devils on Monday, then there should be no reason for concern.
5. Despite Bad Numbers, Vasilevskiy Played Well
Vasilevskiy had a bad night on paper, but in reality, he played the best he possibly could on a night where the defense struggled. After a rough start, Vasilevskiy settled into the game as it went along and made some important saves in the third period to keep the slim chances of a comeback alive. If Vasilevskiy plays like this with the defense toughening up once again, there should be nothing but success for both Vasilevskiy and the Lightning coming forward.