Category: Tampa Bay Lightning

Team Preview: Are the Tampa Bay Lightning ready to finally close on Cup final…

The Lightning had yet another successful season despite their 2016-17 missed playoff year and 5th place Atlantic division finish. The Lightning bounced back for a 1st place divisional finish and 3rd place NHL finish. Coming off a 54 win and 113 point season the Lightning, again failed to capitalize on the ultimate goal though. The Stanley Cup. This was the Lightning’s 3rd conference final loss in the last 8 years and fifth time failing to capitalize on a remarkable regular season in the last eight years.

Many times we have seen the Lightning miss their goal due to some injuries, like Steven Stamkos in the 2015-16 Cup run who many thought was the Lightning’s year and I am sure if you ask many fans around the league if Stamkos was healthy during that run it may have turned out differently for Tampa Bay.

Lightning offense able to lead Tampa to 1st place Atlantic finish again…

Heading into the 2018-19 year the Lighting are without Chris Kunitz and defenseman Andrej Sustr, nothing to really throw your arms in the air over as most of there core guys are still around and their young talent is still there. The Lightning have the Atlantic division at the palm of their hands, having to deal with Boston and Toronto, the Lightning should still be a sure favorite for the playoffs and another deep run.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2018-19 previewWith a line up of JT Miller, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov on line one, off the bat you are looking at a top 10 first line pairing. If Miller can be consistent and continue to feed off Stamkos and Kucherov he is looking at an easy 60 plus point year. In Millers 19 games with Tampa Bay he tallied 18 points and in the playoffs he scored 8 points in 17 games. On line two the Lightning have Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, Point and Johnson combining for 106 points is already enough to supplement a solid second line, throw in Palat’s 35 points in 56 games, a player who can easily be a 50 point guy, the Lightning have a top 5 ranked second line in the league. Now a third line lacking some center depth with Anthony Cirelli but still with Alex Killron and Yanni Gourde the Lightning have three scoring lines right there.

They will be expecting some big numbers from Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde again as the two are coming off remarkable years, which with their production was a main reason the Lightning were so consistent throughout the year. This will be a big test for 3rd round 2015 draft pick Cirelli to step into the mix and secure his third line spot. In 18 games last year he tallied 11 points and in the playoffs he managed to make little bit of noise with 3 points.

Lightning need McDonagh to make a big step next season…

Tampa Bay Lighting Ryan McDonaghOn defenseman the Lightning have a Norris winning defenseman now in Victor Hedman, proving to be one of the most versatile and consistent defenseman in the NHL. Hedman is a sure fire 60 plus points year in and year out. The next step is getting Ryan McDonagh to the next level, and capable of bringing what the Lightning thought they were going to get when he first came over. McDonagh tallied 3 points in 14 games last year with Tampa and is coming off one of his worst years (29 points) since he emerged in the league. McDonagh when healthy is capable of 40 plus points but if he cannot stay healthy or find his groove on this Tampa Bay team it will cause some concern for Tampa fans and leave the Lightning missing that “one” piece they need to secure a Stanley Cup. Along with the meat and potatoes guys in the league Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman, two guys who you know what you are going to get from them and nothing more. Two solid defensive defenseman but as Girardi continues to age as well as Stralman this Tampa Bay defense has some concerns. Luckily with Vezina nominee goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy the Lightning have a sure number one goaltender, with Vasilevskiy coming off a 44 win season posting a 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage with 8 shutouts the Lightning better hope he can continue to log 60 plus starts a year at a consistent rate. Last year was Vasilevskiy’s second full year as a starter but from 2016-17 to 2017-18 his minutes increased from 1,480 to 2,075 minutes a 595 minute difference his starting time increased from 47 games to 64 games a 17 game difference, point of the story is, he has seen a steady increase in numbers and when this happens we all know what occurs in the long run…

Predictions? 

I think the Lightning edge out the Bruins for the top spot and hold off the Leafs as well, they finish around the same point mark and win wise, perhaps a 112 point divisional win. The only concern with the Lightning here is if they face some injuries and go on a skid they have two of the best teams in the NHL right on their tail ready to take over the division. Still I see a division win from the Lightning, but perhaps that next step is not next season as they will fall short of the ultimate goal once again.

 

 

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Lightning head to Washington in desperate need for Game 3 win: 3 Keys for Tampa Bay success

The Lightning have been pumped the first two games this series, 4-2 and 6-2, nothing to be proud of when it comes to the Eastern Conference finals and being the number one team in the East. The Lightning were written off as a favorite for this series before it even began. Now, after two games the Lightning have a chance to be swept and eliminated in their second Eastern Conference final in the last four years. The positive for Tampa is that they bounced back greatly from missing the playoffs last year to this now. Negative though they were favorites to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the year along with the Predators. Now fast forward to being down 2-0 the Capitals are now favorites to win it all.

What has been the Lightning’s biggest reason for their poor start though? A few things. Andrei Vasalevskiy has been subpar at best, getting yanked in the first game to allowing six goals in the second game. Kucherov has been almost non-existent besides the assist to Stamkos on the power play in game one and two. Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde have been nowhere to be found, their top performers and depth guys went from scoring to now nothing. Their defense has been pretty bad, to say the least. Allowing 32 shots on goal the first game to 37 the second game, and allowing a combined 10 goals in two games is not great. Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh have not been able to figure out a balance to the Capitals line up and the Capitals are exposing the Lightning’s defense when both Hedman and McDonagh are not on the ice.

BUT, there is still room for improvement on the Lighting’s side. Three keys to the Lightning’s success…

3 Keys to the Lightning’ success tonight…

(1) Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi need to step up and be more consistent. Coming from New York they know this Capitals team very well. They should be more than capable of stopping these guys and knowing what they are going to do. We will need to see these two really take charge and lead the way tonight. As Hedman is the guy, McDonagh and Girardi know the Capitals, use their experience and relay it to the rest of the team.

(2) Depth guys. Need to show up. Tyler Johnson, Alex Killron, JT Miller, Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point need to come up big this game. Not meaning only on the scoreboard but make it hard on the Capitals forwards and defenseman. A defense with Michael Kempny, Brooks Orpik, and Christian Djoos should not be this hard to score or even get some pressure in the offensive zone. It is not all about scoring, but it is about showing up and doing something each shift. Some of these guys have not even been noticeable on the ice meanwhile guys like Alex Chiasson are causing havoc out there even though he is not scoring every goal. Make it difficult, cause some havoc and put some pressure on the Capitals defenseman and forwards.

(3) Andrei Vasilevskiy needs to make a save or 30. Through 2 games he has allowed 9 goals, has been pulled once and has not looked like the Vezina goalie he was nominated to be. They are going to need Vasilevskiy to steal a game here tonight. In Washington, up 2-0 the crowd will be going nuts, and it will not be easy for the Lighting forwards to get much going, therefore Vasilevskiy needs to come up big tonight.

Aside from the first three keys, the Lightning needs to stop the Capitals from quick starts and start winning puck races. They will most certainly need Vasilevskiy to play one of the best games of his career but it is a team effort and they need to help the goaltender out back there. By doing so, they need to win some puck battles. The Lightning have lost every puck race it seems like and the Capitals have scored in the first minute two games now! Stop the Capitals from scoring first, pop the first one, eliminate the Capitals power play chances, win puck races and we may see a different outcome.

A look at what Vegas is saying…

Clearly, Washington is the favorite here, after winning the first two and heading home they are clearly the favorite. The opening line right now is Tampa Bay+100 and Washington -120, the over/under is 6 goals and the other sites are also saying for Tampa to be around +100 to +105, while Washington is -120 to -115 across the board. Clearly, the books are saying Washington here, but the odd thing is based on some bets thus far it has been 52 percent Tampa and 71 percent Washington, as of now. The line is standing at Washington -120 and Tampa +100. As the day goes on the line can change based on the number of bets coming in for each team. Therefore monitor it and I will check back on the line later. To find out the line, follow me on twitter @santageetee

Rangers head south for Thursday night matchup vs Tampa

New York Rangers(4-7-2) vs Tampa Bay Lightning(10-2-1) 

The New York Rangers begin their short two-game road trip through the state of Florida tonight when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers come off a thrilling win at home vs Vegas on Tuesday night while the Lightning are coming off an eight-goal effort in a road win against the Florida Panthers Monday night. When these two teams get together it is always a solid, intense battle.

Tampa has been absolutely red hot with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov leading the charge. Stamkos has 24 points in 13 games and Kucherov has 21 points in the 13 contests to date. After Ben Bishop was traded last year, they turned the goaltending reins over to Andrei Vasilevskiy, so far this year Vasilevskiy is 10-1 in 11 starts.

Tampa’s lead in the NHL

NHL: MAR 31 Canadiens at Lightning

Tampa leads the Atlantic Division with 21 points, and they are a  juggernaut of the NHL right now. This will be a hard matchup for the Rangers. The Rangers as previously said are coming off a thrilling win vs Vegas, but they are still a team with problems all over. On the front end in terms of scoring is lead by Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Kevin Hayes, Hayes started out on the right foot but has cooled off a bit in the last few games, who has yet to record a point in the last four games.

The biggest problem for New York is consistency, they haven’t been able to put together a full 60–minute effort nor string together wins back to back. Many people believe that the game Tuesday just delayed the inevitable question of Alain Vigneault’s future in New York behind the bench, only time will tell though.

Tonight’s matchup will be a huge sign of how this Ranger team will be for the rest of the season. Can they get their feet under them early and figure things out with a win tonight, or will they lay down and die? We will find out at 7: 30 P.M. (EST). 

10 Thoughts Entering a New Season

  1. Who controls the east?

The eastern conference has taken over control within the past few years but entering the 2017-2018 season who will control it? The Capitals have controlled the regular season for a couple years now. Following this offseason, the Caps appear to have lost some key pieces. The past couple of seasons there were many who would say the Capitals or the Penguins. Entering this season it is more of a toss-up then ever.

  1. Can California bounce back?

There is no issue with the Anaheim Ducks however, the other two Californian team’s had a season to forget last year. The Sharks were knocked out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the inexperienced Oilers. The Sharks struggles came from players who underperformed. If the production resurfaces, the Sharks will have success. As for the Kings, The Kings had a rough season last year as well. A lot could be to blame including and injury to top goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings will have trouble again this upcoming season due to lack of depth on both ends of the ice.

  1. How will the rookie class compare?

Entering the previous NHL entry draft, there was a reason to believe that this was a draft class without a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews. There are some other rookies not drafted from this recent draft year who will be making debuts also but how will they compare to the previous years? Can Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick evolve into an Auston Matthews? There will be a significant difference in the rookie class this year and it will be noticeable.

  1.  What team is under the radar?

The Carolina Hurricanes are a team to watch out for this season. The Canes have been in a rebuild mode for the past couple of seasons. Following this offseason, they have included more depth to complement their bottom six forwards. The D-core is also fun to watch as they are a young group with a lot of talent. Many predict the Canes to be a playoff bubble team. The Hurricanes will make the playoffs squeezing into a wild card spot.

  1. How will the new rules affect the game?

The 2017-2018 NHL season will be different indeed with the addition to new rules. New rules including the faceoff rule, the challenging offsides can lead to a penalty, and there are other minor rules that go unnoticed like the visor rule where the visor must protect the eyes. It will be very interesting to see how these rules will affect the league and flow of the game.

  1. Tampa Bay’s season?

It is the year for the Tampa Bay Lightning to finally take home Lord Stanley. With a healthy group, they have one of the deepest teams in the east. Solid goaltending in young gun Andrei Vasilevskiy will provide the bolts with a steady net presence. The D-core is healthy and young adding Mikael Sergachev to the depth of the blue line. A healthy Steven Stamkos is the biggest plus to the lineup. Watch out for Tampa this year.

  1. New contract players

Keep in mind that this was a big offseason in terms of contract extensions. With all of the extensions what to look out for are all of these players who were recently inked up. Players including Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, etc. It will be interesting to see how these players perform following their contract extensions.  

  1. Third time’s a charm?

The spotlight is on for the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row. The Penguins have lost some depth and big-time playoff performers in Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz. These two put a hole on the Penguins depth. The defense is lacking as well. The main question on defense is can Kris Letang stay healthy. Letang has battled many injuries over the years but when he is on the ice he is a force. Look out to see if Letang can stay healthy this season.

  1. Suspensions

Another thing to watch for this season is how the league will handle suspensions. There have been multiple suspensions handed out during the pre-season for dirty play. How will the league handle player safety this year with a new face in charge of it?

  1. Jagr

Finally, after waiting all off-season and until the end of pre-season, Jaromir Jagr has been signed by an NHL team. The Calgary Flames have signed Jagr to a one year deal worth 1 million dollars. The Flames are coming off last season making the playoffs with their young roster. Jagr adds age and experience to the lineup and will be interesting to see what type of impact he makes right from the get-go.

NHL Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning Season Preview 2017-2018

Tampa Bay Lightning(5th Atlantic; 42-30-10): For back to back seasons the Lightning took trips to the Eastern Conference finals, to fall short both times. After back to back Conference final trips, the Lightning had a fairly disappointing season during the 2016-2017 campaign. After captain Steven Stamkos suffering an injury sidelining him for 65 games, facing a rough patch of offensive production and un-weary goaltending, the Lightning hope to bounce back for the 2017-2018 season and make the push for playoffs once again. With the additions of Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi, the Lightning have been able to get deeper on the back and front end, securing Taylor Johnson and Nikita Kucherov for long term contracts Tampa Bay’s future is in line. Picking up Montreal’s prospect Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning hope for Sergachev hope for him to hopefully make the push to the professional level next season.

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 4.16.00 PM

Some key players for the Lightning heading into next season are quite obvious, Steven Stamkos is said to be making great progress with his knee injury and should be ready for the upcoming season. After Kucherov career year with 85 points and 40 goals, Taylor Johnson had a relatively down year with only 45 points in 66 games. New improved, Andrei Vasilevskiy has officially secured the #1 starting role and will have a ton of pressure on him for next season.

  • Nikita Kucherov: Kucherov has emerged as a top 5 fantasy hockey forward, posted top 5 points among all NHL players last season and was behind Crosby by four goals for the league lead. It’s evident Kucherov has emerged into an elite forward since coming into the NHL. With a healthy Stamkos, Kucherov may just make that leap to league leading numbers, a lot of Kucherov success will not rely on Stamkos but it will make his numbers increase tremendously. Tampa Bay’s offense predominately came from Kucherov last season, and once again that will be the case next season, look for Kucherov to be among the top five in points again for the 2017-2018 season. 
  • Steven Stamkos: After suffering a knee injury a month into the season and forcing him to be sidelined for the whole year, on top of his injury during the 2015-2016 playoff run, injuries have made Stamkos slowly fall off some NHL fans minds. If healthy and playing a full 82 games alongside Kucherov there is no doubt Stamkos will back to 35 plus goals and 70 points. Stamkos healthy and Kucherov firing from all angles once again the Lightning will string together wins more easily and be able to keep a steady flow of offensives production with a forward line up consisting of Stamkos, Kucherov, Brayden Point, Taylor Johnson, Kucherov, Chris Kunitz and Alex Killorn. 
  • Victor Hedman: With Dan Girardi now rostered, assumingly so Hedman and Girardi will be seeing some time together, with Hedman’s two-way ability and Girardi’s more defensive role, the two mimic each other well. The Lightning’s defense is definitely not ranked among the best defense in the league but they have a few solid defenseman that can play among opposing top lines. Hedman has been the backbone of this defense and team’s success for the last three seasons now and regularly being in the Norris trophy talk, it’s only a matter of time until Hedman makes that leap and captures a Norris trophy. Hedman’s career year with 72 points and 56 assists over 79 games, once again will be looked to play big minutes and help the Lightning make that step back into the playoffs.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy: When Ben Bishop went down with an injury in the playoffs Vasilevskiy was called upon and while he posted a 3-4 record with a 2.76 GAA, the Lightning seemed to see some positive attributes in Vasilevskiy. After Bishop battled some injuries last season and was traded midway through the year, it was evident the Lightning saw Vasilevskiy as their #1 goaltender. Posting a 23-17 record through 47 games with a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage. A ton of pressure will be on Vasilevskiy’s shoulders this season as the Lightning look to make the leap back into the playoffs during the 2017-2018 season, the Lightning’s success will be relied heavily on their goaltending, look to Vasilevskiy to really prove his worth as an NHL goalie.

Tampa Bay Lightning: G Andrei Vasilevskiy ready for starting job?

After touching on the topic of the Dallas Stars and their new additions, a quick topic of discussion came to mind. Now due to the fact Dallas has locked up Ben Bishop, and the Lightning seems to trust Andrei Vasilevskiy as their #1 number goaltender, is the 22-year-old Russian ready to take on the workload as a full-time NHL goalie…?

Andrei-Vasilevskiy
G Andrei Vasilevskiy ready for #1 role in TB.

Vasilevskiy emerged on the scene during the 2015-2016 Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run, Bishop went down with an injury late in the playoffs, and thus Vasilevskiy was established. Vasilevskiy played the entire PIT vs TBL series during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run two years ago and showed some incredible signs of becoming the Lightnings possible number one guy. At the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, the big story was how would the Vasilevskiy- Bishop duo pan out in Tampa Bay, would Vasilevskiy eventually become the starter? Well fast forward several months later and that was the case. Vasilevskiy became the full-time guy and Bishop was sent off to L.A. to fill in until Jonathan Quick was back.

With the goalie tandem split up and controversy settled, Bishop in Dallas and Vasilevskiy the starter in Tampa Bay, there is no more what if questions, the answers have been answered. BUT the question now is, can Andrei Vasilevskiy handle a full-time goaltending job?

I don’t know about you but I’m not too sold on this whole Vasilevskiy is capable of being a full-time starter, he’ll excel well and be solid for the Lightning helping them push their way back into the playoffs. After the Lightning’s slow start, Steven Stamkos went down with an injury and they could just not seem to edge out the Leafs and other divisional teams for a playoff spot, the once fierce full Lightning, became a nothing in April. Missing the playoffs for the first time in three years. That’s a lot of pressure for a 22-year-old goalie, to be expected to be the backbone of the Lightning and help this team back into the playoffs next season. Vasilevskiy did not post exceptional numbers last year either, understanding the Lightning had a bit of a down year but still the 6’3 goaltender, started in 47 games(57% of games played), posted 23 wins, 17 losses, a 2.61 GAA(goals against average) and a .917 save percentage(SV%). Barring the Lightning do not have the best defense in the NHL, faced some tough times last year but other than those numbers Vasilevskiy has played in a combined 34 games in the previous two seasons. Hopefully, the Dan Girardi signing will allow some stability and physicality on the backend for the Lightning, along with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, and lofty Andrej Sustr, the Lightning are not gifted with the best defense per se. I don’t know about you but I’m not sold on the Vasilevskiy will bring the Lightning back to the playoffs next year, agree to disagree I just don’t see it.

 

 

 

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G Peter Budaj looks to become #1 goaltender in Tampa Bay.

Prediction: Vasilevskiy bombs out and Peter Budaj takes the full-time job. Calling it now.
We all saw how well Peter Budaj handled the full-time job last year when Jonathan Quick went down with an injury and being the Lightning have a better core up front, Budaj will get that assistance on the offensive side of things and if he can produce as he did last year, gets his fair share of starts during the year, Budaj will turn a lot of heads in Tampa Bay and take the starting job. 51 games started in L.A. last season, Budaj posted 27 wins, 20 losses, a 2.12 GAA, .917 SV% and 7 shutouts. Budaj was a big story last season when he emerged as the starter in L.A. and many thought he would not be able to do it, the 34-year-old veteran goaltender, held up quite well for L.A.