June 19, 2024

Tampa Bay Lightnings are two steps away for the playoff and there is nothing stopping it

The Tampa Bay Lightning will face a litmus test of their playoff worthiness when they host the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers in critical contests before heading out on a four-game West Coast road trip. Not only will they get a chance to earn badly needed points in the hopes of qualifying for this year’s playoffs, but they will also face the two best teams in the Eastern Conference and potential first-round opponents.

Lightning Get Spark From New Additions

For a game that drew more attention from the Flyers head coach, John Tortorella, being ejected and refusing to leave the bench in a timely fashion, the Lightning did see some immediate impact from trade deadline acquisitions Matt Dumba and Anthony Duclair. Even after a flight that saw him land in Tampa on Saturday afternoon, Dumba added some energy to the Lightning blue line, logging 25 shifts and 20:04 of ice time. Duclair assisted on a power play goal and provided a screen on Brandon Hagel’s goal. Even more importantly, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy played well in the shutout, thwarting 15 Flyer scoring chances and five high-danger opportunities, which hopefully is a permanent rebound after posting a .861 save percentage (SV%) in his previous nine starts.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2023 Free Agency Primer: Salary Cap, Killorn

Another trend that will hopefully continue is support from the bottom six forward group. While Nikita Kucherov did extend his point streak to eight games with one assist, Conor Sheary added a goal, his second in as many games, after breaking a 36-game scoring drought last Thursday (March 7) in a loss to the Calgary Flames. Darren Raddysh logged a career-high five assists and became the first defenseman in Lightning franchise history to do this. He also tied a franchise record for assists in a single period with three in the opening frame. Mikey Eyssimont picked up two assists in the win. Contributions from players outside the core scoring group will be critical in allowing the Lightning to achieve success down the stretch.

Red-Hot Rangers Come to Town

On Tuesday (March 12), the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 to win their 13th game out of their last 16 contests. Igor Shesterkin made 28 saves for his second consecutive shutout and has seemed to rebound after struggling in the middle part of the season. He blanked the St. Louis Blues on 26 shots last Saturday (March 9) and now has three shutouts this season. However, the Lightning may not face Shesterkin, as head coach Peter Laviolette has alternated goalies, so the team may face veteran Jonathon Quick, who has been outstanding for the Blueshirts this season. The 38-year-old netminder recently tied Dominik Hasek for the 15th-most wins in NHL history with 389 following a victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday (March 11).

One distraction the Lightning will not have to deal with when the Rangers come to town is whether anyone will need to challenge Matt Rempke, as the 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward recently received a four-game suspension for his high hit on New Jersey Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler. The 21-year-old was skating in just his 10th NHL game Monday but has racked up 54 penalty minutes and has fought four times.

The Rangers will also be without captain Jacob Trouba, who will miss a few weeks due to a lower-body injury. However, they still have one of the best core groups in the NHL, led by Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox , and Chris Kreider.

Lightning’s Next 2 Opponents Will Test Playoff Readiness

A Trip to Sunrise on Saturday

Following the Rangers game, the Lightning head south to face their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. The Panthers currently have the best goal differential in the NHL (plus-64). The already excellent squad improved by acquiring forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Kyle Okposo at the trade deadline. At the time of the trade , Tarasenko had 17 goals and 41 points in 57 games for the struggling Ottawa Senators, but he will add another offensive weapon along with the likes of Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov.

One of the Panthers’ hottest players is Sam Reinhart , who has seven goals and three assists over the past ten games. In addition, his 31 special-teams goals are the seventh most in a season in NHL history. Former Lightning Carter Verhaeghe has 31 goals and 35 assists for the Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky is in the top five in the NHL in wins, save percentage, and goals-against average and has put himself in the conversation to win his third Vezina Trophy.

Heading into the final 17 games of the regular season, the Lightning have very little room for poor performances and lost opportunities. With two Stanley Cup favorites coming up on their schedule, the team has the opportunity to show that they are playoff-relevant and can compete with the best in the NHL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *