Nashville took a hard loss to their central division nemesis the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and will be looking to renew their confidence tonight against Tampa Bay.
While there isn’t really a rivalry between the two teams, Tampa Bay is a strong cup contender every season and should be approached as such. The Predators will have to buckle down and return to a clean style of play or the Lightning will run a muck.
The Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are sitting comfortably at number two in the east and number five in the league with a 12-6-1 record. They’ve put up 61 goals and only given up 46, the Predators will have their work cut out for them. Tampa Bay has been a heavy playoff contender for the past few seasons and are trending towards another eastern conference final.
The real test will be how well the Lightning can carry on this season with Captain Steven Stamkos being out indefinitely after receiving a pretty nasty knee injury against the Detroit Red Wings. While it isn’t the first time the team has had to carry on without Stamkos, it’s still a pretty heavy loss.
Brian Boyle could also be facing injury and will be a game time decision. If Boyle is out, Tampa will be forced to play seven defensemen which could really push their forward lines to adjust. It could also wear them out depending on how they work the shifts. They have young players in the likes of Jonathan Druin and Braden Point but as Nashville knows all too well, adjusting lines to fill the holes of your captain and other veteran players isn’t always easy.
Tampa has always relied heavily on Ben Bishop as their starting goaltender, and while that will probably be the case tonight backup Andrei Vasilevskiy seems to have a bit of an edge over Bishop. Bishop’s SV% is at .909 while Vasilevskiy’s is at .953 in seven starts. It’s a small percentage but he’s only given up an average of 1.43 goals per game compared to Bishop’s 2.77. I like our chances with Bishop a little more at the moment.
The Nashville Predators
The Predators may have lost to St. Louis but there were some goods things to come from the game. We saw players crash the net more, and we saw a powerplay goal result because of it. This will be the key for Nashville to beat Tampa...and everyone else in the NHL really.
Nashville also needs to focus on creating scoring opportunities on second chances. Rebounds are bound to happen and they have to follow through and score on those chances. Like I mentioned earlier, I like our chances against Bishop. Mike Fisher is a great person to utilize in front of Bishop to clean-up those chances. I like our current first line crashing the net and picking up rebounds as well. Ryan Johansen is a big body who can create a lot of traffic. Paired with a sniper like James Neal and a bulldog like Viktor Arvidson they could easily make some magic happen tonight.
While we all love the idea of a faster more mobile defensive unit, we also learned Saturday that it doesn’t always end well. The Blues had a huge break away in the third because P.K. Subban was in way too deep leaving the rest of the ice completely open. Maybe it was just a sloppy mistake but it looked like Nashville still hadn’t fully adjusted to an offensive defense and that’s concerning at this point. It’s almost December, those adjustments should be made by now.
Regardless, Pekka Rinne has been incredible this season. I imagine he’ll get the start tonight since Juuse Saros has been sent back to Milwaukee and Marek Mazanec hasn’t been very reliable. If Rinne doesn’t get the start it will most likely be to ensure he has plenty of rest for another central division match-up against Dallas on Wednesday.
Reason To Watch
- We don’t get to see Tampa Bay often and they’ve been a nightmare for every other team in the eastern conference a while. We want to beat them tonight, but outside of that you have to root for our fellow southern hockey market.
- James Neal’s goal streak ended too soon for my liking on Saturday night, so I’m hoping to see a hateful (or just smug as a rug) Neal goal(s) tonight.
- Viktor Arvidsson. Are you tired of hearing about him yet? I’m not.
Song of the Game
You saw this one coming.
Sights And Sounds
You can catch the game on FS-TN locally and listen to it on 102.5 The Game. You can also stream the game via the Fox Sports GO app. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CST.