Will the Lightning Strike in the East?

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated Detroit 3-1 last night for their 7th straight home win. Ben Bishop made 24 saves in his 100th win with Tampa. JT Brown, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov scored the goals, two of which were on the Lightning’s strong power play unit. Kucherov has tied Stamkos for the team lead in goals with 21. Stamkos has only scored one goal over the past 7 games and was minus one on the night. This win put them two points ahead of Detroit for second place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit won the first two games in the season series.

Tampa Bay is trying to make a playoff push and Ben Bishop couldn’t agree more. He’s putting up and astounding 1.99 goals against average putting him second in the league behind John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks who has a 1.91. The Lightning were 9-2-0 in the month of January. They will look to continue their outstanding play in February with a hot Vasilevskly in net. He is currently 8-4 and has a save percentage of .914%. There isn’t a doubt that I would personally go with whatever goalminder is hot, but being able to have two players in net with game winning talent is only falling in Tampa’s favor, as long as they keep putting the puck in the net. Tampa Bay is right on the edge of making the playoffs and the next few games could determine that for them.

Something that could truly help the team going forward is ending any rumors that Stamkos will leave the team. He is in the last year of his current contract and is definitely still talking with the Lightning. He imagines himself winning a championship in Tampa. Rumors have been lurking about his uneasy relationship with Coach Cooper. There’s still plenty of time between now and the trade deadline, February 29th. There’s no doubt he wants to stay as long as the contract he is looking for will be there and the Lightning can supply that to him. Steven is still the captain of the team and continues to play and help the team in any way he can in the future.

Looking forward, the Lightning has home games against Detroit and Pittsburgh both of which have similar records. Detroit is making their name heard with veterans such as Henrik Zetterberg leading the team in points and Assists and Pavel Datsyuk. But, they also have the young talent of Dylan Larkin leading the team in goals. Detroit and Tampa have similar away and home records accordingly. Detroit however has won their last two away games by at least two goals each. This should pose a great threat to the home streaking Lightning.

Tampa Bay is on a roll heading into Friday nights game versus the Penguins. Pittsburgh is still trying to find their groove with stars Malkin, who leads the team in points and goals, Crosby and Kessel. They should keep it interesting against Stamkos who has scored 10 power play goals so far this season, being 7th in the league on the penalty kill. If the  Especially considering Pittsburgh has lost their last three on the road one of which was against the Lighting and ended in overtime 5-4 in Tampa’s favor.

After some further observations and discussion with Sean, other than the Washington Capitals, the entire Eastern Conference is a mess. A couple wins here and a couple losses there, the entire leader board could change within just a couple of games. The schedule seemed to pan out with the leaders playing each other coming out of the All Star break. As I mentioned, Tampa played Detroit Wednesday night and the main feature aired Monday night between Florida and Washington. This called for, what I thought was going to be a close game overall, but Florida scored 4 unanswered goals to start the game. While Washington came out strong in the third scoring two right away, they just couldn’t pull it off, as Washington fell to Florida 5-2.

A small side note that some might appreciate, Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid returned to the Monday night versus Columbus. He’s been out since November 3rd when he fractured his collarbone going into the boards. Such a tragic accident for the rising star. BUT, You can watch this unreal goal in his return to play. Oh, and did I mention he had three points? But really, watch the goal. You wont be disappointed.

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