The Tampa Bay Lightning look to rebound from the 4-2 loss they suffered Saturday, against the New Jersey Devils, as they face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning have been inconsistent lately, but surely not in home contests, with a 6-2-0 record at the Forum so far this season.
The Achille’s heal for Tampa Bay is the lackluster play that has been displayed in the first period. Agree or not, but the Lightning have been anything but impressive in the first period of most games this season, even in last week’s 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This simply has to change. Yes, the quote "It doesn’t matter how you start, but matters how you finish" is very true, but this is one of the things that is holding the Lightning back from winning some close games. Yes, it is early in the season but the points Tampa Bay is missing out on can cost them in the long run with how close the Eastern Conference standings were last season. Hopefully that improves, starting with tonight’s game.
Power Outage: The Lightning have gone on a 3-for-30 stretch on the power play , including going 0-for-6 in the loss to New Jersey. This is quite surprising, as the Lightning boasted the best power play record at home this season going into the Pittsburgh game last week.
Despite the inconsistency, don’t look for many changes for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. The most notable change though is that Guy Boucher announced that Ryan Shannon (who had an impressive game against the Devils) will be on the starting line along with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Also announced: Dwayne Roloson will get the start tonight for the Lightning.
For the Maple Leafs, they are in the midst of a four-game road trip. Toronto lost 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, and the team has only won four of the last 10 games. With that, the Maple Leafs are looking to being more consistent like they were at beginning of the season. Toronto has surprised most in the NHL with their play up until this point, as they are in a log jam at 24 points to lead the Northeast Divison. However, the Leafs have many players with injuries and that could cost them some important games down the stretch.
Prediction: The Lightning completely dominated the Maple Leafs last season, sweeping the four-game season series with two shutouts. Tampa Bay even outscored the leafs 16-5 in those four games. That lopsided domination (I think) won’t show up this season because Toronto is a different team this year, especially with Phil Kessel lighting the lamp the way he has this season. Kessel is currently leading the league with 16 goals. He also had a pair of goals in Toronto’s 3-2 loss to Carolina.
Eyes will not only be on Kessel, but also on how the Maple Leafs attack the Lightning’s 1-3-1 defensive system and whether or not the Lightning stick to that 1-3-1 scheme. If Tampa Bay wants to win this game they must PLAY THEIR SYSTEM.
I expect a solid defensive effort from the Lightning and I think they will get a good amount of goals against Jonas Gustavsson, who has played in 10 games for Toronto, starting eight, and posting quite dismal numbers. He has a 3.46 goals against average and a .892 save %. The Leafs are without their starting goalie and have a lot of other injuries as well, so I see this one going in the Lightning's favor.
Lightning: 4 Leafs: 2
Injury Report: Tampa Bay: Marc Andre Bergeron (upper body) expected to play tonight, Ryan Malone (upper body) expected to play tonight, Matias Ohlund (knee) injured reserve Toronto: Goalie James Reimer (neck) is getting closer to returning, Mikhail Grabovski (leg) and Matthew Lombardi (upper body) are out along with Mike Komisarek (arm) and Mike Brown (unknown), Clarke MacArthur (upper body) is now day to day.
WHEN: Nov. 22 7:30 p.m. EDT
WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum Tampa, Fl
Media Coverage: SunSports (T.V.) 620 WDAE (Radio)