The Tampa Bay Lightning were stumbling again, but managed to turn a deficit into a win on Saturday night. Down by a goal at the second intermission, the Lightning erased a 3-2 hole and topped the Senators, 5-3. It wasn’t quite as impressive as their comeback win over the Sabres, but it was another show of resiliency on the road by the Lightning. On the other hand, you could also look at it as the Lightning should have no business needing a comeback to beat the Sabres and Senators.
That’s true, but it is never easy to win games on the road and the Lightning didn’t fold. Every point will help down the stretch for the Bolts. With the win, they move to 23-13-4 on the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs were winners by a score of 3-0 at home against the Islanders last night, so they maintain a 3-point lead over the Lightning, and get 6 points closer to the Bruins. Michael Hutchinson was responsible for a shutout last night, which is something new for the Maple Leafs.
The Bruins have shown signs of slowing down recently, including recent losses against the Blue Jackets and Oilers. They’ve allowed the Maple Leafs and Lightning to stay within striking distance in the division, at least for the moment. While the Bruins have been cold, they’re likely going to get hot again. It’s tough to avoid a dry spell like the Lightning managed to do last season. Of course, their dry spell came when the regular season ended, as they got blanked by the Blue Jackets in the first-round.
This season is a marathon, and the Lightning should know better than anyone after what transpired a season ago. And don’t look now, but the Lightning have won six straight games heading into Raleigh. It started with a 6-1 win over the Panthers in Tampa on December 23rd, and the Lightning haven’t lost a game since the 21st against the Capitals. They take on a Hurricanes team who just lost to the Capitals on Friday night.
The Hurricanes made it interesting late, but their comeback failed resulting in a 4-3 loss at home. Carolina are hanging in a tough Metropolitan Division with a record of 24-15-2. That positions them behind the Islanders, Penguins, and Capitals in the division. There isn’t much in terms of talent separating the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Islanders right now. If the Penguins were healthy with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby, then no question the Penguins are better. However, Guentzel could be out for the year and Crosby is still in the process of getting back into shape after hernia surgery. It’s going to be a fun race down the stretch with parity the name of the game in the NHL. Head below for our free Lightning vs. Hurricanes pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes Betting Odds:
Lightning vs. Hurricanes Prediction:
A lot of people are sleeping on the Lightning this season. You won’t hear too many people selecting them to go to the Stanley Cup Final. Last season, the Lightning felt like the only pick to make it out of the Eastern Conference. We’ll see if this plays out in their favour and they can perform better with less pressure on. If they continue to win and build up this six-game winning streak into ten wins in a row, then you’ll likely begin to hear some chatter regarding the Lightning. A loss against a pretty good Hurricanes team who won’t be on a back-to-back would pretty well end that discussion in the public, though.
The Hurricanes have already beaten the Lightning twice this season, as they grabbed a 4-3 win in overtime in October, and then grinded out a 3-2 win in late November. Things went differently last season with the Lightning sweeping the Hurricanes in the regular season. The good news for the Lightning is that their offence is beginning to come to life.
There wasn’t a goaltender or defence that was stepping in front of their train last season, in the regular season at least. Sergei Bobrovsky figured them out, though no one else could. Tyler Johnson found an important goal last night for the Bolts. It’s only his 9th of the season and 19th point, so if he can get hot, it’d certainly be welcome in Tampa Bay.
Offensively the Lightning are likely going to be fine down the stretch. Despite their slow start as opposed to last year, the Lightning are now 3rd in the NHL with 3.58 goals scored per game. Andrei Vasilevskiy returning to Vezina form would help out immensely. That goes for the sloppy defence as well. Curtis McElhinney got the nod in Ottawa last season, and he stopped 25 of 28 shots. It was another game where the offence had to be counted on to save the team. It’s happening too often, though I have faith something will eventually change down the stretch.
Tampa were a top-10 defensive unit last season, whereas this season, they enter Sunday 18th in the league with 3.1 goals yielded per game. Vasilevskiy heads into Raleigh with a 2.83 GAA and 0.909 save percentage. He’s allowed at least 3 goals in five of his previous seven outings. The Hurricanes will likely be able to put pressure on against a tired Lightning defence tonight. They can score at will at PNC Arena, having notched 3.63 goals per game in the home barn. Petr Mrazek has a rocky past against the Lightning. He’s made 15 starts against them and doesn’t have much to show for it. Mrazek owns a 3.68 GAA and 0.861 save percentage versus the Bolts. The total at 6 looks slightly too short here between two offences who are capable of getting red-hot.