The NHL drops the puck on the Global Series in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres are in Sweden to play in the game, which will be an afternoon start in the east and morning in the west. You can’t tell me the players want to be flying all the way out to Sweden to play, but it’s all part of the job.
It will be interesting to see how they react to playing in Sweden and then getting a full week off. The Global Series isn’t anything new, but the Sabres and Lightning did not participate in 2017 and 2018. The Global Series between the Senators and Avalanche was a success in 2017, so they added more games last season, and the Blackhawks and Flyers even opened their seasons in Prague this year.
The Sabres and Lightning will play two games on a back-to-back, so there is a couple of chances for fans in Stockholm to see an NHL game. This is a business trip for the Lightning and Sabres. The Lightning are hoping it can be a sparkplug to get their season on the right track. They’ve looked awfully lethargic and still could be a bit shell shocked after getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first-round of the playoffs. Such a successful regular season went for nothing. Tampa enter Sweden with a record of 6-5-2, as they look a lot different than the Lightning team we saw last October.
Having said that, their regular season success did not translate to one win in the playoffs. Winning the Presidents’ Trophy can be slightly overrated, just ask the Washington Capitals who needed to avoid the top seed in the playoffs to win the Cup. The Lightning are still a threat despite the slow start. They’re coming off a 5-2 loss against the Islanders on November 1st, so a lot of rest for the Bolts heading into Sweden. Buffalo haven’t played since a 1-0 defeat against the Islanders on November 2nd. The long-distance travel sucks, but their legs are going to be fresh for this weekend. Head below for our free Lightning vs. Sabres pick on Friday from Stockholm.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres Pick
The Lightning may not be performing at their full potential thus far, but I think all it can take is a hot couple of weeks for this team to get going. When they do get hot, they’re likely not going to be an easy club to slow down. Most important for the Lightning is to get hot at the right time in the spring. Perhaps a trip to Stockholm is what they need to get their season going in the direction we all expect to find from the Bolts.
Part of their problems stem from shoddy play in the defensive zone. That includes Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy who is capable of playing better than he has been. Vasilevskiy has been iffy with a 3.12 GAA and 0.904 save percentage. If he were to finish with these numbers, it’d be a career-low for Vasilevskiy who has been one of the most reliable goaltenders across the last four or five years.
As a team, the Lightning have allowed an average of 3.62 goals per game this season. That’s good for 27th in the league, which is a not place you expect to find the Lightning. Away from Tampa, they’ve been worse with 3.78 goals against per contest. The Sabres have been good in that regard offensively, with 3.43 goals scored per game on the road in 2019-20.
Tampa’s production on the road offensively is just about identical to the Sabres. They’ve been sharp with 3.44 goals scored per game as a visitor, so the offence is still there for Tampa. Especially if Victor Hedman can’t play, the Lightning are likely going to be under pressure in the defensive zone again in this one, though. With a week off from play, there shouldn’t be any excuses for sloppy play on Friday. It should be a fast game with plenty of scoring chances. The NHL is hoping that Stockholm gets an exciting game here and I think they’re going to get it. Consider a play on the OVER in the first of two games in Sweden.