The Tampa Bay Lightning have already secured a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will take on the Florida Panthers in round one.
Tonight the Lightning and the Panthers will play the first of two games against the Panthers in Sunrise to wrap up the regular season.
The Panthers and the Lightning have split the first three games in the season series, and they have all been very close contests outside of the Lightning’s 6-1 win early in the season.
The Bolts are coming off one of their worst losses of the season on Friday night, losing to the Dallas Stars 5-2.
Curtis McElhinney was in goal and took the loss as the Lightning were awful in all facets of the game.
Let’s start with the goaltending. McElhinney wasn’t sharp, as he let in a couple of goals from point-blank range that Vasilevskiy would have stopped.
The Lightning seems to play their worst games when McElhinney is in goal, and last night was no different.
The Lightning had no defensemen in front of the net on many occasions. And that led to McElhinney playing a one-on-one game with Dallas for much of the evening.
Give Dallas credit. They played an excellent game and wanted the game more than the Lightning did.
The Stars are battling the Nashville Predators for the final playoff spot in the Central Division and trail the Predators by two points.
This was one of the worst defensive efforts that we have seen by the Lightning all season.
They allowed Dallas room to move the puck all over the ice and offered no help to McElhinney from the net. So many times, it was all green jerseys in front of McElhinney.
Jon Cooper was disappointed in the effort. “We didn’t play very well. We didn’t execute, and we didn’t defend well, and we didn’t compete hard in the way we normally do. It’s disappointing with three games left; we decided to play one of our worst ones of the year.”
Blake Coleman echoed Cooper’s comment on the way the Lightning played. “Just a lack of attention to detail. Obviously, we’ve been pretty strong in the late run that we’ve been on, and just for whatever reason, we had some glaring mental errors defensively.”
The only good thing to come from this blow-out loss is that the Lightning does not have much time to think about the loss. Instead, they will be in a tough battle for home-ice advantage within 24 hours against their arch-rival, the Florida Panthers.
With the Lightning and Panthers already matched up in the first of the playoffs, this could potentially be nine games in a row against the Florida Panthers.
The games tonight and Monday night will determine who gets the home-ice advantage for the first-round matchup.
Some players don’t think it makes that much difference, but with fans allowed back in the buildings, that is a big advantage for the home team.
Also, as the home team, you get the last line change, which can be very important in creating an advantageous matchup for the home team.
Yes, the Lightning did not have a home-ice advantage last year on their way to winning the Stanley Cup, but that was an aberration and not a result of their play on the ice. Hopefully, something we never have to deal with again.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in goal for the Lightning tonight. The Panthers will counter with Sergei Bobrovsky.