Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-0 2pts) v. Washington Capitals (1-0-0 20pts)
Time: 7p ET
Station: NBC Sports Washington, Bally Sports Sun
Entering the first weekend of the young 2021-22 NHL season, the Washington Capitals would play host to the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. For the Capitals, they are coming off a very successful home opener against the New York Rangers as they would be lead by their captain Alex Ovechkin who would score two goals and two assists to guide the Caps to a 5-1 victory. For the Lightning it would be a rockier start as they would lose their home opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2, and then would make an amazing comeback to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 7-6 in overtime.
The Bolts will be coming to DC looking to play a more structured game after giving up a total of 12 goals in their first two games. However, some of the silver lining the Lightning had really come out of their shocking overtime victory is that their big guns are getting up to form. In their loss to Pittsburgh Steven Stamkos would record two assists, and then against Detroit he would spark the Bolts comeback with back to back powerplay goals along with another assist. Victor Hedman would have a four assist game, Ondrej Palat would have two goals, and Nikita Kucherov would score a goal and three assists in the victory. Could this mean that the Lightning’s woes are behind them? That depends on how they play defensively, and if Andrei Vasilevskiy can be at the top of his game.
For the Caps their powerplay would show how lethal they could be as TJ Oshie and Justin Schultz would score along with Ovechkin to give the Caps the momentum they needed to take the game away from the Rangers. Also the emergence of rookie forward Hendrix Lapierre as he would score his first career NHL goal off of a beautiful TJ Oshie pass. Also a sight we all loved to see was the play making of Evgeny Kuznetsov who would record a three assist game, all of which were on special teams (2 PP, 1 SH). In net Vitek Vanecek stood tall for the Caps only allowing one goal on 24 shots.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos
Pat Maroon — Ross Colton – Corey Perry
Mathieu Joseph – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman – Jan Rutta
Erik Cernak — Ryan McDonagh
Mikhail Sergachev – Andrej Sustr
Scratched: Boris Katchouk
Injured: Cal Foote (finger), Gemel Smith (lower body), Zach Bogosian (lower body)
Keys to the Game:
- Better Starts
- The Bolts have played two games, and in both games they’ve been outplayed in the majority of them. After raising their second straight Stanley Cup banner the Lightning showed very little energy against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then last night against the Red Wings the Bolts didn’t really show life until after the midway point of the game. And they were lucky to win that one.
- Better Defense
- The full onus of the Lightning’s goals against in the last two games can not all fall on Vasilevskiy. While there were goals that he wish he could have back, the lack of commitment by the team in front of him to keep the quality scoring chances to a minimum was not there. The Bolts need to tighten up in their own zone.
- Better Puck Possession
- In Tampa’s first two games they had 6 giveaways to the Penguins 1, and 8 giveaways to the Red Wings 3. The Caps and Rangers both had 5 giveaways each against each other. While the Caps still had a relatively high number of giveaways in their lone game, the Lightning’s number of giveaways increased their next game. The Lightning will need to control the puck better and cut down on their giveaways.
Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha — Lars Eller — Daniel Sprong
Conor Sheary — Hendrix Lapierre– T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary — John Carlson
Trevor van Riemsdyk — Justin Schultz
Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen
Scratched: Connor McMichael, Dennis Cholowski, Matt Irwin
Injured: Nicklas Backstrom (hip)
Keys to the Game:
- Get a good start
- The Caps need to start this game better than they did Wednesday night against the Rangers. The Rangers controlled the play for a good part of the first period until the Caps got their first powerplay opportunity. Once the Caps scored on it they took control of the game. Tampa has been struggling so far in their first two games, and the Caps need to take advantage of that.
- Stay out of the Box
- On Thursday night the Bolts were getting opportunities on the powerplay and would go 3 for 7 against the Wings. Steven Stamkos would net a pair and Nikita Kucherov would notch the third one. On Wednesday night the Caps went to the box five times, and while Alex Ovechkin would strike while shorthanded, the Caps did give one up to Chris Kreider to be 4 for 5 on the penalty kill. While the Caps only did give up one powerplay goal, they did give five powerplay opportunities. The Caps don’t want to get into a Special Teams battle with the Bolts.
- Better Faceoffs
- On Wednesday night the Rangers creamed the Caps in the faceoff circle as they would take 61% of the faceoff wins. Tampa in their first two games were 51% (v. PIT) and 54% (@ DET). The Capitals will need their centers to dig in a little deeper and battle harder to win those faceoffs, and make the Lightning chase for the puck.