The Oilers dropped the Panthers in an afternoon tilt yesterday and they’ll have a chance to complete the Florida sweep tonight in Tampa Bay.
1. The Oilers and Lightning have played once this season. You’ll probably remember it. It came back in Edmonton on Feb. 5 and Connor McDavid powered the team to a win with three goals and five points. It was one of those tease games where the Oilers looked ridiculously good against a good team and it seemed like they were ready to turn a corner but then they went and lost three in a row on a trip through California.
2. The Lightning are rolling into tonight’s game on a two-game losing streak, which is something virtually unheard of from them this season. This is only the fourth time the Lightning have lost back-to-back games all season and tonight will represent a chance for the Oilers to give Tampa Bay a three-game losing streak for just the second time all season.
3. Despite losing back-to-back games to Ottawa and Boston, Tampa has been excellent since going all in at the trade deadline. I mean, they’ve been excellent all year, but after acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the Rangers at the deadline, the Lightning went on a five-game winning streak and currently sit with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
4. Miller has filled in perfectly in the role of wingman with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos since being acquired in a swap that involved Vladislav Namestnikov. Over 62 games, Namestnikov had put up 20 goals and 24 assists, but Miller already has nine points in eight games. McDonagh has only played in three games since being acquired because he had an upper-body injury dating back to early February with New York. McDonagh has been sliding in on the team’s third pair with former Rangers teammate Dan Girardi.
5. The key to Tampa Bay’s success has been their offence. They rank first in the league in goals with 257. The pair of Stamkos and Kucherov, who have 27 and 34 goals respectively, are obviously the main drivers, but the Lightning also have Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Tyler Johnson who have scored at least 20 goals. Namestnikov had also reached the 20-goal plateau before being dealt.
6. Their attack has also been multidimensional. The Lightning have a ridiculously good power play, operating at a 24.0 per cent efficiency, which ranks second in the league, and they’ve scored 168 goals at even strength, which is most in the league. Stamkos is the team’s biggest power play weapon. He has that patented one-timer the other players always look for and he’s scored 15 of his 27 goals on the man advantage.
7. A good power play and Edmonton’s penalty kill? Uh oh! But not so fast! The Oilers penalty kill has been throughly solid as of late. In their last 16 games, the Oilers have allowed just FOUR power play goals on 47 opportunities. They’ve climbed ALL THE WAY up to 27th in the league in penalty kill percentage, which, given how historically bad it was, is actually quite the improvement.
8. It’s hard finding a weakness on the Lightning, but if they do have one, it’s who plays when Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t available. Vasilevskiy has been incredibly good in his first season as Tampa’s bonafide starting goalie. He’s played in 58 of the team’s 71 games and has a .922 save percentage and has won 40 games. Louis Domingue, the backup tonight, has an ugly .907 save percentage in eight games with the Lightning. This team won’t be in good shape if Vasilevskiy gets hurt.
9. This will be the final matinee game of the season for the Oilers. This year more so than ever the Oilers have been handed a whole bunch of afternoon games which is awful because the team looks listless during them. All told, they’ve played 10 afternoon games and they’re 3-7 in them but some of the losses have been ugly, like a 4-0 pounding at home by the Red Wings and a 5-1 beating by the Stars on the road.
10. And finally, let’s take a look at the McArtRoss race, which will be an interesting thing to key in on in today’s game. Kucherov is still leading the way with 91 points, but after a multi-point game yesterday in Florida, McDavid is tied with Evgeni Malkin for second in the league in points in 89. It’s doable!
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