Game 9 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks

After a four-day hiatus following being done in quite soundly by the Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3-0, 10 PTS) returns to action tonight against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks (6-1-2, 14 PTS), which dispatched the Panthers in the shootout the other night after squandering a two-goal, third-period lead.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions need little in the way of an introduction, especially after the one given here when the two clubs met for what was the second game of the season for both sides. That match, of course, ended quite fortuitously for the Bolts as it was a mostly one-sided affair in the ‘Hawks favor. That’s not to take anything anyway from the persistence Tampa Bay showed that night but having to escape the gallows with opportunistic, late-stages heroics isn’t a recipe for sustained success, let alone against teams that, led by their top talent, operate as a pack of puck-hounds.

An additional word on why possession matters so much: looking at each team’s 5v5 “Close” data, to this point the Lightning are nearly at the bottom of the league in terms of total shot attempts for but one of the best in terms of shot attempts against. With one additional game played, the Blackhawks have one of the highest shot attempts totals for and are also in the top-half in the amount of attempts allowed. When you account for the difference in minutes played in this game state, the Lightning is, again, near the bottom of the league in terms of generating while one of the best at limiting attempts. However, Chicago is both in the top-third in shot attempts for per 60 minutes of 5v5 “Close” play while also being even better than Tampa Bay at stifling the opposition.

Not surprisingly, having the puck more often than not and firing it at the net a lot translates to the Blackhawks standing among the league leaders in total shots on goal for and also when expressed as a rate statistic. And despite being almost middling in regards to total shots on goal against, Chicago is excellent in terms of shots allowed per 60 minutes played. Consequently, the Blackhawks, are among the league’s best both in terms of goals scored and allowed (per 60 minutes). It’s not everything but driving play at even-strength when the game is still tight is the foundation for winning consistently and something the Blackhawks do very, very well whereas the Lightning still have room for improvement.

Anyhow, taking the season series against such a high-caliber team would be a feather on the Lightning’s cap and would be an ideal set-up, obviously, to the looming home stand finale against the reeling Sabres but, whatever the outcome tonight, real encouragement would come from the Lightning being able to muck up the Blackhawks attack and evening up the possession game and, consequently, keeping scoring opportunities balanced more effectively than it and other clubs have previously managed.

NOTES

Season Series

TAMPA BAY LEADS 1-0
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Rosters

LIGHTNING BLACKHAWKS
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STATPACK

 

Team

TOI, POSSESSION & SCORING TOTALS
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POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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Special Teams

POWER PLAY
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PENALTY KILL
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Goaltending

ON-ICE TOTALS
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ON-ICE RATES
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ON-ICE PERCENTAGES
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Scoring

LIGHTNING
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BLACKHAWKS
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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