Game 11 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Florida Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning face their first back-to-back of the season this year with a Sunday matinee (yes, that’s a 5PM EST start) against the Florida Panthers, who played last night’s opponent — the Buffalo Sabres — two days ago in Sunrise.

The Cats managed to demolish the Sabres (territorially) even worse than Tampa Bay did, but still managed to lose as Jhonas Enroth was superb, stopping 44 of 45 Florida Panther tries in a 3-1 victory. As has been the case for Buffalo, the worst Corsi/Fenwick team in the league, they rely on their goaltenders to keep them in things while their anemic offense struggles to generate meaningful possession and scoring chances.

While the Panthers have some struggles of their own, they are actually a better puck possession team than the Lightning as things stand right now. They haven’t played nearly the murderer’s row of an early season schedule that the Lightning have faced, including a pair of games against the best possession team in the league (the Chicago Blackhawks), so the season is still young enough to say that a couple of poor outings against elite teams are skewing the Lightning’s overall metrics. The Bolts managed a superb process in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Sabres last night, dominating shots, shot attempts, and scoring chances throughout as they finished off their 7-game homestand with a 5-2 record and a 7-3 record overall and near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Like the Sabres, the Panthers don’t have much firepower up front — their leading goal-scorer is free-agent Brad Boyes who came to the Cats on a PTO and has 4 goals in 11 games so far, and not a single player on the roster has double digit points yet. Tomas Fleischmann leads them with 9 (2 goals, 7 assists) in their 11 games. On a team level, thing aren’t looking much better — in score-close 5on5 situations, the Cats have scored only 7 goals all year while allowing 18. This is however perhaps unduly influenced by their exceedingly low shooting percentage in these situations though — below 5% — though there is certainly an argument to be made that even if upward regression comes for the Panthers shooting, it won’t be by much as they severely lack elite finishers around the net and in the slot.

Part of the blame for the early issues also must fall on their goaltending trio of Tim Thomas, Scott Clemmensen, and Jacob Markstrom, who have all struggled to start the season. Tim Thomas has the best save percentage of the three at .905, but he’s already been run into the ground after taking a year off to do Tim Thomas things so the Bolts will face Clemmensen’s .750 or Markstrom’s .886, which really helps explain how the Lightning were able to hang 7 on the Cats the last time these two teams met.

But for all their struggles, the Cats have a lot of players who can skate and move the puck, and Kevin Dineen has shown in the past that he can maximize wins out of what looks like a barren roster. 45 shots in a game — even against Buffalo — is nothing to scoff at, so the Cats should be a good test of the Lightning’s puck possession game, which is still very much a work in progress. Away from home ice for the first time in seven games, Jon Cooper will also not have last change, which means tougher match-ups up and down the lineup.

NOTES

Season Series

TAMPA BAY LEADS 1-0
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Rosters

LIGHTNING PANTHERS
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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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PANTHERS
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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