Game 51 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Ottawa Senators

After recovering from a grueling week-long stretch capped by an extremely opportunistic victory over the Hurricanes on Sunday, the Lightning should be fresh for tonight’s contest against the Ottawa Senators, a club.

Before taking Tuesday’s close tilt with the Capitals, the Sens had dropped their last two matches (one in overtime) but have won seven of their last ten matches and secured 16 of the 20 possible points during that span. The run has Ottawa in contention for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff wild card spot and is all the more impressive in light of getting inconsistent — and stretches of non-existent — production from Jason Spezza.

Ottawa’s improved prospects for a postseason future have come by way of improvement in its even-strength possession metrics, a graduated resurgence dating back to late November. At that point, Ottawa had a cumulative 46.6% share of 5v5 “close” shot attempts. Ottawa’s now over 50% in that regard, which may not sound like much improvement but, in aggregate, a 4% spike means many on goal, blocked and missed attempts that would have happened in the Sens end instead occurred in the opponent’s defensive zone.

Throughout, Erik Karlsson has remained a key cog for the Tampa Bay’s divisional foe. Like Victor Hedman (who is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight), he’s been very productive at even-strength although Karlsson has raked in more points, primarily via helpers, quarterbacking Ottawa’s power play. Bobby Ryan continues to thrive with his new club, so much so that some, including notable writer Travis Yost, are starting to question whether Spezza’s tenure with the only franchise he’s suited up for in the league is rapidly approaching a conclusion. Some of Yost’s speculation:

The lack of trust between MacLean/Spezza is palpable; MacLean still believes the team’s better with Spezza in the lineup (he’s most certainly right), but is only prepared to use him in a second or third-line role, depending on the opponent.

I note all of this because I bring it back to what’s going to happen at the end of next year. The Ottawa Senators…have to re-up a lot of guys — including Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza. You’d think that the team’s primary goal would be to extend Ryan, considering the assets they moved for him and the impact he can have on games.

Where does that leave Spezza? I’m not sure…I can’t imagine Spezza — a point-per-game player in his impressive career — is going to take a discount. And, if Ottawa’s ready to play hardball with a legend like Daniel Alfredsson, they’ll play hardball with anyone.

The real deciding factor for both clubs to this point, though, has been each’s goaltending. Ottawa’s tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner has not consistently lived up to expectations, although it’s Anderson who, though he notched his third shutout of the season on Tuesday, has had a rougher go of things on the balance thus far. Bishop, who was fantastic — as he has been for most matches to the point — while under bombardment on Sunday, has gotten the better of his former team in both games he has started against them since being traded to the Lightning last season.

Tampa Bay begins a new ten-game segment tonight. It earned 11 of the 20 possible points in the last one, the lowest total it has accrued in a ten-game segment so far. Getting back on the winning track at home, where the Bolts notched wins with great frequency until the past month, would be a nice monkey to get off the team’s back. 

SEASON SERIES

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NOTES

STANDINGS

LIGHTNING SENATORS
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ACTIVE ROSTERS

LIGHTNING SENATORS
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STATPACK

LIGHTNING

TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PLAYER SCORING
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RATES

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]


SENATORS

TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]
PLAYER SCORING
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RATES


TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]

PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
[table “75” not found /]
GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
[table “81” not found /]


Team stats cited from Extra Skater

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