U&B: What has been the biggest strength for the Tampa Bay Lightning so far?
Tasha: Since the injury to Steven Stamkos on November 11th against Boston, the biggest strength of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been their ability to work together as a team. When Martin St. Louis was appointed the captain of the Lightning, he made is clear that this was not a one-man show. He wants every single player on the team to not only be a leader, but be held accountable for their own performance on the ice.
This is something that has strengthened the team from within. Since then, their puck possession has improved greatly, and the team has been playing much more offensively.
U&B: Who should the Columbus Blue Jackets look out for on the ice?
Tasha: This is really a two-step answer. First and foremost, you should be wary of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. There will come a point in the game where you think you have his number, and then out of nowhere, he will make the most tremendous save you have ever seen. He always has this vibe about him that makes the team want to perform better in front of the net.
Offensively, you should really keep your eyes on Nikita Kucherov. This guy loves to score goals. In fact, he scored his first NHL goal on his very first shot of his very first shift in his very first NHL game. Before being called up to the main roster this season, he played in 17 games with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. In those 17 games, he was able to net 13 goals and 11 assists for a total of 24 points. Right now, he is tied for second place in the AHL in goals scored. He reminds me a lot of the way Tyler Johnson played last season. That is definitely a good thing, at least for the Lightning.
U&B: Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Lightning from the Blue Jackets?
Tasha: I think the Tampa Bay Lightning need to keep their eyes on defenseman James Wisniewski. Right not, he leads the Blue Jackets in assists with 16 and has two goals giving him a total of 18 points. This also puts him in second place on the team in points. This makes him a particular kind of dangerous.
Not only is he a defenseman who can be in a key position to take control of the puck, he is also skilled at the art of the assist, which means that he is instrumental in making plays happen. Also, having a defenseman that can play offensively as well is something that every team looks for.
U&B: What is one area in which the Lightning have struggled this season?
Tasha: One of the areas that the Tampa Bay Lightning have struggled with recently is the Power Play. The Lightning started off the season on top of things when it came to all things Power Play; however, throughout the season they seem to have been taking their feet off the gas.
They aren’t really capitalizing on their opportunities, and while they have been able to keep the puck in the offensive zone for long periods of time, they have been playing what I like to call “the passing game.” Rather than take what could be a viable goal for them, they continue to pass the puck between themselves looking for that “perfect” shot. Unfortunately, the “perfect” shot is incredibly rare, and it would probably benefit them more to pepper a goaltender with shots and rebounds; especially when the opponent is a man down.
U&B: What are your expectations for the upcoming game?
Tasha: I am expecting a high powered game with plenty of opportunities in front of the net. Both teams have players that are offensively strong, and at the same time, both teams have quality goaltenders who know how to keep pucks out of the net, so it is going to take some extra effort from the offense to get over on the goaltenders.
Both teams are coming off of a loss right now, so ipso facto both teams are going to be hungry for a win. It should be a good game.
Come back soon for another edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Also, be sure to check out our game day edition on Union and Blue!