Playing at a Playoff Pace, but are The Lightning Playoff Contenders?

Adversity is probably the key word for the Tampa Bay Lightning team right now. Coming into the 2019-2020 season with many eyes on them after the way the 2018-2019 season closed out. This team has been a skillful line-up, but what is skill without the right structure. Coach Cooper has been working tirelessly to find what will work for his skilled players to find consistency and win games. Starting off the season on a two-week road trip, the Bolts had a lot on their plate. Weirdly, they were pulling off wins against tough opponents and falling short versus teams they were predicted to beat, struggling to play 60 minutes of hockey. A turning point for the Bolts was their trip to Sweden getting a chance to reset and bond as mentioned previously, we saw a more competitive team return. Sadly as soon as the Lightning began to find a rhythm, many injuries started amongst key players. Two weeks ago, Kucherov was out for thankfully 1 game, but then Stamkos was gone for 3, while as of recent Coburn is out indefinitely, and Killorn is on a day to day basis, counting him out of last night’s match up versus the Nashville Predators. The Lightning called Cory Conacher back up from Syracuse, he’s been the go-to guy to add to the line since October, but Verhaeghe ended up back in the line-up.

Last night Kucherov, Point, Palat, hit the ice as the starting line and McDonagh with Cernak as the starting d-pairing. Both the Lightning and Predators carry a lot of talent on their teams, so the game opened up with fast skating and physicality. Leave to Victor Hedman to get the Bolts on the board first through, Hedman has been relentlessly taking more shots on goal since his 1st of the season on a power play. The Predators tied it up in the 2nd period and if you thought you saw fast pace and hard skating in the 1st period of this game, the 2nd period was way more intense. The game got quite chippy and tense. Many almost fights until Luke Schenn had enough o Tyler—- resulting in a fight. Later in the chippy 2nd period Brayden Point drew a penalty as he went for the puck and got elbowed in the face, after reviewing the play, the referees felt that it was intentional dealing the Bolts a 5-minute power play that they unfortunately couldn’t score in, the Predators did a heck of a job holding the Lightning to center ice.

We saw the d-pairings playing way more up than usual, at this point there isn’t really a “stay at home” defenseman or at least not last night. In the 3rd period Nashville tied up the game yet again and both teams really battled for the win, but overtime was the result. What better duo than Stamkos to Kucherov could you picture to secure the win for the Lightning. The Bolts left Nashville with 2 hard earned points. Last night’s game was played at a playoff pace and intensity as the Lightning sit 5 below the ranking line in the East and Nashville sits 3 below in the West. It’s officially that time of the year where every game counts and there are only so many games left before playoffs are here. Will the Bolts be playoff contenders? A short time will tell. The Lightning head back home to host the Minnesota Wild, tomorrow at 7pm.

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