Bolts Top Line on Fire

By on October 20, 2017

Andrei Vasilevskiy has faced an onslaught of 253 shots, Vasilevskiy has been very noble when it mattered the most making key saves. (PHOTO Reinhold Matay / USA TODAY Sports)

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored five goals (one empty netter) on opening night this year to beat the Florida Panthers 5-3.  My analysis that night is starting to show in the stats as the Lightning have been scoring.  Through eight games they are second in goals scored (27), (Toronto, yes Toronto! Has 34).

For years now, the Achilles heel of the Lightning has been defense.  As matter of fact, I remember my vocal crescendo directed at the TV in 2013 when the Lightning, in my mind, inexplicably picked another fast forward for value over need.  Jonathan Drouin was picked over defensive phenom Seth Jones, a mistake that took three years to work out of the system.  A loss in that year in six games of the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in 2014, a loss in the Eastern Conference Final to Pittsburgh in 2015 and the ultimate regression to no playoffs in 2016.

With Jonathan Drouin the problem of the Montreal Canadiens (currently last in goals scored 10, shocker) now,  and the Lightning improved defensively, they are on their way to becoming a special team this year.  Mikhail Sergachev (acquired for Drouin, steal!) has fit nicely onto the Lightning blue line, even scoring his first two NHL goals at Columbus Thursday night.  Sergachev, along with free agent Dan Girardi (NY Rangers), a right-handed stick, a little older then Seth Jones, is the defensive piece this team lacked the past three years. Girardi settled right in here in Tampa, now his new hometown by buying GM’s Steve Yzerman’s Davis Islands home.   I’m happy, the mistake of the 2013 draft is righted.

The defending Stanley cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Lightning meet for the second time this season on Saturday

Vladislav Namestnikov scores opening night. (TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO)

and despite Pittsburgh being the preseason cup favorites according to My Top Sportsbooks, the Bolts have a great chance to move to 2-0 against Sidney Crosby and company. Not only is Tampa’s top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov on fire, combining for 35 points in eight games, the Lightning will also be the more rested team (Pittsburgh plays Florida on Friday) and be playing at home, where they are 4-0 this year.

After the win opening the night versus the Panthers, the Lightning have gone on to win 5 of 7 games for an overall record of 6-1-1 good for first place in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. The Goal-tending of Andrei Vasilevskiy has been good and even great at times especially Thursday night in Columbus.   Vasilevskiy notched a 43 save shutout beating Columbus for the first time in his career. On the season facing an onslaught of 253 shots, Vasilevskiy has been very noble when it mattered the most making key saves.  But the offensive fire power, led by Nikita Kucherov who has scored eight goals already, exactly one in each of the first seven games.

The Lightning defensively still need some improving, but man will they score some goals this year, lay all the money on the over.


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