The Game of the Night tonight will feature the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this year. With the start to the season they have had, it should have come sooner.
Tampa Bay will hit the ice in Washington for the first of six meetings between the Southeast division rivals. Only 4 points separate the two for the division crown at this point, and a win for Tampa would give themselves the two points, and steal two from the Caps.
Tampa has had average goal tending from their tandem of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis. They each have four wins, but not so stellar numbers. Smith has a 3.43 goals against average. What has been Tampa's calling card this season is their offense. Steven Stamkos has 13 goals, good enough to lead the league. St. Louis has also been impressive with 15 points.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="700" caption="Steven Stamkos looks to continue his path to the Rocket Richard Trophy"][/caption]
Washington likes to play offensive loaded hockey as well. Ovechkin is, well, Ovechkin. One small mistake at any given point and he could bury one. Tampa's D needs to be all over him, and Alex Semin, if they want to keep this one close. Washington's Mike Green has 11 points from the back end, or well the front end. What position does Mike Green actually play? It's hard to tell sometimes.
For both teams, the power play is vital. Each team is operating at 20% or better (Washington- 20.3%, Tampa Bay-23.7%). This game may come down to whose power play can light the lamp the most.
Who starts in net for both teams is still up in the air. Washington's Michal Neuvirth has been fantastic this season, but so has Braden Holtby who played beyond his years in his first two NHL starts. I could see either playing in this game, but I would put in Neuvirth. Having two hot goalies makes it a hard task.
For Tampa, the decision will be more about who is the least cold, not so much who is the most hot. I would give Ellis the nod on this one but this is just a gut feeling. I think he is due for a great showing.
Like I said earlier, this game could be decided on the power play and I think it will. That is why I am making it the key to tonight's match-up. With that being said, I think Tampa Bay will fare better on the power play, with Stamkos getting two extra man points, for a 5-3 Lightning win.
The leading goal scorer for the league has my odds as being star of the game, showing Ovechkin that he is just as elite as the Russian.