This summer, when Pat Maroon signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the gritty forward and hometown hero said that going to the Bolts would give him the best chance at a second Stanley Cup.
“I kind of knew going in what kind of an organization it was and how good that team really was,” Maroon said. “And for me, that’s what meant the most. I felt like Tampa and their style of hockey was the best fit and I can kind of bring a different element than they’re used to seeing. I felt like I can help out. They didn’t really have to sell much.”
Right now, the Lightning are looking to Maroon and his Stanley Cup pedigree. Nearly a quarter of the season has passed, and the Bolts are not living up to expectations, unless you were one of the few people who believed that their sweep out of last year’s playoffs was a sign of things to come instead of a fluke. They sit four points out of a wild card berth in the Eastern Conference with a 9-6-2 record (at 17 games, they’ve played the fewest in the league so far). Maroon himself has had a decent start to the season (4-3-7 in 15 games), but no one on the team has cracked 10 goals. Steven Stamkos has come closest with 7 (13 assists), and Nikita Kucherov has 6 (12 assists). That’s a slow start for two guys who had 98 points and 128 points, respectively.
Former Blue Kevin Shattenkirk has thrived with the Lightning. So far this year the defenseman has 5 goals and 10 assists; after 17 games he’s already more than halfway to reaching his 82 game point total from his final season with the Rangers.
Neither of the Bolts’ goaltenders are having a decent season. Starter Andrei Vasilevskiy is 7-5-2 with a very uncharacteristic 3.02 GAA and .901 save percentage. Backup Curtis McElhinney is 2-1-2 with a 3.75 GAA and a .906 save percentage. The Lightning allow 33.5 shots against per game, so the biggest key tonight seems to be shoot early, shoot often.
That’s what the Ducks did to get two early goals against the Blues on Saturday night en route to a 4-1 victory. The Blues’ offense, which has had issues getting a goal cushion without Vladimir Tarasenko, had issues getting any more than one goal to fight back. The defense hasn’t been able to maintain leads, and Saturday they coughed one up.
It’s just one loss out of four and the Blues are still at the top of the Central Division, but they’re going to need people to step up in regulation if they’re going to survive five months without Vladimir Tarasenko.
Coach Craig Berube is trying to goose an offense that’s winless in their last three games by using a line blender. Get ready for some unfamiliar combos tonight:
Schwartz - Schenn - Bozak
Blais - O’Reilly - Perron
Sanford - Thomas - Sundqvist
MacEachern - Barbashev - Kostin
Parayko - Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester - Faulk
Dunn - Bortuzzo