The Tampa Bay Lightning locked up the President’s Trophy Monday in what is the earliest that trophy’s been awarded in more than two decades. Has Jon Cooper decided to rest players? Have the Lightning taken their foot off of the gas?
Their last game was a 6-3 demolishing of the very good Carolina Hurricanes. The Bolts are 9-1-0 in their last ten and on a seven game win streak. They have a +100 goal differential. Nikita Kucherov has 37 goals and 120 points to lead the league in scoring. They lead the league in PP and PK percentages. They’ve only lost 13 games in regulation this season, four in overtime.
One of those overtime losses came back on February 7th. It was a 1-0 OTL to the Blues.
The Blues shouldn’t let that win go to their heads, but it should remind them that they can hang with the NHL’s big boys, not just pound the league’s also rans into the ice. The Blues this homestand have defeated the Edmonton Oilers 7-2 and the Detroit Red Wings 5-2, while scoring hat tricks in each (one to Jaden Schwartz, one to Ivan Barbashev). They’ve added a little padding between themselves and the Dallas Stars, who are now four points behind the Blues for third in the Central Division.
Hells bells, Pat Maroon has goals in four straight.
With Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron back from injury, there’s some consistency in the lines and in the play, but one of the most important line placements has been Alexander Steen between Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev. Steen had three assists against Detroit and cracked his 600 career point total.
Keeping up offensive pressure tonight while not letting the Bolts exploit any defensive weaknesses is key for success, but as the Blues previously demonstrated, it’s the second of those two thinks that’s the most important. The Lightning have three players who should crack 40 goals by the end of this season, and one more who should crack 30. The Blues’ defensemen should have their heads on swivels tonight.