It’s a pair of games that don’t mean much for the standings - the Canadiens have guaranteed their Atlantic Division title, while their opponents have been left on the outside-looking-in when it comes to the post-season.
Yet, with the Habs’ five-game win-streak coming to an end on Wednesday, the team would no doubt like to find that momentum again before game one against the Rangers.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.63||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.97|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.94|
*Statistics do not reflect games played April 6, 2017
After winning ten games in the month of March, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave themselves a legitimate shot at a playoff berth after trailing behind for much of the year. It seems to have been too little too late however, as the Lightning would have to win-out at the time of writing in order to claim the final wild card spot and may already be mathematically eliminated.
Failure to reach the post-season this year is disappointing in Tampa, as many pegged the Bolts as favourites for the Atlantic Division crown heading into the season. With only two games remaining on the schedule, there’s not much left to play for in Tampa - though a win over the Habs this evening could serve to deflate a division rival heading into a tough first-round match-up.
For as close as the Lightning came to qualifying for the playoffs, it’s hard not to make the obvious excuse for them. Steven Stamkos played just 17 games this season before falling to injury back in November, and it’s probably fair to assume that they might have made up the narrow margin by which they missed had their captain been consistently in the line-up.
Stamkos’ absence did give Nikita Kucherov a platform to elevate his game, however, as the 23-year-old has emerged as one of the most dominant scorers in the league. Kucherov has hit career-highs in both goals with 38 and points with 81 this year, helping to make up for the offence lost due to Stamkos’ injury.
Kucherov isn’t the only member of the Lightning having a career year, though, as Victor Hedman has taken his game to another level as well. The Swedish blue-liner has tallied 67 points this year, which is good for third among NHL defencemen and will likely see him earn a Norris Trophy nomination.
Ultimately, it has been a down year for the Lightning franchise but one that will serve as a building block for many players. Kucherov and Hedman have shown that they can play at an elite level, while a young Jonathan Drouin has really found his way in the league this season. With Andrei Vasilevskiy gaining more experience, and a clean-slate health-wise next season, the Lightning should have little trouble bouncing back.