Almost ten years later and I still can't see tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning as any old regular season game. Despite the fact that after Martin St. Louis was traded, this team doesn't resemble the one that snatched the Cup from our collective grasp in June 2004 in any way, shape or form, every fiber of my being wants the Flames to crush them.
The chances of that happening are pretty unlikely; the Flames are on a two-game losing streak and the Bolts are third best in the East. So let's get to it...
Tampa Bay Lightning (42-25-9, 93 points, 3rd in East)
Tampa's stellar home record and a successful run of 7-1-2 in their past ten games have propelled them to the top of their division and third place in the Eastern Conference with 93 points.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Bolts' success this season is that much of it has been achieved without Steven Stamkos, who broke his leg in early November and missed 45 games, finally returning to NHL action in March.
But as NHL.com writer Corey Masisak argues, Tampa did just fine without him, and actually improved its puck possession numbers. The Lightning were top ten in the league in Corsi without their star forward, and pushing the puck in the right direction was a big part of the reason they remained successful.
Ben Bishop has really delivered for the Lightning in net this season. Through 60 games, the goalie has five shutouts (including a 2-0 blanking of the Flames back in January at the Saddledome) and an SV% of .927. The Lightning also have a +24 goal differential this season, which will make any goalie look good.
Combined with impressive seasons from Tampa's youngsters Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn, the Lightning (unfortunately) look to be in pretty good shape going forward.
Players to Watch
- The aforementioned Ondrej Palat has 19 goals and 53 points in his first full season as member of the Lightning, and is a serious contender for the NHL's rookie of the year trophy. Palat's point-per-game performance in March earned him rookie of the month honours from the league.
- Steven Stamkos has nine goals and 13 points in his past 11 games since returning to the lineup for Tampa.
- Michael Kostka it out with a concussion for the Lightning.
Calgary Flames (31-38-7, 69 points, 14th in West)
Players to Watch
- Matt Stajan has two goals and two assists in his past four games, but will not play tonight or for the remainder of the Flames' road trip after returning to Calgary for personal reasons. Stajan previously took a leave of absence from the team in early March following the death of his newborn son.
Matt Stajan has returned to Calgary to be with his family for the rest of this road trip. Paul Byron also won't play tonight. #Flames— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) April 3, 2014
- Mike Cammalleri was held pointless in Toronto, but has a goal and two assists in his past three games.