It’s that time again. With the Penguins and Lightning set to square off tomorrow, we checked in with George from Raw Charge to get some insight on some things Tampa Bay-related.
Why do the Penguins keep playing Tampa Bay in the second leg of a back to back? Does the NHL hate us?
Quirks of the schedule. And no, the NHL certainly does not hate the Penguins. Otherwise, the Penguins wouldn't continue to be put in outdoor games with all of the other re-treaded match-ups.
FAIR POINT BY YOU.
This is not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when.’ When Nikita Kucherov scores against the Penguins, how many goals will it be? But for real, how about this ridiculous season he’s having?
Kucherov has slowed down a little bit the past week or so. We knew it would happen sooner or later as he was riding a ridiculously unsustainable shooting percentage. Some of it is also that teams are keying in on him and that's just opening up his playmaking abilities, which are just as sharp as his shooting skills, to set-up Stamkos and Namestnikov who have both picked up their goal scoring in the past couple of weeks.
Talk about an abundance of riches. I guess us Penguins fans would know about that.
What kind of drop-off will there be from Vasilevskiy to Budaj? Will this help the Penguins chances?
Huge drop-off and yes, it'll help you guys. Budaj had an incredible season with the Kings last year, but at least some of that was due to their defensive systems. It was a career year for a goaltender already past 30 years old. He's a good veteran to have paired with Vasilevskiy, but I'd be nervous at least at first if he was needed for #1 duties for a longer period. Our drop from #2 to #3 though is a rather small and that was improved by trading Michael Leighton and Tye McGinn to Arizona for Louis Domingue.
Finally we catch a break maybe?
It’s Tampa Bay’s division to lose this year, right? Are there any teams in the division you could see taking them out of 1st place?
Toronto is the only team that really worries me in that regard. We had a lot of debates with Leafs fans and plenty of other prognosticators that though the Leafs were already a lock to be #1 in the Atlantic. My thought then, and my thoughts continue to be, that the real test comes down to Vasilevskiy vs. Andersen. Both teams have elite offensive forwards. Both teams have a pretty good defense, though I think the Lightning have taken an edge in the early season because of Sergachev's ascendance. But the big question for me came down to which goaltender performed better over the course of the season for which team ended up as #1.
I can’t disagree with this really. I don’t think any other Atlantic teams have shown the strength over a full season to overtake how Tampa Bay has looked so far.
Do you love Chris Kunitz? Please take care of him. Please.
He's just been OK on the ice. He's playing a fourth line role for the Lightning and hasn't produced much offense. He's not on the power play and hasn't spent a lot of time killing penalties either which is keeping his ice time fairly low. But I don't think you can understate the impact he has in the locker room as a guy that's been there, done that... four times... which is insane. With some of the tidbits that have come out about last season, the team definitely missed the presence of Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan in the locker room. Both even traveled with the team later in the season on road trips despite their injuries just to be there and be around the team. They are both voices that are listened to in the locker room and Kunitz and Dan Girardi have added two different perspectives that aren't afraid to speak up and give their input.
This is an acceptable answer. It’s not surprising for a guy who is 38 to be slowing down on the ice. What a player though, and what a leader. Those little things that he can pick up during all those playoff games, Cup runs, Stanley Cups...they mean a lot.
Much thanks to George for stopping by to give us a little insight on the Lightning. I am fairly certain that this is the final matchup between the teams this season, and I also think I can speak for everyone when i say....thank God.