Columbus Blue Jackets (42-31-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (43-27-9)
|Date & Time||Friday April 11, 2014, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Tampa Bay Lightning -122 / Columbus Blue Jackets +111 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
At this point it's all about preparing for the Montreal Canadiens if you're a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. These newly formed Atlantic Division rivals are on a collision course to meet in the first round with the only thing up for grabs being home ice. The Lightning have handled the Canadiens this season, winning three of the four contests between the clubs this year, but avoiding having to play in Montreal at the Bell Centre for a potential seventh game should be a high priority for them. The Martin St. Louis saga is now over and while general manager Steve Yzerman didn't want to make the deal, it might actually be beneficial for his club in the post season. The emergence of Ondrej Palat has helped add another goal scorer to this club and Ryan Callahan's addition really gives this team the type of player that you need to be successful in the playoffs. The biggest concern right now is the health of Ben Bishop who was injured in Tuesday night's contest and isn't expected to be ready for the start of the post season. The good news if you're a Lightning fan is that Anders Lindback, who was supposed to be the guy to take the reigns as the No. 1 goalie when he was acquired, has filled in admirably since Bishop went down. Lindback got the nod on Thursday night with the Philadelphia Flyers in town and rose to the challenge. Lindback made 36 saves, including 27 in the first two periods, as the Lightning defeated the Flyers by a score of 4-2 on Thursday night. Richard Panik broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period and Eric Brewer made it a two goal lead before the Flyers cut the deficit in half. Steven Stamkos sealed the victory with a power play goal and Tyler Johnson also scored in the first period. This is a sneaky, dangerous team and it should be a lot of fun watching them skate up and down the ice with the Canadiens in the first round. The Lightning still have to be hoping that BIshop can get back quickly with the season that he's had but it Lindback can put this kind of game together consistently then the Lightning have themselves a good problem. They'll get a stiff challenge on Friday night from a Columbus Blue Jackets club that has clinched a playoff spot but is doing everything in their power to avoid a first round match up with the Boston Bruins.
Columbus has won three in a row and four of their last five to guarantee themselves a spot in the post season for just the second time in franchise history. This BLue Jackets team will look to be the first team in franchise history to actually win a playoff game, with the previous one having been swept in the first round. It's going to be a struggle for the Blue Jackets in the post season because they really don't have a ton of goal scoring. Ryan Johansen has been unbelievable but as a team there aren't a ton of threats that really make the opposition worried. Still, they're one of those dangerous clubs that just come at you shift after shift and wear your down physically. A first round match up with just about anyone besdies Boston would give them a reasonable chance to pull the upset, which is why this game on Thursday night is so important for them. Sergei Bobrovsky also gives them a legitimate goaltender that can steal games against some of the best clubs in the league. Wednesday night the Blue Jackets continued their game with the Dallas Stars and Artem Anisimov quickly added to their 1-0 lead with his 22nd goal of the season just 1:33 into the game. Mark Letestu also added a first period goal and the Blue Jackets held on for the 3-1 win. It was a challenge as the Stars outshot the Blue Jackets 18-2 over the final period and managed to get themselves on the board, but Bobrovsky stopped 17 of the 18 shots in the period to lift Columbus to the 3-1 win. A first round match up with the New York Rangers would be a dream come true for this team and if they can just find a way to win out that's a very likely scenario for them. Expect another solid effort from this club in the sunshine state on Friday.