February 09 2010 11:01AM
Steve Stamkos is quietly having a great season down in Tampa Bay.
The Vancouver Canucks continue their epic pre-Olympic road trip as they head to sunny state of Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canucks look to continue a winning stretch after bumping a 2-goal losing slump woth a win against Boston on Saturday.
Despite the two losses on this roadtrip, the Canucks are still one of the hottest teams in the league winning 8 of their last 10 games. The Lightning, meanwhile, are also heating up before the Olympics, as they've gone 6-1-1 over their eight games.
At home, the Lightning are a tough opponent. They have a decent penalty kill and power play, ranking 9th and 10th respectively. Where Tampa Bay really struggles is 5-on-5. The Lightning are 28th in the league in goals-for when 5-on-5. So the key to playing the Lightning is to stay disciplined and keep the game moving. The more time spent at even-strength, the greater the chance to win for Vancouver. Tampa Bay are decent defensively, sitting in the middle of the league in a number of defensive categories, but their surprising Achilles heel is their inability to score goals. Despite all their firepower, Tampa Bay is having trouble scoring this year. They sit 27th in total goals-for, and have only two players with more that 20 goals (Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone). They also have only 6 players with a +/- over 0, and only one player with double-digit +/-, with Steve Downie at +13.
All that being said, the Lightning have the one player who is flying lowest under the radar than anyone else. Steven Stamkos already has 32goals this season, and will very likely hit 40 goals by year's end. Not bad for a sophomore who spent a lot of time last year in and out of the line-up.
The game plan for the Canucks should be to contain Stamkos and stay disciplined. If they can do that, and Luongo is having a solid game, the Canucks should be able to get their record on this roadtrip back over .500.