NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Tuesday night. In the early game, the New Jersey Devils host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.
The Lightning are coming off a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. For the sixth game in a row, Nikita Kucherov managed to find the back of the net (he actually scored twice, including the game-winner).
When injuries were piling up for the Bolts last season, the Russian winger was the guy they relied on to get the job done. This season, that hasn’t changed. The Lightning are healthier than they were a year ago, but he just keeps on rolling.
Another player who’s performed well, is goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The young netminder became the full-time starter when the Lightning traded Ben Bishop to the Kings last season. Although he had some ups and downs last year, he’s been terrific this season.
His individual numbers might not jump off the page (3.00 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage), but he’s come up with a number of big saves already in 2017-18. Last night’s game against the Wings was no different.
“He’s our starter for a reason,” head coach Jon Cooper said after the win over the Wings, per the Tampa Times. “If you want to win in this league, you have to check and you need your goaltender to bail you out on occasions. And the times we haven’t been checking, Vasy has bailed us out.”
After missing the playoffs last season, many expected the Lightning to be better now. The same can not be said for the Devils, but they’ve been one of the pleasant surprises so far.
New Jersey has a 4-1-0 record and they own a plus-8 goal differential. This young team has really come together early, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to keep it together.
Rookies Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt have been nothing short of fantastic in the early going. Butcher, who the Devils signed as a college free agent this summer, has eight assists in five games. Bratt has accumulated six points in five contests, which isn’t bad for a 19-year-old drafted in the sixth round.
“He’s a good player,” forward Drew Stafford said of Butcher, per NJ.com. “You guys are seeing that. Doesn’t really surprise me anymore. He’s a heck of a player, so for him to have the success that he’s had so far — granted, it’s power play — but that’s something I feel like he can ride as far as he can.”
In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Montreal Canadiens at 10:00 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here.
It’s been a tough start to the year for the Canadiens, as they’ve managed to come away with one win in their first five contests.
Despite adding Jonathan Drouin this off-season and having Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and a few others, Montreal is still the only team in the league to has played five games and scored less than 10 goals.
They scored a season-high three goals against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, but they fell 4-3 in overtime thanks to Auston Matthews‘ game-winner.
“I think our guys are focused on what needs to be done internally, inside the dressing room, and what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Claude Julien said, per the Montreal Gazette. “I think so far they’ve done a pretty good job of that. There’s no doubt when you got some guys that are goal-scorers that haven’t scored yet … it’s a normal thing that they might be squeezing the stick a little bit. But that’s what they got to overcome and that’s what we got to try and do and improve our game as we go along here.”
Pacioretty scored a goal in the season opener against Buffalo, but he hasn’t found the back of the net since. Drouin and Galchenyuk both netted their first goals of the season on Saturday night. Three goals in five games from those three players simply isn’t enough.
This will be the first of a three-game road swing in California that never seems to treat the Canadiens well.
Things haven’t been much better for the San Jose Sharks, as they have just one win in four contests.
“It’s on us as players,” Logan Couture said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “If we’re playing well, then the lines aren’t going to change. If we’re not, then they’re going to change them around. How we play will dictate what the lineup is.
“No one’s scoring. You could say our line’s not scoring and we’re not, but no one is. As a team, we’ve got to find ways to create some more offense.”
The Sharks have scored eight goals, like Montreal, but in one less game. Kevin Labanc has three of the eight markers.
If you’re a betting person, you may want to look at the under in this one, but weird things seem to happen when east coast teams go play out west.
Enjoy the hockey!
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.
MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: