NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.
The Lightning are clearly one of the top teams in the NHL today. They won the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference last year, and they’re off to a 5-1-1 start in 2018-19. Believe it or not, through seven games, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov aren’t even among their team’s top three scorers. That just goes to show what kind of depth the Bolts possess up front. Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and J.T. Miller lead the way in scoring with eight points each. Kucherov (seven points) and Stamkos (three points) aren’t too far behind.
Heading into tonight’s contest, the Lightning own the third best goal-differential in the league at plus-10. Only the Avs (plus-13) and the Predators (plus-11) are better in that category. There’s no denying it, the Lightning are a dangerous team and a Stanley Cup threat.
In Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa set a new NHL record by recording 33 shots in the second period.
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“I don’t know, I guess it feels good,” Tyler Johnson said of setting the record, per NHL.com. “It’s what we try to do every period. We always try to say get that shot volume. We’re getting pucks to the net, we’re getting those [quality] opportunities. We just have that mentality. We’re a good team when we have that.”
Stopping the Lightning won’t be easy, but if there’s one team that can, it’s Colorado.
The Avs are coming off a 4-1 win in Philly on Monday, which means they’ve now rattled off three victories in a row. Their top line is a big reason why they’ve been so hard to play against. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have combined to score 24 points in their last four games. That’s ridiculous. MacKinnon and Rantanen have picked up at least one point in each of Colorado’s nine games this season. Again, that’s insane.
“He’s just so dominant,” MacKinnon said of Rantanen, per TSN.ca. “He eats up a lot of tough ice down low, takes a lot of pressure off of me. I’m grateful that he has both great vision and finish. It’s fun playing with a guy like that. He makes me better, he does things that I don’t do.”
Another huge part of their success can be found between the pipes. There’s always question marks surrounding Semyon Varlamov because of his injury history, but he’s been terrific this season. Varlamov has a 4-0-2 record with a 1.64 goals-against-average and a .953 save percentage this season. He’s allowed more than two goals in a game just once this season. As potent as the Avalanche’s top forwards have been, they probably wouldn’t be able to post the numbers they have without strong goaltending at the other end.
In the earlier game, the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Winnipeg Jets beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.
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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.