Scouting Report: The Blue Jackets Wrap Up 2017 by Hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning

By Jeff Svoboda on December 31, 2017 at 7:05 am
The Lightning return to Columbus
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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Columbus Blue Jackets (22–14–3) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (27-8-2)


2017 wasn't a bad year for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team made its return to the playoffs, it finished a historic 16-game win streak, and it put itself in position to return again to the postseason in 2018.

So the Blue Jackets hope to bid the calendar year a happy adieu on Sunday as it hosts a New Year's Eve contest vs. Tampa Bay, which has had its own star-crossed year. The Lightning, coming off an Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2016, missed the postseason last year during an injury-marred campaign, but with the team healthy this year and Andrei Vasilevskiy turning into a consistent netminder, the men by the bay have asserted themselves as one of the strongest contenders for the Stanley Cup.

We'll only see one more hockey game this year in Columbus. Let's make it a good one.

You Oughta Know: Andrei Vasilevskiy

When you play Tampa Bay, you play some of the best players in the league. Stamkos. Kucherov. Hedman. It's a group that can put the puck in the net with the best of them. But one key piece of the puzzle this year is the emergence of Vasilevskiy, who has become one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL. Two years ago, Ben Bishop led the team to a long postseason run, but the Russian-born Vasilevskiy supplanted him last year. A first-round pick in the 2012 draft, the 23-year-old takes up a lot of space at 6-3 and boasts a career record of 65-37-9. This year, he's 24-5-1, with the most wins in the NHL.

Fast Facts
  • Tampa Bay already has two months with 10 wins. The Lightning went 10-2-1 in the season's first month of October and already boast a 10-2 record during the month of December.
  • The Lightning has followed a stretch of three losses in four games with a 10-2-0 mark in its last 12.
  • Forward Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in scoring with 54 points and has 14 points during a nine-game point streak.
Previous Matchups

THIS YEAR: The Blue Jackets are 0-1-1 vs. the Lightning this season, dropping a 2-0 decision at home before a shootout loss in Tampa in November.
LAST YEAR: Columbus went 3-0 vs. Tampa Bay last year.

Keys to the Game

ONE: Keep the pressure on. Most teams have a losing record when ceding the first goal, but Tampa Bay is 10-4-2 when the opponent scores first and 4-3-2 when trailing after a period. This is a team that can come back, so Columbus most play all 60 minutes.

TWO: No easy ones. Tampa Bay has some of the best scorers in the league, and the Jackets made it easier on them than need to in the last meeting with some rough turnovers and too many penalties against the league's best power play. Columbus must make the Lightning work for its goals.

THREE: Big game from big guns. Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella hasn't shied away from playing his best players against those of the opposition. For Columbus to win this one, the top line has to come through.

Lightning Projected Lineup

# Player Stats # Player Stats # Player Stats
18 Ondrej Palat 37 GP, 7-17-24 21 Brayden Point 37 GP, 16-18-34 9 Tyler Johnson 36 GP, 10-17-27
86 Nikita Kucherov 37 GP, 24-30-54 91 Steven Stamkos 37 GP, 16-32-48 90 Vlad Namestnikov 37 GP, 15-17-32
89 Cory Conacher 13 GP, 2-3-5 37 Yanni Gourde 37 GP, 11-13-24 17 Alex Killorn 37 GP, 4-17-21
14 Chris Kunitz 37 GP, 5-5-10 13 Cedric Pacquette 22 GP, 0-2-2 29 Slater Koekkoek (D) 20 GP, 3-3-6
Defensive Pairs
# Player Stats # Player Stats
77 Victor Hedman 37 GP, 4-23-27 39 Jake Dotchin 27 GP, 2-5-7
98 Mikhail Sergachev 37 GP, 8-15-23 5 Dan Girardi 37 GP, 2-7-9
55 Braydon Coburn 31 GP, 0-7-7 62 Andrej Sustr 19 GP, 2-0-2
# Player GP W-L-OL GAA SV% SO
88 Andrei Vasilevskiy 31 24-5-1 2.08 .934 4
35 Louis Domingue 7 0-6-0 4.33 .856 0
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