Both placed in the newly reshuffled Central Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks will face off against each other on the first day of the 2020-21 season, with the traveling ‘Hawks paying a visit to the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
No Crawford, No Party?Even though the Chicago Blackhawks finished the 2019-20 regular season in the last place of the Central Division (32-30-8), they still made the expanded 24-team postseason, knocked the Edmonton Oilers out of the qualifying round (3-1) and played the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years, eventually losing it in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights (1-4). Patrick Kane led the team with 33 goals and 84 points during the regular campaign and added further two strikes and seven assists throughout the postseason. He has picked up 22 points (8 goals, 14 helpers) in 19 previous contests against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
OFFICIAL: We're excited to announce a two-year contract extension for Head Coach Jeremy Colliton.— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 12, 2021
Having opted not to re-sign goalie Corey Crawford, who announced his retirement last week, the ‘Hawks will now rely on Malcolm Subban (30-23-7 in his NHL career with a 2.97 GAA and a .899 save percentage) and Collin Delia (7-5-3 with a 3.65 GAA and a .906 save percentage) to keep the cage safe. Neither Delia nor Subban have faced the Bolts before. Chicago, meanwhile, finished last year, scoring the 14th lowest amount of goals per game (2.97), while conceding the 15th highest quantity in its defensive zone (3.06). The team was 4th from the bottom in power play with a 15.2% success rate and 8th in penalty kill with 82.1% efficiency.
Bolts Begin Title DefenseIn 2018-19, the Tampa Bay Lightning became only the second team in NHL history to win 62 regular-season games, but ended up being humiliated in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Columbus Blue Jackets sweeping the series 4-0. Fast forward a year-and-a-half, and the Bolts are the champions! They finished the regular campaign 2nd in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference (43-21-6), overcame the Jackets (4-1), Boston Bruins (4-1) and New York Islanders (4-2) in the first three rounds before beating the Dallas Stars in six contests (4-2) in the Final. Nikita Kucherov, who led the team with 33 goals and 85 points during the regular campaign before adding further 34 points (7 strikes, 27 assists) in the postseason, will miss the entire new regular term due to hip surgery.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will play his seventh season with the Bolts after going 35-14-3 last year with a 2.56 GAA and a .917 save percentage. He produced an 18-7 showing in the playoffs with a 1.90 GAA and a .927 save percentage and has registered a perfect 4-0-0 career tally against the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1.99 GAA and a .941 save percentage. Tampa Bay closed last season, netting the absolute highest number of goals per game (3.47), while giving up the 7th lowest amount on the defensive end (2.77). The team ranked 5th in power play (23.1%) and 13th in penalty kill (81.4%).
- Blackhawks are 0-4 in their last 4 road games.
- Lightning are 8-1 in their last 9 against the Blackhawks.