Today’s NHL Predictions features a cross-conference matchup. We will look at Tampa Bay Lightning (25-18-5) predictions, as they take on the Arizona Coyotes (23-19-4). On Tuesday night, the Lightning rebounded after Sunday’s loss with a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning registered two goals on the power play, and all their stars came to play. Furthermore, Nikita Kucherov recorded a four-point performance, which included a hat trick.

On the other side of this matchup, the Coyotes continue to take strides in the right direction as an organization. Clayton Keller leads the change with 19 goals and 42 points. Moreover, Lawson Crouse and Michael Carcone have found their goal-scoring touch with 18 and 15 goals respectively. The main storyline of Arizona this season has been the emergence of goaltender Connor Ingram. He ranks third in goals saved above expected (15.3 GSAx) in the league.

Tampa Bay recovered nicely after a low-scoring loss in Detroit. The Lightning rank third in the Atlantic Division with 55 points. Once again, the ability of minor league players to filter in Jon Cooper’s system is remarkable. Maxwell Crozier and Emil Martinsen Lilleberg have been excellent on the back end with all the injuries. Here are three keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.

NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Arizona Coyotes

Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay

Attack Off The Rush

The Lightning must produce scoring chances off the rush against the Coyotes to find success. For reference, we will be using multiple microstats workbooks to explain why. The two workbooks include our tracking project for Tampa Bay here at Last Word and Corey Sznajder’s annual season tracking at All Three Zones.

To start, we will evaluate how well the Coyotes defend the rush. To answer that question, Arizona allows 11.595 chances off zone entries per hour, the 8th most in the league. Furthermore, they are aggressive on the blue line.

Tampa Bay has improved their attack off the rush throughout the season. In two recently tracked games against the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings, the Lightning have outshot their opponents 20-14 on the rush. In other words, the Lightning controls 58.8% of the rush shots at 5v5. The Bolts must replicate this attack against an aggressive back end in Arizona.

Solid Special Teams Performance

Believe it or not, special teams may be the deciding factor in this matchup. The Lightning power play remains at the top of the NHL with a 30.5% conversion rate. However, the Coyotes’ penalty kill ranks 19th with a 79.6% success rate. Arizona allows the 11th-most expected goals against per hour shorthanded (8.84 xGA/60). The Lightning must turn to their stars to find the back of the net on the power play.

However, Arizona also has a respectable power play. Their units operate at a 23% conversion rate, tied for tenth in the league. The Lightning penalty kill has tailed off compared to the start of the season and years past, but they still rank 13th with an 80.8% success rate. The Lightning are without their shorthanded time-on-ice leader, Erik Cernak. Therefore, the Bolts will need their rookies to step up and help kill off powerplays.

Shots From Faceoffs

While studies show that faceoffs are not nearly as vital to wins as many hockey fans believe, the Coyotes are amongst the worst teams in the face-off circle this season. Their 45.6 win percentage ranks 31st in the NHL. On the other hand, the Lightning are a solid face-off team. The Bolts rank 11th with a 51.2 win percentage on faceoffs. 

This lopsided statistic is hard to ignore heading into the game. Tampa Bay must rely on their face-off plays to find quick shots and maintain possession in the offensive zone. Ingram will not be easy to beat in goal, so the Lightning must wear out the Coyotes’ defence through puck possession. 

Prediction Time

The Lightning and Flyers meet for the second time this season at Amalie Arena. In their previous match, the Coyotes defeated the Lightning by a score of 3-2. Unfortunately, the Lightning are still without Mikhail Sergachev and Cernak. The Lightning will be in for a test against Ingram, who has been one of the best goaltenders to date this season. The Coyotes also have sneaky weapons in Logan Cooley and Matias Maccelli.

On a side note, we will continue to expand the microstats workbook and share findings via articles. Additionally, the data has complimented our prediction articles fabulously. We believe the Lightning take the final meeting between these two clubs this season.

Prediction: Tampa Bay wins 5-3

Sources

Microstats via LastWordOnSports (Jack Pallotta and Kyle Pereira)

On-Ice Statistics via NaturalStatTrick

Microstats via AllThreeZones

Main Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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