The defending Stanley Cup Champions will officially raise their banner in Wednesday’s home opener. The Tampa Bay Lightning will unveil their second championship banner in their season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Due to rising COVID cases, the Lightning will not have fans in attendance at Amalie Arena. However, fans can watch the banner rise during the pregame ceremony starting at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports.
Today is the day!
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 13, 2021
Lightning Going Back to Back?
The Lightning are coming into the season right where they ended, at the top. According to NBC Sports, Tampa Bay is already atop the list for NHL power rankings.
The loss of Nikita Kucherov for the regular season doesn’t stop the Lightning from being a way-too-early Stanley Cup favorite heading into the season. The Bolts’ right-wing led the team in points, goals and assists in the 2020 season. However, offseason hip surgery will keep Kucherov from the ice for the entire regular season.
Despite the absence of their leading scorer, Tampa Bay won’t be without a plethora of offensive talent.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is returning from offseason core muscle surgery but looks to enter this season without limitations. The captain missed the later half of the Stanley Cup finals due to the injury but managed to make an impact through the first three games. Last season, Stamkos recorded 29 goals and 27 assists as the Lightning’s second-leading scorer.
The 2020 playoffs saw the rise of center Brayden Point. In his fourth season with the Lightning, Point led the team with 14 goals in the postseason. In combination with Point, Ondrej Palat found a rhythm in last year’s playoffs. The loss of Kucherov will have an impact on this Lightning offense. However, the depth of this roster should be able to keep the Tampa Bay offense as dominant as they were last season.
On the opposite end, the Lightning defense enters this season with solid leadership. The consistency of defenseman Victor Hedman should keep the Lightning offense competitive. In addition, the Lightning enter Wednesday night’s matchup with a talent in goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goalkeeper had the third-highest number of saves in the league while recording a save percentage of .917 last season.
A Look at Chicago
The Blackhawks will face a tough opponent in their season opener against the Lightning. After a rough 2019-2020 season, the Blackhawks enter this season with some fresh faces. The organization made note that the focus of this season would be to “develop young players” in a letter sent out to fans.
However, much like the Lightning, the Blackhawks do have some experienced veterans to keep them competitive against the Lightning. The Blackhawks’ leading scorer, Patrick Kane, will be one of the leading veterans for Chicago. The rightwing led the team in points, assists and goals in the 2019-2020 season.
With a plethora of new talent, a test against one of the leagues’ best teams could make a unique start to the season.