The Tampa Bay Lightning are seen as one of the most talent rich teams in all of hockey. They have superb scoring ability with the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point. They have some great defensemen in Ryan McDonough and the 2018 Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman. On top of all of that, they have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. Oh and don’t forgot about their young players as well. They have rising stars such as an unbelievable two-way forward in Anthony Cirelli and promising defensemen in Erik Cernak along with Mikhail Sergachev. These are just a handful of the puzzle pieces that head coach Jon Cooper has to play with. Most NHL teams would give up tons of capital in order to assemble just half of those players on one team. However, Jon Cooper has yet to hoist a cup. His team seems to be skidding from the outside looking in to start off the season. Is this cause for concern? Or is the hockey community as a whole doing a disservice to the Lightning and setting the bar too high? We’ll dive a bit deeper and look at the raw numbers.
Numbers With Context
The Tampa Bay Lightning had one of the best seasons in NHL history in their 2018-2019 campaign. Anybody who followed the Lightning will appreciate just how good of a season the Bolts had. Take away all of the sheer numbers that in fact confirm how great the Lightning were. Just on the eye test alone, the Lightning looked as if they were playing NHL 19 on rookie mode throughout the season. They toyed with opponents on both specialty units and weren’t too shabby five-on-five as well. Still, many will remember the season for the way it ended. Instead, I suggest you remember just how dominant this team was. That said, lets look into how the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 team compare through ten games.
2018-2019 (10 Games): 7-2-1, 15 points
2019-2020 (10 Games): 5-3-2, 12 points
Looking at just pure standings numbers, we see pretty clearly that the Lightning aren’t too far from last years figures. Even without proper context, we see that only three points separate both teams. Add in the fact that if the Lightning would’ve won only one of their OTL’s we would only see a one point difference. Now, if we extrapolate a little further we see that through ten games in 18′-19′ the Lightning played at home one more time. Dive even deeper, and according to Hockey-reference.com, the Lightning have the toughest strength of schedule so far. This contrasts the 2018-2019 season when they had the second easiest strength of schedule.
Odd Stat Out
We see that these two teams are similar statistically. However, what gives? To me this is a two-parter and it involves goals against, along with the Lightnings’ special teams play. The Lightning so far have given up 32 goals against. On the other side of the rink, they’ve potted 34 goals for. Both of these measures aren’t terribly bad or terribly good compared with the rest of league. However, the biggest drop-off has been the Bolts’ special teams play. They currently rank 10th in the NHL for power play percentage at 24%. This isn’t too far off of the 2018-2019 percentage through the first 10 games when they were at 26%. The glaring stat is that of the teams’ penalty kill. Currently in that stat they rank 28th in the NHL. Last year the Lightning boasted the regular season’s best penalty kill.
The Final Verdict
Listen up fellow Bolts fans. The Lightning are and will continue to be a talented and well coached team. How will they finish? Will they make the playoffs? Will Stammer, Kuch, and Heddy finally hoist a cup? I cannot see into the future, therefore I cannot answer any of these questions. I do however know that the panic button should by no means be pushed. Jon Cooper’s seat is nice and frosty and his team is prepared to strike. As we see above, statistically the Lightning are not far off from last years historic season through ten games. A little deflection here and a stop there and the Tampa Bay Lightning are still seen as the league’s biggest threat. All the Bolts need to do is stop committing costly penalties, have a sharper penalty kill, and tighten up defensively as a whole.