clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay Lightning prove it's better to be lucky than good

New, comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning of the regular season were dominant, aggressive, and unstoppable offensively. In the playoffs -- they've proven it's better to be lucky than good.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

We're still waiting for the dominant version of the Tampa Bay Lightning from this regular season to make their appearance in these playoffs.

Outside of maybe Game 1 vs. Detroit (a loss, ironically), the Bolts haven't really displayed the 5v5 dominance that led them to a 50-win regular season. They stole a pair of games in Round 1 vs. the Wings and at least one more last night at Amalie Arena, getting outshot 31-19 and outchanced 29-18 but pulling out a 2-1 victory on a last-second Tyler Johnson goal.

It's frustrating to watch at times, with the Lightning bottled up by Montreal's forecheck and seemingly unable to complete simple breakout patterns, or worse, relegated to long chip-outs and dump-ins they have no hope of retrieving. Playing keepaway and hoping Ben Bishop keeps pucks out is not a good look for this Lightning squad; they won 50+ games by controlling the pace of play, not collapsing to the front of the net, forcing perimeter shots, and looking to counterattack.

The Lightning were a 53.0% Corsi For team in the regular season, good for 4th in the NHL. They were one of the best puck possession teams in the league, and it showed. That's Jon Cooper hockey -- aggressive, relentless, not even letting the other team have a say in things. In the playoffs, that number is down to 47.2%, ahead of only the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators, most of whom have been eliminated. They're not playing Jon Cooper hockey. They're playing "let's get a lead and hope we can hold it" hockey, which is an ugly, ugly look for them. Long-time Tampa Bay Lightning fans will remember John Tortorella's "Safe is Death" mantra. It's one the Bolts are currently ignoring.

Sort the teams rated by PDO (shooting % + save % at 5v5) instead of Corsi and the Lightning come in 2nd (104.3) behind only the Anaheim Ducks. The Lightning are stocked with shooting talent, so a high PDO isn't totally outrageous, but 104.3 is crazy-high and outside of Tyler Johnson most of the shooters have gone cold; the Bolts are winning games primarily because of Ben Bishop's play, and not the team's as a whole. That's not a good recipe for sustainable success.

In small samples, like playoff series, it's better to get bounces than control play -- just as the Habs after last night's effort -- but all year long the Lightning enjoyed a very sustainable process that led to good results. They had the puck; the other guys didn't. Tyler Johnson's last second goal was euphoric and relieving and incredible to watch, but it doesn't change the fact that Tampa Bay got their lunch handed to them throughout most of the game and only appeared to wake up after Montreal tied it in the third period. Consistently winning games is difficult when you're chasing play for 55 minutes. While it's nice to see the Lightning win in a new way, it's time to go back to the old one if they want to continue to advance.