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Tampa Bay Lightning Ten Game Report: A solid start to a long season

Seven wins in ten games and playing well.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lighting have officially played 10 games in the 2018-2019 season. You know what that means: the triumphant return of the ten game report! Oh, what’s that? No one remembers what the ten game report is? And no one was looking forward to it except me? Ah, well, nevertheless.

If you’re not familiar with the format, the goal of the ten game report is to take a snapshot of the Lightning’s play to this point in the season and give them a progress report. Starting with the next report, we’ll make comparisons between the current ten games and the previous ten games. But with the team only having played ten games so far, we can’t do that yet.

All data in this article is via the spectacular Corsica. The team numbers are adjusted for score and venue (home/away). The skater numbers are adjusted for both of those and for zone starts.

The first chart below shows how the Lightning have played as a team. The left side of the chart focuses on 5v5 play and the right focuses on special teams.

The team’s profile broadly matches what we would expect based on how they’ve played under head coach Jon Cooper in recent seasons. The lineup is similar to last season, so it makes sense that the team would play a similar style. The biggest changes during the off season actually came on the coaching staff, but from a high level nothing here jumps out as being an obvious change in approach.

The Lightning continue to grade out as an average offensive team. They take few shots in front of the net and that leads to them measuring below average in generating dangerous shots. They rely on shots from the slot and trust that their shooting talent will be enough to beat opposing goaltenders.

Unfortunately, that talent hasn’t been enough yet this season. They are scoring goals slightly below the rate that would be expected based on the quality of the shots they generate. That’s something to watch as the season progresses. The Lightning have typically outscored their expected goals by quite a bit and if that doesn’t happen this year, it could become an issue. This team doesn’t get many tips around the net or generate many rebounds so they need their snipers to perform well.

Defensively, the Lightning look great on paper. The most recent showing in Arizona might make that tough to believe, but they were doing a great job preventing opponents from generating dangerous chances and, therefore, limiting expected goals before that game.

The goaltending at 5v5 hasn’t been good so far this year. Part of that can be attributed to Louis Domingue’s rough game in net against the Coyotes, but Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t started strong at 5v5 either.

In total at 5v5, the Lightning are playing well. They’re hovering around the top five in expected goal share. The coaches will likely have some small things they would like to improve but, overall, things are going well to start the season.

On special teams, the Lightning power play shows a similar profile to their 5v5 offense. Again, their lack of activity around the net drives down their expected goals but their shooting talent is making up for that so far.

The penalty kill started the season on a tear. Part of that is good play by the skaters and part of that is outrageous goaltending. Vasilevskiy has been so great on the penalty kill that it compensates for his struggles at 5v5 and puts him near the top of the league in all situations goals saved above expected.

No team kills twenty-eight consecutive penalties without a bit of luck, and the Lighting got their fair share. But the skaters also played well limiting dangerous chances and suppressing expected goals. One area for improvement on the penalty kill is the amount of shots they allow. If they can get that number back closer to average, their ability to suppress shot danger will make it difficult for opponents to score.

With a good idea of how the team is playing as a whole, we can now dive into how the skaters are performing individually. To start, we’ll look at how each skater rates in Game Score. And from there, we’ll look a little deeper to get a more well-rounded perspective.

Game Score is a stat that weights box score stats to come up with a single metric. It tends to favor offensive results and can be points heavy, especially this early in the season. The chart below shows the forwards who meet the time on ice requirements.

Brayden Point leads the way with Nikita Kucherov and Yanni Gourde joining him in his strong start. Both Point and Gourde have been rewarded for their strong play by bumping up to a line with Steven Stamkos. Meanwhile, Kucherov is is reunited with the other two triplets, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, who have also started well.

At the bottom of the list, we find mostly bottom-six forwards. That makes sense because they haven’t done much scoring yet.

On defense, the story is more muted. Most players are hanging around average. Victor Hedman leads the way as expected with Mikhail Sergachev close behind. Surprisingly, Braydon Coburn makes an appearance on the right side of this graph after struggling last year. Perhaps being paired with Sergachev is giving him a bump.

For a more complete picture than game score provides, the next chart shows a variety of key indicators to help assess how the skaters have performed. On this chart, blue is good and orange is bad. The players are arranged first by position and then by 5v5 ice time.

The first thing that pops here is Adam Erne’s profile. He was scratched when Ryan Callahan returned to the lineup and didn’t get back on the ice until last game due to Palat’s injury. But in the games he’s played, he’s been great. In fact, looking at Erne’s profile right next to Callahan’s makes one wonder if the Bolts would be better off with Erne.

Another player who stands out here is Anthony Cirelli. He hasn’t found the scoring touch yet this year but he’s done everything else. Kucherov and Point are off to excellent starts just as we saw in the Game Score charts.

On defense, Anton Stralman’s profile is a bit concerning. I’m not going to get too worked up after ten games, but the Lightning need his trend to change. He’s counted on to play shut-down minutes with Ryan McDonagh and the team needs more from him than they’ve gotten so far.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Victor Hedman is a monster. The team needs him back in the lineup because he’s a special player and no amount of depth can compensate for missing him. Along with Hedman, Sergachev continues to impress. He’s not getting much ice time yet, probably because of his age, but that has to change at some point if he continues putting up results like this.

Through ten games, the Lightning are, well, just about what we expected. They’re among the best teams in the league by expected goal share and they’ve won seven games. They aren’t running teams out of the building the way they were early last season, but that’s fine. For a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations, this is a solid start to the season.