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So far, so good for Tampa Bay Lightning during critical stretch of divisional games

Slowly but surely Tampa Bay is crawling up the standings.

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

There’s nothing like beating the Detroit Red Wings for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The last time Tampa Bay lost a regular season game against Detroit was on November 3rd, 2015. Since then, Tampa Bay has won 16 consecutive games against the Red Wings. Yes, 16. In 2015-2016 they went 2-2, 2016-2017 they went 5-0, 2017-2018 they went 4-0, 2018-2019 they went 4-0, and last night was the first time the Lightning faced the Red Wings this season. Tampa Bay has had Detroit’s number for quite a while, more than any other team in the NHL over the same time-span.

One of the biggest takeaways Lightning fans should take from the team’s win over the Detroit Red Wings was that it was Tampa Bay’s best defensive performance of the season and the fifth best of the entire league through an expected goals lens. The Lightning limited Detroit to an xG of 1.06. Yes, it’s Detroit who is on pace to be historically bad this season, but for a team that has struggled to be consistent in their own end at times, it was a welcome change for Tampa Bay.

Like I mentioned in the Morning After Thoughts after the December 23rd Florida game, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed to capitalize on the next five games to make up significant ground against their divisional opponents. Now that we sit halfway through those stretch of games, the Lightning sit in fourth place in the division after last night’s win against the Detroit Red Wings.

Currently, they are one point behind the Florida Panthers for third place in the division and over these past three games, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league. Tampa Bay also has the second best points percentage in the division at .541 with the least amount of games played.

On this short three game winning streak (which is the third time they’ve strung that many consecutive wins together this season), they’ve controlled 56.82% of the shot attempts at 5v5 (6th), generated an xGF% of 58.06% (3rd), out chanced their opposition 89-54, and have gotten a strong performance from their goaltenders with a .947 save percentage.

Now, to counter this, Tampa Bay does have a PDO of 104 over that span. Bolstered both by their goaltending performance and their shooting percentage of 11%. For the season, the Lightning have averaged an 8% shooting percentage and a .918 save percentage at 5v5. It’s easy to see their numbers dipping a bit moving forward, however, given how poorly Tampa Bay started the season, let’s take a look at how much their play improved after their Global Series matchup against the Buffalo Sabres.

All Statistics are taken from 5v5 play

Lightning Splits Before and After Global Series

13 6 (23rd) 5 (T-8th) 2 (T-13th) 5 (T-25th) .538 (20th) 49% (23rd) 50% (19th) 9.52% (6th) .923 (14th)
24 14 (3rd) 8 (11th) 2 (8th) 14 (3rd) .625 (11th) 55% (4th) 56% (1st) 8.52% (12th) .915 (21st)

Hilariously, Tampa Bay’s shooting proficiency has dipped after their Global Series matchup, as has their goaltending. Though it should be noted that Curtis McElhinney has been stellar for the Lightning at 5v5 this season, so some of the goaltending before the Global Series is being propped up due to him. The biggest indicator that Tampa Bay should be fine moving forward is how they’re carrying play compared to earlier in the season. Like we’ve repeated before here at Raw Charge, Tampa Bay has been a top ten team in the league since their Global Series matchup, but have been stung by inconsistent goaltending.

If the Lightning can keep this style of play up, and there’s little reason to believe they won’t, and get improvement in Andrei Vasilevskiy’s play, then it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Tampa Bay could come storming through the standings. However, this is hockey and we all know it’s a dumb sport and it enjoys toying with our emotions. So, act accordingly.