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Tampa Bay Lightning Ten Game Report: Wrapping up the regular season

One last look at the team before the regular season ends.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lighting have played 80 games this season. They’ve won 60 of them. That’s quite something. The completion of the 80th game means that it’s time for the last ten-game report of the season here at Raw Charge.

This is the third season of these things, which means I’ve written over 20 of them. More than 20 times, we’ve gathered round the charts to try to understand how the team is playing. To be honest I’m not sure who this reflects worse on at this point: me for writing them or you for reading them.

Just kidding, here we are again. So as the team prepares to finish the regular season and head into another playoff run, let’s go through the ritual and see how the team looks on paper.

The Team

Data for this report comes from Offside Review and Evolving Hockey. We’ll start with a look at the team’s play as a whole. On this chart, the bars represent the full season, the orange dots are the last ten games, and the gray dots are the ten games before that.

Overall, the Lightning have had a much better second half of the season than last year. But even so, they’re into another weak stretch over the last ten games. The previous bad stretch was mostly due to poor offensive play. This time, the defense has been the issue.

That shouldn’t be too surprising considering the injuries on the blue line lately. Dan Girardi has been out for weeks. Anton Stralman just returned after also missing several weeks. Victor Hedman is out for the rest of the regular season. With Stralman back in the lineup and Hedman returning for the playoffs, these issues should correct themselves if injuries are the primary cause.

While the defense has been the primary issue, the offense hasn’t been great. They’re down in terms of expected goal generation from both their season totals and the previous ten games. They’ve been relying heavily on shooting talent to score goals, which is also the case on the power play.

Along with the defense, the goaltending has also been an issue. The goalies have been giving up more goals than would be expected both at 5v5 and on the penalty kill.

Even with the weak recent play, they’ve been playing like a league-average team. And in total, their season long numbers still keep them among the best teams in the NHL.

The Skaters

Now that we’ve gone through an overview of the team play, we’ll move on to the skaters. In the heatmap, blue is good, gray is average, and orange is bad. The players are sorted first by position and then by time on ice.

With nearly a full season of data, we can see some clear delineations of roles on the team this season. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos have been the primary offensive drivers. Of those three, Point has been the most well-rounded, giving up less on defense, which results in better overall play-driving numbers.

Yanni Gourde, Anothony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, and JT Miller have all been excellent middle six forwards controlling the game when they’re on the ice. They don’t score the way the stars do but they’ve been the keys to the Lightning’s ability to consistently win the territorial game this season.

Adam Erne, Mathieu Joseph, and Ryan Callahan have all been solid depth players. But unless the team has an injury, one of them will have to be in the press box because Cedric Paquette centers the fourth line. He’s been the weakest forward getting regular minutes but without a viable replacement, he’s kept his spot in the lineup.

On defense, the Lightning have a top three much like last season. Hedman and Ryan McDonagh are the two established stars on the left side. But Erik Cernak has taken over as the top right handed defender from Stralman. The rookie and McDonagh have formed the shutdown pair for the Bolts and been excellent in that role.

The rest of the defense is a mishmash of players whose performance has fluctuated this season. Until Girardi comes back, the pairs are probably locked with Stralman joining Hedman on the top pair and Braydon Coburn playing with Mikhail Sergachev on the third pair.

Based on the numbers this season, Stralman looks like a downgrade from Girardi but Stralman hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to play with Hedman much. I suspect he will fare better in those minutes when he gets the opportunity than Girardi did.

The third pair has been solid. Coburn is having his best season in years. Sergachev has not taken the step forward in development that many expected after an outstanding rookie season but he’s been fine in his minutes.

Goalies

The next two charts will focus on the goalies. The first shows game-by-game performance. Being above the line means saving more goals than expected and vice versa.

We saw in the team chart that goaltending has been an issue lately and we see that confirmed here. Andrei Vasilevskiy had two bad games in particular lately with only one strong recent performance. Louis Domingue is currently injured but until missing last game, he continued his streak of being remarkably average. Which, for a backup, is the best case scenario. A league-average goalie is good enough to start for many teams.

The final chart shows cumulative goals saved above expected compared to all the other goalies in the league. The blue line is Vasilevskiy and the orange line is Domingue.

As of a couple weeks ago, Vasilevskiy had climbed back into the Vezina race. His last few games have probably removed him from that conversation for good. He’s fallen back toward the pack and while he’s still having an excellent season, he’s no longer in the top tier of goaltenders this season.

Just like above, Domingue is solidly in the middle of the pack. He’s done everything the Lightning have asked of him and if he wasn’t signed for another season, teams might be considering bringing him in to challenge for a starting job.

Wrap-Up

The Lightning have had a great regular season. They have a slew of players in contention for trophies. Their shot and expected goal metrics have been among the best in the league all season. They’ve done everything they can to put themselves in a position to succeed heading into the playoffs.

So, that’s where we’ll go next. After the final two games against the Leafs and Bruins, we’ll know how the wild card race finishes and who the first round opponent will be. When we have that news, we’ll dig into the matchup and see what we can learn about the two teams.

But for now, we’re done with these reports for another regular season. Thanks for following along. On to bigger and better things.