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Lightning Round: Relive the first month of the Stanley Cup winning season

A good lesson of how not to feel frustrated very early

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It’s October, 31. Normally we would sum up results of the first month of regular season and make early predictions of the playoff race. But this year is different: the Stanley Cup Final was just about a month ago (however it does feel like it was a long time ago already) and we still don’t know when the next season is starting for sure. So, let’s take a quick look on how the 2019-20 regular season, which ended with a Stanley Cup Win, started for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The start of the season was very slow for the Bolts: they made several changes during the offseason to address the issues they had faced against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the memorable 0-4 loss in the first round of the 2019 NHL Playoffs. J.T. Miller was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, the team signed Pat Maroon to add some physical presence, which they lacked against the Jackets. They also signed Kevin Shattenkirk, who was bought out by the New York Rangers. The Lightning’s coaching staff searched for new combination and it resulted in three loses in five opening games of the season.

One of the of most troublesome losses was the game against the Carolina Hurricanes: despite a misleading score – the Lightning lost 3-4 in the overtime – the team have suffered one of the most lopsided losses not only in the franchise history, but in history of the NHL. The Canes completely outplayed the Lightning in terms of expected goal share and possession, and they didn’t look like the team which put up 128 points during the previous regular season. Alan had a detailed breakdown of this game [Raw Charge]

The Tampa Bay Lightning loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday was awful. No one needs to dig deep into the numbers to know that. The Bolts looked terrible to the eye and seemed to go five minutes at a chunk without getting into the offensive zone let alone doing anything once they got there. The stat that jumped out immediately to everyone watching live was the Lightning only getting two shots on net during a stretch that lasted from two minutes left in the first period until the game ended in overtime. A truly putrid performance.

The Lightning bounced back next week with a big victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the problems continued later: the Bolts managed to lost against the Ottawa Senators in a game, which ended up with some kind of revenge performance by Vladislav Namestnikov. The former Lightning forward scored three points (2+1), including a game-winning goal. A week later the Lightning were defeated by the Colorado Avalanche and the team was outplayed once again.

One of the biggest problems for the Lightning was taking too much penalties: the team was one of the most penalized in the league, which resulted in some unnecessary defeats. Andrei Vasilevskiy’s numbers were also down and his struggles continued almost until the Christmas. In his ten games report Alan also took a deeper look at his stats [Raw Charge]

Vasilevskiy’s numbers are similar to what we saw in the team chart. He’s been mostly fine at 5v5 aside from one terrible game. But if we look at all situations, which includes the penalty kill, his numbers get much worse. By that measure, even if we exclude the games with questionable data, he’s still only had one game that could be considered a strong performance. The team will need better numbers than this if they want to get the most out of this season.

By the end of the month, the Lightning was just fifth in the Atlantic Division, only ahead of the Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings – one of the worst teams in the league. The Lightning went 6-4-2 in first 12 games and a lot of the fans started feeling frustrated. It wasn’t the start of the season everyone expected after the humiliating loss in last year’s playoffs.

At the end of October, the team was preparing for the trip to Sweden. The things started getting better after it: they solved some issues which cost them games earlier in the season and managed to add some important players at the trade deadline later in February. And you probably know how it turned out for them in playoffs.

Lightning Links

A first look on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s engraving on the Stanley Cup

Mikhail Sergachev met the famous Russian Lightning fan, who recently made a tattoo sleeve with all players from the Lightning’s Stanley Cup winning roster.

The hockey world is mourning a loss of Travis Roy, a paralysed ice hockey player and disability campaigner, who passed away yesterday.

Around the League

The Dallas Starts have signed a defenceman Julius Honka to a league-minimum contract.

Joey Anderson, who was recently acquired from the New Jersey Devils, signed a three-year extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs, worth $750,000 per season.

The Leafs have also signed a goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a two-year deal

The Vancouver Canucks signed a defenceman Guillaume Brisebois, who is surprisingly not related to the Lightning general manager Julien Brisebois

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced that no players will be named to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

The University of North Dakota announced that Mitchell Miller will no longer be a part of UND’s hockey team.