At this point the Tampa Bay Lightning’s record has given their fan base a little cause for concern. After five games they are sporting a very pedestrian 2-2-1 record and have picked up just 5 out of a possible 10 points. They are 5 points behind the Florida Panthers who are a perfect 5-0 on the season and 1 point behind Boston for the fourth spot in the division. It is, of course, way too early to worry about playoff positioning, but it’s hard not to when you’re writing about the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
The biggest concern for most fans is that the Lightning have yet to lead a game in regulation. They have only conceded 2 goals in the opening frame, but have yet to score. In fact, they are the only team in the NHL yet to score in the first period. It’s been the second period, where they’ve been outscored 8-4, that has hurt them the most. All of that being said things aren’t as bad as it seems.
For the last three seasons the coaching staff has preached “process over outcome”. Heck, it’s even imprinted on their latest championship rings. A lot of the stats listed in the previous paragraph go under the “outcome” category. As for the process part, the Bolts are actually doing a little better than you might expect.
Their 5v5 possession numbers aren’t blowing anyone out of the water, but according to Natural Stat Trick, they are pretty good. Their xGF% is currently sitting at 52.16%, decidedly middle of the road, but their high-danger chances are 60.81% in their favor (second in the league). The problem is that they’ve converted just 3 goals off of their 45 high-danger chances. With the talent they have (even with Nikita Kucherov sidelined) that’s an unsustainably low rate. If they keep generating those chances, the goals will start to come.
The second part of the game that should see an increase in production is their power play. Right now they are sitting at a 16.7% success rate with the extra skater. That isn’t very good. The number has cratered quite a bit since Kucherov left the line-up. Which isnt’ a surprise since every thing runs through him. The good news is that this roster has had success without him (again, lots of talent on the ice) as they finished ninth in the league at 22.3% last season with Kucherov on the mend from hip surgery.
There needs to be an adjustment period after losing such a vital piece, but with a few extra practices, things should pick back up in no time. If they can keep picking up the opportunities (they’re averaging 3.6 per game) they should start converting more. It could be a struggle this week, though, as they are playing three of the least penalized teams in the league so far this season. The Sabres, Penguins, and Coyotes are all averaging less than three times shorthanded per game with Arizona the least penalized team at 2.20 per outing.
It’s early in the season and the Lightning are not only shaking off some rust, but finding the right line combinations after one of their biggest off-season roster shuffles in the last couple of years. They will get it together. Just keep the faith.
Lightning / NHL News
Something the Bolts need to improve on in order to get into the win column more consistently will be to cut down on the number of penalties they take. They’ve been penalized 14 times in the second period, which hasn’t helped them find any rhythm in that period and has likely interfered with their productivity at even strength as well.
Congratulations to Patrick Maroon and his wife Francesca!
It’s probably not a move that’s getting anyone in Ottawa super excited, but the Senators (currenly 2-3 on the season) added to their depth by picking up the fourth-line center. They sent a 2022 seventh-round pick (that originally belonged to San Jose) back in exchange.
Chicago is the latest hockey team that has to deal with players missing time due to COVID issues. Ryan Carpenter, Patrick Kane, and Erik Gustafsson were placed into protocol on Saturday. Kane missed the game on Sunday as Chicago lost 6-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. The sellout streak at the Madhouse on Madison also came to an end at 535 games.
In that game, 19-year-old Lucas Raymond recorded a hat trick as Detroit picked up their third win of the season.
In other action on the ice, two previously undefeated teams lost their first games of the year. The San Jose Sharks lost 4-3 to the Boston Bruins while Nashville took out Minnesota, 5-2. Vegas’ struggling start to the season continued as they were shut out by the New York Islanders. Ilya Sorokin made 41 saves for his first clean sheet of the year.