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Lightning Round: How nervous should we be?

At this point, not so much.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Before we go much further let’s agree on one thing. The Tampa Bay Lightning are 10-4-1 through 15 games. That’s a pretty decent record. They’ve accumulated 70% of the points available to them through the first quarter of the season. If they keep that pace up for the rest of the season, things will be quite alright. So, while everything isn’t entirely copasetic as Channelside Plaza, the world isn’t crashing into the bay, either.

There is a little recently bias at play. After all, three of the four losses have come in the last four games. They were also disconcerting in the sense that the team we watched on the ice wasn’t the Lightning team we saw in the playoffs or at the beginning of the season. There were turnovers and missed opportunities. Things stalled in the offensive zone and were chaotic in the defensive end. Most disconcerting was that the Lightning offense was...boring.

That’s not fun for anyone. We’re used to the Lightning being the most energetic team on the ice, being the ones driving the play, not the ones on their heels reacting to the play. They are the first to admit that the problem isn’t the other team, rather it’s themselves. The turnovers and poor coverage isn’t because the other teams are confounding them with new alignments and schemes. The Lightning are simply screwing up and, more times than not, the puck ends up in the back of the net despite the best efforts of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

That being said, the teams they’ve lost to in regulation, Florida and Carolina, are playing really well so far this season, with the Hurricanes in particular posting some impressive stats. They are rightfully atop the Central Division right now with a 12-3-1 record. Despite the Lightning failing to score a goal in regulation in two games against them, Tampa Bay has provided some of the stiffest competition against them.

Team performance against Carolina in 2020-21

Dallas Stars 4 153 165 48.11 73 80 47.71 6.83 6.98 49.45 84 78 51.85 36 39 48
Tampa Bay Lightning 2 101 105 49.03 50 53 48.54 5.37 5.45 49.62 57 54 51.35 31 23 57.41
Nashville Predators 1 42 37 53.16 25 17 59.52 1.37 1.17 53.9 18 18 50 5 9 35.71
Chicago Blackhawks 3 128 170 42.95 72 87 45.28 5.41 6.78 44.35 64 81 44.14 26 33 44.07
Florida Panthers 1 46 49 48.42 30 23 56.6 1.61 2.79 36.63 18 28 39.13 3 13 18.75
Columbus Blue Jackets 3 117 154 43.17 71 78 47.65 4.88 6.92 41.34 44 70 38.6 23 34 40.35
Detroit Red Wings 2 59 103 36.42 29 61 32.22 2.6 4.74 35.38 32 53 37.65 12 13 48
Data Provided by Natural Stat Trick

As you can see, the Hurricanes have pretty much controlled play against all of their opponents this season (except in their one game against the Nashville Predators). Of the teams they’ve played more than once, the Lightning have posted the best numbers against them in terms of shot attempts (49.03%), expected goal percentage (49.62%), and high-danger chances (57.41%).

Despite all of their gaffes, and there have been plenty, the Lightning have played one of the best teams in their division evenly. If you believe in luck, you can say they’ve been a bit unlucky to not have scored yet despite the chances they are generating. If they keep producing the chances (and eliminate the mistakes) they will start winning these games.

It’s not much different than their struggles last season. If you scroll down their game log from the 2019-20 season you will see that they lost three out of four games four times and threw in a four-game losing streak to boot. So, they’ve been down this road before.

Unlike last season, however, they probably don’t have a 10-game winning streak or a 13-game point streak in their back pocket. Nor do they have time for sustained losing streaks. That’s the trouble facing them in a shortened season. One advantage they have is that every game they play is a divisional game. It’s a lot easier to make up a deficit in the standings when you play the teams you are chasing as opposed to some random team from California.

Getting back to their winning ways starting tonight would be an excellent way to start making up that deficit.

Lighting Links

No panic but plenty of urgency for Lightning The benefit of having a veteran group is that they don’t panic when things aren’t going their way. They identify the problem, correct it, and move on with their season. That’s what the Lightning are looking to do.

Lightning seek net gains against Carolina After failing to score pretty goals, you know, the ones with the extra passes, perhaps the Lightning just need to get a couple of dirty goals to get back into their groove. Go to the net and win the battle in front and good things will happen.

NHL Notes

David Pastrnak runs wild on Philly again, Bruins win at Lake Tahoe It was a close game until it wasn’t. At least it didn’t take all day and night to finish the game this time. David Pastrnak recorded a hat trick and Boston beat Philly 7-3 to close out the NHL’s interesting weekend at Lake Tahoe.

Ducks summon top prospect Trevor Zegras after only 8 games in the AHL If you binge-watched the 2021 World Junior Tournament you may remember Zegras putting up 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) for the United States as they won gold. Well, the 19-year-old hasn’t slowed down in the AHL. He’s put up four goals and five assists for the San Diego Gulls in eight games. Now he’s on his way to the NHL, and Anaheim definitely need the help on offense.