Through 23 games this season the Tampa Bay Lightning are sitting right where they want to be - on top of the Central Division standings. With their win against Chicago on Sunday they moved into sole possession of first place with 36 points, one ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes. They are one of only three teams to eclipse 17 wins so far on the season with Carolina (17) and Toronto (18) the other two. Both teams, however, have played more games than the Lightning.
The Bolts are currently leading the league in goal differential (+35), goals per game (3.61), and goals allowed per game (2.04). They are fifth in power play percentage (28.8%) and third in penalty kill percentage (87.7%).
Their underlying numbers aren’t as gaudy, but are still on the right side. They are controlling 50.27% of the shots on the ice at 5v5 (a number that jumps to 52.10% when adjusted for score and venue). Their share of the expected goals is over 51% as well.
They have arguably the best goalie in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy along with the best defenseman in Victor Hedman. While none of their players are topping offensive catagories they do have depth in their scoring with four different players already over 20 points (Hedman, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat). Stamkos and Palat also have topped 10 goals each.
Perhaps the most important thing they’ve done this season is that they haven’t thrown away that many points. Three of their four regulation losses are against good competition (two to the Panthers and one to the Hurricanes). They picked up at least one point in two other losses. The one loss that sticks out came way back on January 23rd when they lost 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
They already have two six-game winning streaks under their belt and are currently on a eight-game points streak. Collecting all of these points is very important to their overarching goal - making the playoffs. That’s all they should really be focused on right now. Because once they make the playoffs, then they can defend the Stanley Cup title.
Are they due for a little regression? Probably. They are riding a bit of a high PDO, due a lot to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s high save percentage. Even if that drops back down their division is weak enough that it won’t really matter. They just need to grind through the next 33 games, stay healthy, and make sure they are peaking right before the playoffs.
Going down 3-0 before ripping off six straight goals is an interesting strategy to winning games. It worked on Sunday, but probably shouldn’t become a habit.
A look at the game from the Chicago side.
Cernak is the Lightning’s best blueliner on the right-side of the ice. Losing him to an illegal check to the head after he’s already dealt with some recent injuries isn’t great.
Some notes from the Tampa Bay Lightning about the game
- The Lightning now have an 11-game point streak (8-0-3) that dates back to April of 2011
- Victor Hedman is now the leading scorer among defensemen in the NHL
- Pat Maroon’s goal was the 100th of his career
- With his goal, Alex Killorn is the first Lightning player this season to score three-games in a row.
With his assist Mikhail Sergachev now ranks 32nd all-time in points in franchise history.
With some cities ahead of their COVID-19 vaccination schedules, it appears that some NHL players have taken the opportunity to receive their shots. As long as their following local guidelines and not using their status to secure special privileges, good on them.
The passing of Pavelich, a member of the “Miracle on Ice” Olympic team, at the age of 63 is sad enough on its own. Now Beck, a former teammate with the Rangers, is taking the league and the Rangers to task for not doing more to help Pavelich.
Brad Marchand wasn’t happy about Tom Wilson’s hit a few days ago. Now we can sit back and see if he’s going to get his own personal Zoom call from the NHL following Marchand’s hit on Ty Smith during Sunday’s game.