The Tampa Bay Lightning are stuck in a rut. They’ve lost five games in a row and the horizon seems very far away. The coaching staff has tried benching players, swapping the lines around completely, but all they’ve been met with is injuries and large stretches of struggling play. The message out of the team is to work out of it, to deal with the pain but stay focused on the process.
Cooper: "We're in a rut right now. At some point, you just have to work your way out of it. You show some signs of yourselves getting out of it. Then, all of a sudden, you take 1 step forward, 2 steps back. At some point here, we've got to take 1 step back, 2 steps forward."— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) March 5, 2023
Mikhail Sergachev on the skid. pic.twitter.com/mib8Uo6LkG— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) March 5, 2023
Stamkos on getting out of the skid. pic.twitter.com/eqxhp6l6fd— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) March 5, 2023
I think that’s a very good mindset to have for the players and coaching staff. They’re the ones that have to deal with this day-in day-out and that seems like the best way forward. While they do that, I want to know if anything’s changed in the team’s results that can be seen by the numbers. So I did a bit of noodling through Natural Stat Trick and worked out some Google Sheets to scratch the itch of why the team has been so bad lately.
I don’t have solutions, I was just looking for symptoms and answers. Not to be too much of a spoiler, considering the trade deadline has passed, there’s nothing substantial that can be done. The team just has to work with what they got.
The top line number in any team analysis is shot share, specifically shot attempts for and against. Shots on goal are a subset of total shots, but they exclude blocked shots, misses, and posts (posts are a miss because the puck wouldn’t have gone in even if the goalie wasn’t there). The Lightning have been a positive shot share team for most of the season.
After the initial chaos to start the season that happens for every team, the Lightning were doing really well out-shooting their opponents. Then those results fell sometime around the All-Star Game, but the team was still doing pretty well because of some excellent shooting and goaltending. The 7-1 loss to Florida was the low point, but it mostly felt like an outlier as the team just got back from their vacations. Not worth reading into.
But now the lack of possession has hit them again. They’re below 50% in shot share at 5v5 once again and they don’t have either the shooting or goaltending to help them. Another blowout by the Panthers and last night’s game against the Hurricanes pushing the numbers down even more.
I don’t have a solution, but the simple problem is that the Lightning don’t keep the puck enough and they don’t get shots when they do.
This is the area I was most concerned about and when I compared the shot quality (expected) per unblocked shot, it became very clear that the Lightning have been shooting from worse areas. The average shot distance has been getting farther away and the team is getting fewer chances from in tight and in the slot.
As a rough oversimplification, if shot share is a problem the defense has getting the puck out of the zone, shot quality is the forwards unable to get close to the front of the net.
As you can see on this very poorly made chart, the Lightning have been above 50% in shot quality for most of the season. But since the All-Star Game, it’s been slowly creeping down to below 50%. Specifically, the peaks are becoming lesser peaks while the troughs are still the same poor troughs. From the data, the Lightning’s opponents aren’t shooting from better spots, it’s the offense that’s shooting from worse. And in games where they get better chances their their opponents, as the chart above says, the Lightning are getting out-shot.
The specific area of concern from is the Lightning’s inability to get to the front of the net. Despite the additions of grit and physicality to the lineup, the result has not been better scoring. Getting to the net, however, is something Vlad Namestnikov was decently good at doing.
Looking at the depth forwards on the roster, out of Bellemare, Maroon, Perry, Jeannot, and Essyimont who cycle around the fourth and third lines, at least three out of the five have been out shot in every game during the losing streak. Except in the last game to Carolina when the top six got utterly destroyed by the Canes top end. Cirelli had a 6% shot share and a 5% xG share. Woof.
I didn’t look into the defenders very much, but Cole and Bogosian were down at the bottom a lot. Hedman and Sergachev in the most recent games. Fleury, too. Everyone, really, which is what makes me think this is a forward issue.
I think it goes without saying the Lightning’s floor to the lineup is pretty low and isn’t getting it done. But there’s nothing that can be done about it as the trade deadline is over. They traded one of their better possession players for cap space and brought in guys who are more of what was already there. We’ll see if it works, but right now it’s not.
Thank you to Natural Stat Trick for your Team Report and Game Log pages. My Google Sheet is here if anyone wants to look at the raw numbers. I didn’t spend any time making it user friendly.
Here is Justin’s recap of the game. The beginning of it is worth the read if you’re sick and tired of the losing. [Raw Charge]
“Teuvo Teravainen recorded a hat trick and the Carolina Hurricanes converted on four of their five power plays as they soundly defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-0 on Sunday. Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Shayne Gostisbehere added goals while Frederik Andersen stopped all 14 shots he faced on the night. Andrei Vasilevskiy faced 38 shots and stopped 32 of them. The Lightning played most of the game without Victor Hedman as he collided awkwardly with the boards early in the second period.”
The second period where the Lightning left with no shots and only four on the board in the game up to that point reminded Igor of this game. The previous worst game ever against the Hurricanes. [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.”
Former Bolt and Cup champion Luke Schenn is going to have a baby soon.
With just one Leafs game before next Saturday, Schenn will remain in Vancouver for now (baby watch). Leafs are renting him ice to skate everyday with a TOR skills/development coach, who will also remain behind.— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) March 5, 2023