Lightning Round: That was a rough stretch of hockey

The Lightning survived the busiest part of their season. Yeah, survive is the right word.

For the first time in more than a month, the Tampa Bay Lightning had two days off in a row. It was a particularly tough grind that saw them play 19 games in 33 days with four back-to-backs, four road trips, and four games that went to overtime or a shootout. It wasn’t a great stretch by anyone’s imagination as they went 7-9-3 with some close losses and some appalling losses. Oddly enough they did save one of their more spirited games for the last one, a 2-1 loss to Boston that started off with a couple of fights right off the opening face-off.

One of the issues during stretches like that is that practice time is extremely limited and the coaching staff has to find the balance between working on things that need to be fixed and not wearing out the players completely. So if a team gets into a bad habit, it’s hard to break them out of it since everything is happening at game speed. There is only so much you can do at a morning skate, especially with the majority of them being optional.

One of the noticeable issues that they had during the 19-game period was that they were upside down in regards to high-danger chances at 5v5. For most of the season they have been one of the top teams in regards to getting opportunities from those high-scoring areas, however, recently they have conceded more than they have generated (187 HDCF vs. 190 HDCA).

The lowered amount of chances has also equated into fewer high-danger goals. Only the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings scored few high-danger goals per 60 minutes of play than the Lightning’s 1.05. In the 54 games prior to this stretch the Lightning posted a HDGF/60 of 1.87, tops in the league. Could fatigue have been an issue as to why they weren’t able to get into the front of their opponent’s nets and generate second and third chance opportunities? Possibly.

The good news is that they have a fairly favorable end to the season. After finishing up their current road trip in Carolina tonight, they have a brief two-game homestand before heading on the road for three games. They then finish up the season with home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs (who will be coming off a game the night before against Florida) and Detroit Red Wings. There is only one back-to-back left for the Lightning, but they have three days off right before it.

Following the final game of the season against the Red Wings, they will then have at least three days off before the playoffs start on Monday the 17th of April. So, they should be as rested as a team can be heading into the fun part of the season.

Did the Lightning play great during the compacted part of their season? No, not really. However, for the most part they made it through relatively healthy aside from a few minor injuries (as far as we know). While they really didn’t gain any ground on the teams they were chasing, they didn’t play themselves out of a playoff spot either.

Hopefully with a few actual days off that don’t involve travel and some extra practice time, they finish the regular season out on a positive note and head into the postseason on an upswing.

Lightning / NHL News

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