Nov. 18, 2018
Lightning continues solid play on both ends of the ice
As we approach the quarter point of the season in the NHL not much has changed with the Tampa bay Lightning. The Lightning are atop the Atlantic Division with 25 points and are also tops in the Eastern Conference with a 12-5-1 record.
But upon further review, this is not the same Lightning team that we have seen in years past. This years Lightning team is playing a much better game at both ends of the ice and have been much more consistent so far this season.
The PK which had been horrid the last few seasons is number three in the league this season at 87.9%. This is an area the team has really struggled in the last few season and one of the reasons that the Lightning couldn’t get past the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals. It is also one of the main reasons that Rick Bowness and Todd Richards are no longer coaching in Tampa.
Defensively the Lightning are 9th in the league giving up 2.78 Goals a game. This should improve as the season goes along as the Lightning boast one of the best group of defensemen In he league.
The offense has not slowed down one bit as the Lightning are at the top of the scoring in the NHL tied with Toronto at 3.50 goals a game. Braydon Point leads the team with 9G and 19 points followed by Yanni Gourde with 18 points, tied for second on the team with Nikita Kucherov.
The goaltending has been rock solid as Andrei Vasilevsky is in mid-season form and should be a Vezina Trophy finalist again this season. Louis Domingue is much improved from last season and we can easily say the Lightning may have the best 1-2 goalie tandem in the league.
Jon Cooper is now the most tenured coach in the NHL after Chicago fired Joel Quenneville earlier this season. Cooper has been the Lightning coach since the 2013 season and is the all-time winningest coach in Lightning history.
The team continues to get a solid performance from the Syracuse connection. Two years ago it was Braydon Point who had his breakthrough season, and last year made the NHL All-Star team. Last year it was Yanni Gourde’s turn to make his mark in the NHL and this season Matthieu Joseph is making his presence felt with the Lightning.
Of all the things going right with this team, there are two things I am still concerned with.
One is the tendency to start slow. Last night in Buffalo the Lightning got off to a slow start and it cost them as they lost to the Sabres 2-1. All the stats favored the Lightning, so if you just looked at the stats it showed the Lightning dominating the game. And they did the last half of the game. Credit needs to be given to Buffalo G Carter Hutton who made some great saves to help Buffalo get the win.
The other area of concern is the mental lapses the Lightning seem to have at some point every game. you can count on the Lightning losing their focus at least once at some point during the game. The Lightning usually have enough talent to overcome these lapses but some nights it will cost the Lightning the game.
It’s still early and their is plenty of time for the Lightning to get these issues corrected.
This is a fun team to watch and the season is shaping up to be another memorable one in Tampa Bay.