Lightning looking for consistency as road trip continues

By Ken Filler
Jan. 07, 2018

Tonight the Tampa Bay Lightning will reach the halfway point of the season in Ottawa with a division matchup against the Senators. The Lightning are 2-0-1 on the trip and will wrap up the trip in Detroit tomorrow night.

The Lightning with 61 points have a three point lead on Vegas for the best record in the NHL at 29-8-3. The Lightning are on pace for 122 points which would be good for 6th best all time. The 76-77 Montreal Canadiens hold the record for most points in a season with 132.

The Lightning are coming off a shootout loss in Montreal 2-1, a game in which the Lightning outshot the Canadiens 45-38. It was a goalie dual, one of the best you will see as Carey price and Andrei Vasilevsky matched each other save for save until the shootout. Price made an outstanding save on a Ondrej Palat shot in the shootout which helped preserve the win for Montreal.

This is the tIme of the year when teams really start paying attention to the standings. The sense of urgency goes way up and the defensive efforts will intensify for all teams. Good goalie play and good defense is what will win you games in April and May as the race for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins.

A few things the Lightning must shore up if they are to be playing hockey in June. The defensive effort has to get more consistent. When the Lightning play their game, there is no one better. The consistent defensive effort has been missing at times this season. Very few games have we seen a solid defensive effort from start to finish. What we have seen a lot of nights is opposing teams skating at will thru the zone, lots of turnovers, poor passing, you get the idea. These are areas that will need to be a lot better come playoff time if the Lightning are to advance. The Lightning have the best GAA in the conference and 2nd best in the league at 2.43. If not for the play of Vasilevsky, the Lightning would have a few more losses on the ledger.

Despite winning 52 percent of the face offs in Montreal, The Lightning are dreadful on the season winning faceoffs just 46 percent of the time. The Colorado Avalanche are the only team worse than the Lightning at 42 percent. Come playoff time winning faceoffs are crucial to gaining momentum. You don’t want to be losing faceoffs in your own zone anytime which the Lightning have done a lot of lately.

The PK is 23rd in the league at 76 percent, while the power play clicks at 74.8 percent which is tied for 2nd in the league. Killing penalties is one key element of post season success. Let’s hope the Lightning can get PK fixed.

This team does so many things well and is one of the most well rounded teams we have seen in Tampa. Kucherov leads the league in most offensive categories, and Vasilevskiy leads in most goalie categories. I am still predicting a Stanley Cup appearance for this team, the effort just needs to be more consistent night in and night out.

—Steven Stamkos has been named a captain for the all star game. Stamkos will captain the Atlantic division and should be joined by teammates Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevsky.

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

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