Lightning season of inconsistency continues

By Ken Filler
Mar. 10, 2018

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to have the best record in the NHL at 47-17-4 for a total of 98 points. Nashville is right on their heels with 97 points. Yet I am concerned about the lack of intensity and focus that the Lightning bring to different periods of the game.

Let’s take the two games earlier this week against the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers. Against the Panthers, the Lightning were outshot 49-35 in a 5-4 OT win. The Lightning had a 4-2 lead and let the Panthers come back and tie it up. The Lightning won the game in OT. Against the Rangers two nights later, the Lightning played their best period of the season as they came out of the locker room quickly and built a 2-0 lead and limited the Rangers to just 5 shots on goal.

At one point the Lightning were outshooting the Rangers 17-1 in that first period. It was total domination by the Bolts. There was great puck control, sharp crisp passing, suffocating defense, and of course great goaltending by Andre Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning continued to play good hockey in that second period as they extended their lead to 4-1. Then came the dreaded third period. That has been the Achilles heel of the Lightning all season. The Lightning build a lead in the first two periods, then the third period comes and the Lightning take their foot off the gas and and before you know it, its’s a tie game, or worse yet, the Lightning have to battle back to win the game.

The Lightning allowed the Rangers two goals in the third, but shut the door after that.

No one knows why this seems to occur. Not Jon Cooper, Not Todd Richards or any of the other assistant coaches.

I can tell you that this type of game will not work come playoff time. We have yet to see Ryan McDonagh in a Lightning uniform, but the defense will have to take its game up a couple of levels in order to compete for a Stanley Cup.

It’s hard to argue with the results. All the Lightning does is win. Granted, a lot of those wins should have been in regulation, but the Lightning will not apologize for winning game after game in OT. The Lightning have won 6 out of the last 7 in OT.

The Lightning have the NHL’s leading scorer in Nikita Kucherov. Norris Trophy candidate in Victor Hedman. Calder Trophy candidate in Yanni Gourde, and Vezina Trophy candidate AndreI Vasilevskiy. It would be a shame to win all that hardware and not win the most important trophy the Stanley Cup.

It also looks to me like Vasilevskiy may be showing some signs of fatigue. Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins, but Cooper may be riding him a little too hard. The Lightning do have a quality backup now in Louis Domingue. Dominique does not have a lot of playoff experience, but has performed well. Although he has limited playoff experience, I am more comfortable with home in goal than Peter Budaj.

Consistency is the name of the game. The Lightning must play with more urgency and consistently for 60 minutes to play hockey into June.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports