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Beginning to Discover Their Sport

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It was week for the Tampa Bay Lightning who received two of three video games and picked up 4 out of six potential factors. Nevertheless, they began the week on the unsuitable foot in a lopsided loss to the St. Louis Blues. They have been capable of grind out a win in Chicago in opposition to the Blackhawks, then returned to Tampa Bay for a dominant displaying in opposition to the Anaheim Geese.

Profitable video games is nice, however the Lightning nonetheless have to string extra wins collectively as they’re three factors out of a playoff spot and fifth within the Atlantic Division. It’s not a spot they thought they’d be in 1 / 4 of the way in which via this season, however issues are beginning to flip round for the Bolts.

Let’s break down what went proper and unsuitable for the Lightning this week.

The Optimistic

Particular Groups On a Roll

The Lightning energy play this week was Four-for-Eight, together with a Three-for-Three efficiency in opposition to the Geese on Saturday. Though they missed each possibilities on the person benefit in opposition to the Blues on Tuesday, they killed off 4 Blues energy performs to maintain the rating respectable. They added an ideal Three-for-Three on the penalty kill in opposition to the Blackhawks, as properly.

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov rejoice (Anders Wiklund/TT by way of AP)

Changing on the facility play is big and whereas that hasn’t been an enormous difficulty this season for the Lightning, killing penalties has been. They have been taking a boatload of them early within the yr, however they couldn’t discover a method to kill them off. Now, whereas limiting their penalties, they’ve killed off all however one penalty relationship again to Nov. 1. That’s precisely how a workforce who struggled on the penalty kill ought to modify and reply, they usually’re being rewarded for it on each side of the puck.

Cirelli Cruising

It took a short time, however Anthony Cirelli has taken his recreation to the subsequent stage over the past six video games. He’s at present using a four-game aim streak and 7 factors over these video games.

Associated: Cirelli for the Selke

It took him 14 video games to get his first seven factors this season, and three of these got here in a single recreation (Oct. 10 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs). He’s additionally plus-six on the season and is tied for the workforce lead in takeaways with 12.

Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The essential a part of Cirelli’s recreation comes on the penalty kill, which has been stellar as of late. He’s arguably the workforce’s high penalty-killing ahead and units the tone when the Lightning are down a person. Just like the workforce itself, Cirelli didn’t present a lot via the primary month and a half of the season, however his tenacious response as of late is a sight for sore eyes for Lightning followers.

Goaltending Getting Higher

Though the Lightning misplaced and didn’t look good in opposition to the Blues on Tuesday, Andrei Vasilevskiy made some nice saves and saved his workforce within the recreation. Curtis McElhinney was additionally top-notch in opposition to the Blackhawks on Thursday, and Vasy appeared just like the Vezina Trophy winner from final yr of their win over the Geese.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

As an entire, the Lightning goaltending has been sub-par this yr, however they have been first-class this week. The win over the Geese additionally gave Vasilevskiy 132 profession wins, shifting previous Ben Bishop and into first place on the Lightning’s all-time wins leaderboard. He beat the mark in 5 fewer video games than Bishop wanted, and his 103 wins are essentially the most since Feb. 26, 2017, when Vasilevskiy turned the full-time starter.

The Destructive

Giving Up Photographs

In every recreation this week, the Lightning gave up at the least 30 photographs. The Blues and Blackhawks each had 34 every and the Geese have been capable of get 38 photographs on web. It’s a number of photographs, but it surely’s additionally the place they’re coming from that’s regarding. The Blues had simply 7 of their 34 photographs from behind the faceoff dots, and half of the Blackhawks’ photographs got here from beneath the hash marks. About half of the Geese’ photographs have been additionally from the center of the ice within the slot, whereas the opposite half have been from the perimeter and on the level.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Erik Haula scores on Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney (AP Picture/Karl B DeBlaker)

Groups are going to get photographs from high-danger areas each recreation, however the Lightning have to restrict these possibilities and do a greater job of getting sticks within the capturing and passing lanes. It’s additionally an indication that the one workforce with fewer blocked photographs within the league up to now is the Buffalo Sabres. The Bolts have a number of ability gamers, however in addition they have a number of gritty guys who don’t have any drawback getting within the lanes and taking one for the workforce. The workforce must get in entrance of extra pucks and forestall their opponent from getting photographs.

Faceoff Consistency

Of their loss to the Blues and shut win in opposition to the Blackhawks, the Lightning weren’t profitable faceoffs. The Blues received 55% of attracts and the Blackhawks 57%, however in opposition to the Geese, the Lightning received 56%. When it comes to faceoff win share, the Lightning are seventh at 51.2%, however forward of them are the Blues and Geese and fifth and sixth, respectively.

Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Profitable faceoffs is important to profitable video games. Getting the puck within the defensive zone is vital, however sustaining possession off the draw within the offensive zone will result in scoring possibilities. This week, the Lightning weren’t constant sufficient within the faceoff dot. Each of the Blackhawks’ objectives got here after the Lightning misplaced defensive zone attracts, and that might have swayed the sport within the Blackhawks’ favor. The Lightning are good within the faceoff dot, however they must be higher within the defensive zone and when the attracts matter most.

The Damage Bug

Nikita Kucherov took a giant hit from Brayden Schenn and left the sport in opposition to the Blues with an upper-body damage. He didn’t play in opposition to the Blackhawks however was again to web two factors in opposition to the Geese. Nevertheless, captain Steven Stamkos missed that recreation after struggling a lower-body damage in opposition to the Blackhawks.

Tampa Bay Lightning heart Steven Stamkos (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Lightning fortunately haven’t had any important accidents this season, however all of their stars — Kucherov, Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Brayden Level — have missed a couple of video games with minor accidents. These can pile up over time and whereas it’s not essentially a adverse a part of their recreation, it’s an unlucky a part of hockey that each workforce has to cope with. Let’s hope the Lightning can preserve these at bay and proceed to remain wholesome all through the season.

Arising, the Lightning host the Sabres tonight and the Blues on Wednesday, Nov. 27. After Thanksgiving, they journey to Washington to face the Capitals on Friday, Nov. 29 and return house the subsequent day to host the Carolina Hurricanes.

The tip of the week will likely be a severe take a look at for the Lightning — can they proceed their sturdy play with three video games in 4 days in opposition to three of the league’s finest groups?

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