To name it panic can be a misnomer, however when the Tampa Bay Lightning stumbled out of the blocks with three losses of their first 5 video games, their efficiency was met with a sure stage of concern. There’s a motive for that, too. The Bolts entered the season because the favorites, presumably even prohibitively so, to win the entire thing. Tampa Bay was the short-odds Stanley Cup contender anticipated to once more conquer the Jap Convention. The Lightning had been then anticipated to enter the post-season with a Columbus Blue Jackets-sized chip on their shoulder and make amends for the historic playoff defeat suffered final season.
However that hasn’t fairly been the story of this season’s Lightning now, has it? After dropping three of their first 5, Tampa Bay proceeded to drop three of their subsequent six. Profitable streaks have been adopted by dropping streaks, and, most just lately, the Bolts put the brakes on a three-game skid with an additional time victory over the Nashville Predators. For many golf equipment, that would appear insignificant, the standard ebbs and flows that occur throughout a marketing campaign. For the Lightning, it was extra significant. Not as soon as through the 2018-19 common season did Tampa Bay drop three consecutive video games. Heck, solely twice through the marketing campaign did they drop two in a row, and that didn’t happen as soon as after the early phases of February.
As one would count on, the Lightning’s inconsistency has taken one thing of a toll on their spot within the standings. Heading into motion Thursday towards the visiting – and immediately streaking – Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay finds itself on the skin of the playoff image trying in. By almost one-third of their season, the Lightning’s 13-9-Three report places them sixth within the Atlantic Division and a full 4 factors again of the second and ultimate wild-card spot within the Jap Convention. That they discover themselves in such a place on the mistaken facet of American Thanksgiving could be sufficient for the delicate hand-wringing that was occurring by means of the early a part of November to show into some palpable consternation.
Alas, we’re right here with a message of hope: there’s no motive to fret about these Bolts.
Whereas Tampa Bay is out of a playoff place and within the depths of their division, there are some things at play that must be famous. The primary, and most blatant, is that their 29 factors really don’t put the Lightning too far out of rivalry within the Atlantic. To wit, a win Thursday would draw Tampa Bay stage with the tied-for-second Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. If the Montreal Canadiens lose to the visiting Colorado Avalanche – a legit risk given the diametrically reverse instructions the 2 groups are heading – the Bolts can be tied with or forward of your complete division, save the close to league-best Boston Bruins.
Not solely that, there’s additionally a matter of quantity at work right here. The Lightning are 4 factors out of a wild-card spot, true, however that has lots to do with the very fact they’ve performed a league-low 25 video games. In actual fact, the Lightning are selecting up factors at a charge commensurate with the remainder of the Jap Convention’s playoff contenders. Tampa Bay’s .580 factors share ranks 12th within the NHL and is best than all however six groups within the East. That’s a 95-point tempo. A sizeable step again from final season’s ridiculous 128-point efficiency? You already know it. However 95 factors would seemingly nonetheless be sufficient to place the Lightning within the post-season.
So, with that in thoughts, possibly the larger query right here isn’t if there’s motive to fret, however why the outcomes aren’t coming on the identical charge as they did final season. It’s value asking, too, as a result of the roster is basically unchanged. Some would say it’s really improved with the additions of depth winger Patrick Maroon and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
In truth, there’s no definitive reply. That stated, there does look like a number of issues at work, one in every of which is an adjustment that has been made within the model of play. Final season, the Lightning had been on no account a prime possession staff within the league, however their numbers weren’t all that regarding. The identical can’t be stated for this marketing campaign. By 25 video games this season, Tampa Bay’s Corsi share is down simply shy of two % at 5-on-5 from final season, and, equally, the Lightning have suffered declines in photographs share (2.9 %), targets for share (Three.four), scoring probability share (1.zero) and anticipated targets share (zero.9).
Nevertheless, these declines have much less to do with giving up extra alternatives than they do the Lightning’s personal charges of shot and probability era. In every of the aforementioned classes, the Bolts’ 5-on-5 per-60-minute charges have declined wherever from zero.eight to four.Three, the latter the biggest and showing in Tampa Bay’s shot-attempts clip. That has, nonetheless, been paired with a decline in shot makes an attempt towards (zero.four), scoring possibilities towards (zero.eight) and high-danger possibilities towards (zero.9) per 60 minutes at five-a-side. It’s that suppression that truly has the Lightning’s high-danger probability share at among the many league’s finest at 53.1 %. Solely six groups have been higher. That has helped Tampa Bay to an anticipated targets share of 51.9 %. That’s tied for 10th-best within the NHL.
In no way is that this a sign of the Lightning making a wholesale change right into a grind-it-out system, however it’s one that implies Tampa Bay has made a aware effort to be extra stifling defensively. That has, in flip, diminished among the prime offensive alternatives that come the Bolts’ method.
There’s additionally the matter of the penalty kill, which wants some exploring. The Lightning, although they’ve finished nicely to remain out of the field, have the seventh-worst penalty kill within the league. That may be blamed on a number of issues, together with elevated makes an attempt towards of every kind after a season by which Tampa Bay led the league with an 85-percent success charge when down a skater. The best shortcoming, nonetheless, is the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy when on the PK.
One season after posting a .911 save share when shorthanded, Vasilevskiy has managed a meager .854 SP this season. That ranks 36th among the many 49 goaltenders with 50 minutes performed shorthanded. His minus-1.1 goals-saved above common isn’t glowing, both. Solely a dozen of the 50-minute netminders have fared worse. However given his profession numbers when down a skater, there’s no motive to count on this poor play to final.
Whatever the numbers, although, the reality concerning the Lightning is that this can be a staff too chock stuffed with expertise, too expert in all areas, to be left exterior of the post-season image for all that for much longer. As soon as the large weapons actually begin firing and as soon as reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy begins to spherical into type, the expectation will as soon as once more be that the Bolts have what it takes to summit the NHL. And if that involves go, the early-season bouts of mediocrity will likely be fully forgotten.
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Tags: tampa bay lightningConnect: In regards to the AuthorJared ClintonJared Clinton is a author and net editor with The Hockey Information. He is been with the staff since 2014. He was born, raised and resides in Winnipeg, the place he might be discovered lacking the web on outside rinks throughout city.