Playoffs are closing in and just 3 teams have clinched a spot. The first team to do so was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s jump in to the Lightning’s eclectic season.
The Lightning have run away with W’s this season. The team is at a record of 56-13-4 in 73 games totaling to 116 points in the standings. The league average in wins at this point in the season? Just 36 but the Lightning are above that by 20 wins. The Lightning have 287 goals for (1st in the NHL) and only 191 goals against (4th in NHL).
This season started hot for the Lightning. In the first 10 games, the Lightning went 7-2-1 with 33 goals for but 27 against. 10 of their 33 goals were on the power play and 2 were short-handed. This labeled them as a dangerous team regardless of the situation and their Corsi For proved that even further. In this time frame, the Lightning had a Corsi For percentage of 52.0% which means that the Lightning were in control of the puck more often than not.
As the season went on the team only improved, hitting very little turbulence. By 42 games in the Lightning were at a record of 32-8-2. They had 176 goals for and 124 goals against. The team maintained the same offensive drive they had at the start of the season with 43 of those goals coming on the power play and 5 shorthanded. Their defensive game stayed steady, of the 124 goals against only 24 were on the power play and 2 were shorthanded. The Corsi For % improved to 52.2, it’s not much but it’s still improvement.
Now, with 9 games left in the season, the only thing the Lightning have to worry about is avoiding injury and staying sharp. They already have the spot in playoffs locked up as well as the Presidents’ Trophy. Now let’s take a look at the players that got them here.
After every big season there is always a Cap Crunch that kills the teams momentum and sends plays scattering across the so with how the Lightning is stacked, this is the best time for a successful playoff run. Most teams have a set of younger players between 19-23 that bring speed onto the ice but of the Lightning’s top 10 point scorers, only 2 are under the age of 25. Even though this team isn’t loaded with younger players, they still have the speed as well as experience.
Leading the Lightning in goals has been Brayden Point (38), the captain Steven Stamkos (36), and Nikita Kucherov (35). The goals race is tight but when it comes to points, Nikita Kucherov is running away with 1st at 117 points. After Kuch is 22 year-old Brayden Point (87) and Steven Stamkos (82). The points drop off there with defenseman Victor Hedman in 4th with 47 points.
Steven Stamkos has been leading the Lightning brilliantly. Stamkos has been a constant for the team, playing in all 73 games and recently became the All-time Goals leader for the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise. Stamkos has the speed and creativity of a younger player that gives his team the scoring chances they need to win games. Stamkos isn’t new to the playoffs and he’s going to be an important factor of leading this team to victory.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the lead goaltender for this Tampa Bay team. This season, he’s averaged a .930 save percentage with a Goals Against Average of 2.26 meanwhile keeping a record of 35-8-4 (47 game starts).
What To Watch
Key to win? Stay out of the box. This team converts on the power play 28.3% of the time. Their penalty kill is even more powerful with a penalty kill rate of 85.7%.
This team is skilled offensively, they have a shooting percentage of 11.9%. They have players that absolutely dominate on the ice; Stamkos, Point, Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ryan McDonagh. Even the defense generates more points than most teams forwards do.
The Lightning are a dangerous team that have been shut out of playoffs one too many times and now they’re coming back with vengeance. I like their chances at winning the Cup, even upped on and bought myself a Lightning shirt and hat while I was stuck in Florida (I have a small jersey-shopping-problem when I’m stressed). This team is stacked throughout and once you let them get an inch, they can make it lights out. (I didn’t mean to make that rhyme but fuck it, we’re keeping it).
First To Clinch: Tampa Bay Lightning
Second To Clinch: Calgary Flames
Third To Clinch: San Jose Sharks
Fourth To Clinch: Winnipeg Jets
Fifth To Clinch: Boston Bruins
Sixth To Clinch: Nashville Predators
Featured Image:SCOTT AUDETTE/GETTY IMAGES Stats from Hockey Reference