Over the last four seasons or so, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the league’s most consistent hockey clubs.
Year in and year out, this team puts up great numbers in the regular season, advances far in the postseason, and unfortunately, comes up short when it matters most. This a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and the Eastern Conference Finals in both 2016 and 2018.
This season, it appears the team is headed in the same direction. As of November 5, the team is second in the league with 21 points, just one point behind the league-leading Nashville Predators.
Like they always do, this team is getting balanced scoring. Guys like Brayden Point (17 points), Yanni Gourde (14 points), Nikita Kucherov (14 points), J.T. Miller (11 points), Tyler Johnson (10 points), and Steven Stamkos (10 points) have all put up solid numbers so far.
In looking at the names mentioned above, those are six forwards who have double digits in points. This means they have two lines worth that are putting up points to go along with players like Ondrej Palat (5 points) and Alex Killorn (4 points), guys whose numbers will certainly go up as the season progresses.
The team is also getting production from their defenseman. Ryan McDonagh (10 points), Anton Stralman (7 points), Braydon Coburn (4 points), and Victor Hedman (4 points) have all put up decent numbers from the blue line thus far.
Speaking of Hedman, you know that those numbers will get a lot better. This is a guy who won the Norris Trophy last season as the league’s top defenseman and is someone who usually puts up a ton of points as a blueliner.
Like last season, the team is getting excellent netminding from 24-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy. In 10 games, Vasilevskiy is 7-2-1 with a 1.98 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and one shutout. While those numbers are terrific, the team needs to work on giving him more rest this season. He played 65 games last season and, if you watched closely, it was easy to see how tired he looked in the postseason. Yes, he put up decent numbers in the playoffs (11-6 with a 2.58 goals against average and a .918 save percentage), but he was not the same goaltender he was during the regular season.
This is why head coach Jon Cooper has already given his backup goaltender, Louis Domingue, four games. Unfortunately, Domingue has not played too well. Despite being 3-1, he has posted a 3.77 goals against average and a .885 save percentage.
With much of the same roster as last year, the Lightning once again have a good chance to capture the Cup this season and if Vasilevskiy gets the proper rest, the offense continues to put up points like they are and the defense is stable, this team could end up being unbelievably happy come June.
*Photo: The Globe and Mail