The NHL’s Statistical Anomaly: The Tampa Bay Lightning

Through 46 games, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s record is 26-15-5 including a sparkling 13-4-2 at home and a respectable 13-11-3 on the road. The Bolts sport a 22-10-3 record versus Eastern Conference teams. Tampa Bay resides in 1st place in the Southeast Division, is 2nd seeded in the Eastern Conference and is the 6th best team in the NHL

Coach Guy Boucher’s special teams have been solid, even outstanding at times. The power play is clicking at 20.8% (7th in the NHL), while the penalty kill unit is stopping opponents with the man advantage 82.8% of the time (10th in the NHL).

On average, the Lightning get 32.8 shots on goal per game (6th in the NHL) and score 2.94 goals per game (10th in the NHL).

The NHL individual leader boards are chocked full of recognizable player names:

Superstar Steven Stamkos

33 goals – 1st in the NHL.

61 points – 2nd in the NHL.

6 game winning goals – 1st in the NHL.

14 power play goals – 1st in the NHL.

169 shots – 11th in the NHL.

19.4 shooting percentage – 7th in the NHL.

Martin St. Louis

56 points – 4th in the NHL.

37 assists – 2nd in the NHL.

5 game winning goals – 2nd in the NHL.

Ryan Malone

9 power play goals – 4th in the NHL.

Steve Downie

90 penalty minutes – 14th in the NHL.

These are the numbers of a great team bound for a long run into the Stanley Cup playoffs…Right?

To quote an ESPN talking head:  “Not so fast my friend!”

The Lightning is quite the statistical anomaly. That is to say, they deviate from the NHL group of division and league leading teams they find themselves in.

The Bolts have given up 148 goals (2nd worst in the NHL) and are -11 in goal differential. Tampa Bay gives up, on average 3.17 goals per game (27th of 30 NHL teams) and is last in the league in goals against while at even strength (98).

While their special teams have been solid, they have given up a league high nine shorthanded goals.

The Eastern Conference teams that share the top of the standings with the Lightning do not approach these levels of ineptitude. Boston (2.18), Pittsburgh (2.33). Montreal (2.38), New York (2.41) and Washington (2.60) give up far fewer goals per game on average than the Lightning (3.17) .

Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Washington all have allowed 19 or less goals against than the Bolts. Philadelphia (+34), Boston (+31), Pittsburgh (+37), Washington (+8) and New York (+18) have far better goal differentials than the Lightning’s -11. That goal differential number is reserved for the four bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference. Only the Maple Leafs (-18), Senators (-38), Islanders (-37) and Devils (-53) have worse goal differentials.

The explanation for these frightening defensive numbers is simple…Horrible goaltending. While the addition of Dwayne Roloson has improved the Bolts goaltending of late, the numbers don’t lie.

Out of the 77 goalies that have played in the NHL this year, here are the Lightning goalies numbers and rankings.

Dwayne Roloson (20 games with the Islanders, 6 with the Lightning)

9 wins – 32nd

16 losses – 2nd,

68 goals against – 55th.

2.74 GAA – 30th

.913 save % – 25th

Mike Smith

10 wins – 31st

48 goals against – 40th

3.20 GAA – 44th

.883 save % – 48th

Dan Ellis

11 wins – 26th

5 OT/SO losses – 2nd

76 goals against -60th

3.07 GAA – 40th

.884 save % – 47th

Dan Ellis and Mike Smith rank 69th and 73rd (out of the 77 NHL goalies that have seen the ice this season) in power play save %. In other words, when most elite NHL goalies are at their best, Smith and Ellis are at their worst.

Certainly the goaltending is not all to blame. Only one defenseman has a positive rating this season. Matt Smaby, of all people, is a +1, while the rest of the blue-liners are in the negative:  Randy Jones -8, Brett Clark -7, Mike Lundin -7, Pavel Kubina -5, Mattias Ohlund -3 and Victor Hedman -2.

The Bolts forwards ratings read like a horror story. Of the 17 players that have donned a Lightning jersey this season, only Steven Stamkos (+10), Martin St. Louis (+3) and Steve Downie (+2) have positive ratings. Two, Dana Tyrell and Blair Jones are even. The 12 remaining forwards ratings are as follows:  Simon Gagne -21, Dominic Moore -16, Vincent Lecavalier -11, Adam Hall -9, Teddy Purcell -7, Mattias Ritola -5, Nate Thompson -5, Johan Harju -3, Sean Bergenheim -3, Marc Pouliot -2 and James Wright -2.

As a team, the Bolts are a -112. Their neighbors in the Eastern Conference standings are markedly better:  Philadelphia +197, Boston +154, Pittsburgh +124, New York +60 and Washington +44.

What does it all mean?

It means that the Lightning have won despite themselves…so far. Huge goaltending and defensive issues exist. The offense must get better five-on-five and continue to be consistently good on their special teams.

Simply looking at the standings does not tell the full story of the 2010-11 Tampa Bay Lightning. A peek inside the numbers tells us that eventually you are what the statistics say you are.

*Statistics courtesy of NHL.com and HockeyReference.com.


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About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?

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  1. Al Cimaglia says:

    Very nice blog…

    As I look around the league this is a very odd year.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jessica Miller. Jessica Miller said: The NHL’s Statistical Anomaly: The Tampa Bay Lightning | Hockey Independent http://t.co/GlnZ0tV via @wibiya [...]

  3. Fred Poulin says:

    Nice work WB! It means the Lightning is a very inconsistent team despite their records, they win tight games then lose lopsided match-ups like the 8-1 beating in Pittsburgh!

    • WB Philp says:

      Thanks Fred. Very true…two 8-1 beatings and two 6-0 defeats, plus a .82 goals per game scoring average.

  4. Tony19 says:

    Hey WB Philp! Thanks for putting these numbers together so that we can see how the bolts are doing compared to others around the NHL. I think that the Lightning are like many other teams that play to the talent level of their opponent. But I can’t blame them for that because look where they are coming from. They are not a very established team with a new coach who was a completely different style of hockey than any of the bolts are used to. For them to be leading the Southeast is a great step for them in the right direction. Who cares if they are last in goals against, as long as they are scoring at least one more goal than their opponent and are getting wins. This isnt anything that I wasn’t expecting knowing that Bouncher has an offense style of play. I think once they have some more time and get their lines solid they will start producing shutouts and fewer goals against. All about trial and error in my eyes and Boucher is handling those boys well. Thanks again for keeping me up to date on all the lightning news!

    • WB Philp says:

      Thanks for the comment Tony19. Thanks for reading! You may be right about the Lightning’s future, but unless they ignore where they’re at in the standings and start playing more defensive hockey, they won’t get far in this season’s playoffs.

  5. TB Fan says:

    WB, would it be possible to examine the Bolts’ numbers with the exclusion of about a half dozen of their staggering defeats? Obviously those games can’t be discounted, but games with 8 goals allowed, 6 goals allowed etc. are not the “norm” for the Bolts, but certainly do hurt them in a statistical fashion. I just scratch my head when the team beats the Bruins, Caps or Montreal, but then flounders against cellar dwellers. I think they’ve have about seven games where they have allowed 6 or more goals; one of those a 8-7 victory…

    In these games alone, the goal differential is around -32.

    May not be worth the exercise, but I just wonder what the goals allowed and stats would look like.

    Great article!

    • WB Philp says:

      Great point TB Fan. Thanks for the comment. I did think of that, but those “blow out” games are a part of who they are, until they stop that from happening. If I did that, I would have to do the same with all other teams that surround them in the standings. I could do that, but how would I phrase the reason for excluding the blow outs? “These are the numbers, excluding the games that they didn’t even show up?”

      I’m sure that all of it means the same thing. The Bolts are wildly inconsistent and need to get better, especially in their own zone.

      Thanks for reading!

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