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.
56 points – 4th in the NHL.
37 assists – 2nd in the NHL.
5 game winning goals – 2nd in the NHL.
9 power play goals – 4th in the NHL.
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
10 wins – 31st
48 goals against – 40th
3.20 GAA – 44th
.883 save % – 48th
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.
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?