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Tampa Bay Lightning: The Good, the Less Good and the Silver Lining





by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 23, 2021

TAMPA  – The early season story of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks like the beginning of a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

You reach a certain page, think it’s the right decision only to find out it led down an unexpected path that provides the wrong outcome.

There are many different paths the novel takes with different twists and unexpected turns, but in the end, there is only one path that leads to the desired conclusion.

Tampa Bay is only five games into this version, and it feels that no matter the path they choose, it seems to end up on the same page. At some point, the Lightning need to find the path that lands on the right page.

On the good, not as good and the silver lining following a game that followed an all too familiar script.

{mprestriction ids=”1,2″}First the good: The Lightning are five games into the season and they have five points. In the early parts of the season, getting points is paramount, finding ways to move up in the standings on a consistent basis means not falling behind. They may not be at the top, but avoiding the bottom and trying to crawl out, well, that’s the key in the opening parts of the season.

With a record of 2-2-1, it’s not the start many expected from a back-to-back, but there’s a saying that teams can’t win the Stanley Cup in October, but a team can lose their chance at capturing a title.

“Are there a lot of positive things going on with the team that’s in transition from what it was last year? Really good things going on,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “We’ve played some really good opponents and we’re grinding out points, which is what you have to do in this league. So there’s different guys in different roles. We’ve got new guys in the lineup doing some great things for us. It’s going to take some time for us. The boys are gutting it out and finding a way to claw some points back, and now we’ve just got to start getting two at a time now, that’s what we have to do.”

Through five games, Tampa Bay is eighth in the league with a plus-24 in shot attempts. At 5-on-5 play, they hold a plus-27 advantage. And they have a plus-16 advantage in high dangers chances.

Lots of positives despite not getting enough positives in the results category.

“We feel like we’re getting better in certain areas,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “So, you want to get as many points as you can, especially early on in the season. We talked about that, so just got to continue to get better here. Five-on-five wasn’t a bad game. I thought we had some pretty good chances ,we had a lot of shots on net, scrambles in front of us. So it was a game that could have went either way.”

On Saturday against Colorado, during 5-on-5, the Lightning had 62-percent of the shot attempts and 55-percent of the scoring chances and high danger chances while 60-percent of the expected goals.

The not so good: Tampa Bay is five games into the season and they have yet to hold a lead at any point in a game. Both of their victories came in overtime – at Detroit and at Washington. In all five games, Tampa Bay allowed the opening goal.

In each of the five games, the Lightning have yet to score a goal in the first period. That means, in each game on the season, Tampa Bay has had to chase the game.

“We’re pretty good team when we have to lead, so we need to find a way to get it,” Stamkos said.

The offense, which wasn’t much of a question coming into the season, has been sporadic. In five games, the Lightning have a total of 15 goals, with nearly half of those coming against Detroit. And of those 15 goals, four have come in an extra attacker situation, including the third period tying goal on Saturday.  Six of the 15 goals have come at 5-on-5 play, which means despite all those numbers that favor the Lightning at 5-on-5 play, they’ve been outscored 12-6.

The power play went 0-for-3 on Saturday, and is now 0-for-9 in the past two games.

“When you lose a guy like Kuch it shakes things up a bit in terms of trying to find your chemistry with lines and breaking some guys up that worked well and trying to find some balance,” Stamkos said. “We talked about, same with the power play, it’s going to be an adjustment period for that and probably 5-on-5 as well. We’re not sitting here getting 15, 20 shots. We’re generating some chances. We’d like to see them go in and play with the lead a little more moving forward.”

The silver lining is not too hard to find here for Tampa Bay.

A lot of it comes in what was mentioned above because there are a lot of positives in Tampa Bay’s overall game.

The penalty kill continues to be a bright spot, and it’s certainly been tested plenty of times in the early going, including six times on Saturday. And even though Colorado’s go-ahead goal in the third period came on the power play, the Lightning were strong throughout the game, holding a dangerous Colorado power play to four shots on the first five opportunities and just one high danger chance.

And the type of trends showing through the first five games will not last. At some point, the Lightning will score the opening goal. At some point, they will score in the first period.

The Avalanche are a Cup contender. They are the odds on favorite to win the Cup this season after a few seasons where their playoffs came to a sooner-than-expected end. Colorado came in riding a three-game losing streak and were outscored 10-4 in the first two games of a three-game road trip. And the line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are arguably the best line in the game, and even on a night in which the line of Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph held them in check with a minus-3 Corsi, they find a way to be the difference accounting for all three Avalanche goals – the second coming as they capitalized on a rare Point mistake that led to a 2-on-1 that Rantanen buried on a one-timer after Point was unable to handle a hard pass from Palat as Point covered the right point.

The Lightning played the Avalanche well. Now, they need to take that on the road with them for a two-game trip to Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

“Every season’s different I guess,” Joseph said. “Obviously, we would like to play with the lead. We’d be a much better team playing with the lead. But I like our resiliency. There’s some stuff you can’t control. I think we’re trying to have good starts and sometimes it’s tough. I think we started three games with back-to-back penalties or something like that. It’s tough for momentum to get your way early, but at the end of the day, I think we just have to battle. That’s stuff we can’t control. We’re trying to score obviously. But that’s definitely something we have to emphasize and try to play with the lead.”

Note: With two points, Steven Stamkos moved into second place on the franchise all-time scoring list, moving past Vinny Lecavalier and now only trails Marty St. Louis by 78 points.

“Just brings back a lot of memories playing with with those two guys,” Stamkos said. “Obviously anytime you’re jumping in some categories with those two  it’s pretty remarkable. Two pillars of this organization. I’ve been proud to be in this journey for a long time, hopefully a long time more and continue to help our team win, but certainly something to be proud of.”

Postgame notes: LW Alex Barre-Boulet, claimed on waivers on Friday, took part in the morning skate but was a scratch. …Tampa Bay recalled D Fredrik Claesson from Syracuse. Claesson arrived at Amalie Arena just over an hour before puck drop and was a scratch. … D Erik Cernak had a game-high seven shots on goal. … Stamkos has nine points through five games with four multi-point outings. … Saturday was Tampa Bay’s first meeting with Colorado since Feb. 17, 2020, the last victory in Tampa Bay’s franchise record 11 consecutive wins. It was Colorado’s first game in Tampa since Oct 19, 2019.

My three stars:

1. Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon – Goal, two assists, plus-2, five shot attempts

2. Avalanche D Cale Makar – Two assists, shootout winner, six shot attempts, three hits, 28:29 of ice time

3. Lightning C Steven Stamkos – Goal, assist, two takeaways, two blocked shots


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