The Lightning have jumped out to the top of their division thanks to a strong performance from the offense.
All the questions surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason have been subdued thanks to a great start to the season. The Lightning are 4-1-0 on the young season, but despite the strong start, there are still some concerns for the Bolts moving forward.
The front six have performed to the level many expected them to. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are two of the highest scoring players in the league to this point.
The goaltending duo of Mathieu Garon and Anders Lindback have put together a strong performance with a combined 13 goals against through five games.
The Bolts are on top of the Southeast Division, but here are some things that are still concerning for Tampa.
Victor Hedman is plus-7 this season despite the defense giving up a ton of shots.
One of the biggest concerns for the Lightning this offseason was defense. Shots on goal can be a deceiving statistic.
For example, giving up 40 shots on goal from the blue line can be better than 20 shots from the slot. On the flip side, 40 shots from the point can result in easy rebounds.
The Lightning have done a nice job of keeping shots to the perimeter, but they are 27th in the league in shots against (34.2 per game).
Last season, the Bolts finished tied for 17th (30.5). In 2011—when the Bolts went to the Eastern Conference Finals—they finished tied for fifth (28.7).
D-man Keith Aulie leads one of the league's most penalized teams with 18 PIMs.
There are a few excuses for the ridiculous amount of penalty minutes the Lightning have accrued through five games. Maybe, it’s Vincent Lecavalier’s fights or the shortened training camp, but whatever the case, the Lightning are at the top of the PIM charts.
Tampa has 106 penalty minutes through five games (28th in the league) and average 21.2 per game. They have 33 minors so far.
Fortunately for the Lightning, they are killing nearly 85 percent of the penalties. They can’t expect to be successful when they spend so much time shorthanded once the teams around the league get chemistry going.
The Lightning need to make some adjustments in the middle frame.
The Lightning have the league’s best offense (4.8 goals per game), but have just three goals in the second period. Tampa is a plus-11 goal differential overall, but the Lightning are being outscored 10-3 in the middle frame.
This suggests a bit of an intensity let down for the Bolts. A fast start and a strong finish can be negated by an awful middle period.
What will Tampa do if they don’t start strong? Losing two periods isn’t a recipe for success.
The Lightning are 26th in the NHL in takeaways this season.
Tampa’s forecheck gets a lot of credit for applying pressure, but the Lightning are one of the worst teams in the league in getting takeaways. Turnovers can be game changers—especially with as many offensive weapons as the Lightning have.
If the Bolts can start getting turnovers in the attacking zone or in neutral ice, the league’s best offense could be even more productive.
Through five games, the Lightning have 19 takeaways (26th in the NHL).
Anders Lindback is tied for 32nd in the NHL in goals-against average this season.
On paper, the Lightning’s goaltending duo has performed well.
Lindback is 3-1 with a .911 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average. Garon has a .972 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA in just one appearance.
Looking deeper than the stats, Lindback has given up some juicy rebounds. If it wasn’t for the Lightning offense being so potent in the early going, they wouldn’t be atop the division.
Fortunately, Lindy should settle in as he gets more and more experience in the NHL.
Garon’s durability is always a concern. He made a few sprawling saves in his win over Carolina, but goaltending is tough on the lower body.
Lindback taking the majority of the starts should help prolong Garon’s season. It will be interesting to see how this combination splits time if the Bolts make the playoffs.