With a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers Tuesday night the Tampa Bay Lightning are 5-1 and in second place in the Eastern Conference. A tough second period against the New York Islanders last week is the only thing that separates the Lightning from a perfect 6-0 record. General Manager Steve Yzerman and Head Coach Guy Boucher have the Lightning built and coached for success.
Here are the reasons why Tampa Bay has started hot this season.
The Lightning have scored an NHL-best 29 goals in the first six games. That is one short of five goals per game. This is mainly due to the Big Three of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. Steven Stamkos leads the team with four goals and St. Louis and Lecavalier have scored three each.
Beyond just the Big 3 however, 13 players have scored goals and a big reason for that is the power play and some solid third line production from Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt, and Dana Tyrell. No matter how you want to look at the stats, the Tampa Bay Lightning have goal scoring threats everywhere on the ice.
Going into the season many may have suspected that Tampa Bay's power play would rank among the league's best, but the penalty kill is a much bigger surprise. The Lightning have some solid grinders on the third and fourth lines to put out there that can skate and put their bodies on the line. Guys like Nate Thompson and Adam Hall are going to be huge pieces to the puzzle since many other players log ice time on the power play.
The power play has started to look like it did in 2011 when the Lightning made the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bolts have scored nine power play goals in six games and are 4th in the league at 30 percent. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier both have two power play goals and have led the team by keeping good puck possession in the offensive zone.
With both units in the top 10 it is easy to see why the Lightning keep winning games.
Anders Lindback has had a great start to the season. Aside from a few giveaways handling the puck, when he is in the crease Lindback has been sensational. Timely saves have been his biggest contribution so far and have kept the Lightning from falling behind early.
At 6'6" Lindback does not look like an athletic goaltender, but he is very quick and that has led to some great sprawling saves. He takes up so much space that it is mentally tough for the other team.
Backup goaltender Mathieu Garon has only had one start but it was a winning effort as he stopped 35 of 36 shots. Look for Garon to get a start this weekend against the Winnipeg Jets or the New York Rangers due to back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.
After having two broken hands and shoulder issues over the past few years, Vincent Lecavalier enjoyed the time off from October to January to get healthy. The added time to recover and train more has made Vinny look five years younger on the ice.
Lecavalier has been scoring and even fighting. His fight last week against Philadelphia was his first in two years. A new stick has given him more power and confidence shooting the puck, but there is no doubt that the time off has been to his advantage.
Cory Conacher is just six games into his NHL career at 23 years old, but with nine points and four multi-point games he looks like a veteran scorer. His speed and energy at only 5'8" is fun to watch and he has been rewarded for his efforts by playing on the second line with guys like Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, and Teddy Purcell.
He is quickly climbing the ranks on the early season rookie of the year lists and should he continue his good play, he will be there at season's end.
Defensively the Lightning have been very solid, but the defense has also pitched in some goals on the offensive end, Eric Brewer has three goals on four shots and Victor Hedman has scored two goals. The additions of Matt Carle and Sami Salo have been crucial to the power play and have added experience to the defense.
Tampa Bay has also been blocking shots all over the ice. The Lightning blocked 26 Philadelphia shots last week and have continued to help the goaltender out by limiting the scoring chances faced.
With the whole team playing well, there is no reason to think that the Lightning aren't a playoff team and won't challenge for the division crown this year.