Tampa Bay Lightning Early Season Stock Report
A hot start followed by an ice-cold losing streak has brought the Tampa Bay Lightning back to reality. If the Lightning stock were on Wall Street, the people who bought in when the Bolts were on top are selling while those that waited could be ready to buy.
Tampa Bay had climbed within a point of the top spot in the Eastern Conference before a dismal road trip calmed the storm. The Lightning trail in the Southeast Division by a point to Carolina, and they have gone from the top to outside the playoff picture.
With the fury that is the shortened season, the Lightning stock has already gone on a roller coaster. All things considered, here is the stock report for the Bolts through the first quarter of the season.
The Lightning have a ton of offensive weapons. With sniper Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Cory Conacher, Matt Carle and Sami Salo making marks on the man advantage, Tampa Bay could have the best unit in the league.
Statistically, the Lightning are second in the league at 28.3 percent. They are on a ridiculous clip at home—converting a league-high 44.4 percent of the opportunities.
The power is out for Tampa Bay on the road though. The Bolts are converting an atrocious 5.3 percent of chances on the road.
One of the greatest weaknesses of the Lightning last season was the penalty kill. Tampa Bay finished 26th in the league (79.2 percent) last season. They gave up a whopping 59 goals when shorthanded that year.
This year, things are improving for the Bolts. Tampa Bay is converting 82.2 percent of penalty-kill chances—good enough for 12th in the league.
With all the moving pieces in the Lightning organization this offseason, early PK success is nice to see.
No one doubts that the strength of the Lightning is their offense. Tampa Bay has the league’s best offense (3.91 goals per game). Before this road trip, the Lightning were averaging nearly five goals a game.
Steven Stamkos leads the team with seven goals. Vincent Lecavalier and Cory Conacher follow up with five.
Even with the early-season success, the Lightning can be better in the offensive end.
Despite being ranked 20th in the league in goals allowed, the Lightning defense has been surprisingly solid this season. Coach Guy Boucher’s system, with a revolving door on the blue line, isn’t easy to grasp.
Even with the week-long training camp, the Lightning defense has done a nice job of picking up the system and keeping the puck out of the net.
The Lightning were 26th in the NHL last season in blocked shots. Tampa Bay is 13th with 86 this year. Oddly enough, 76 of the 86 blocks have come on the road—where the Lightning are 1-4-0.
Tampa Bay has the Eastern Conference’s best goal differential (plus-11), and the defense is probably the only aspect of the Lightning that has been solid on the road.
The most scrutinized move of the Tampa Bay offseason was the acquisition of Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators. The young—and unproven—goaltender has found his first No. 1 role with the Lightning.
So far this season, Lindback is 5-3-0 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Lindback won five of his first six starts, but he has dropped the last two and given up six goals in those appearances.
Even in his wins, Lindback has given up three goals or more in three of his wins. He struggles with rebound control and positioning at times, but that could be growing pains.
The jury is still out on if we should be buying or selling Lindback.
Lighting head coach Boucher may eventually become the victim of his own success. After leading Tampa Bay within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season, things have gone downhill.
Tampa Bay missed the playoffs last season with an abysmal road record (13-22-6). The road woes have continued this season.
Not that Boucher’s seat is getting hot—the Lightning organization isn’t one to relieve duties midseason—but another under-performing season may have Tampa Bay looking for outside help.
They won’t have to look far with the American Hockey League affiliate Syracuse Crunch dominating. With an AHL championship last season and a top team again this year, Crunch coach Jon Cooper may have his eyes set on a call-up from the big club.
Things need to be more consistent from Boucher’s team. Lackadaisical efforts on the road don’t inspire much confidence for a playoff run.