Biggest Takeaways from Tampa Bay Lightning's Start to the 2013-14 Season
The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a nice start to the 2013-14 season with a 2-1-0 record. There are a few things we can take away from the early success against both of the 2013 Stanley Cup finalists and another Atlantic Division rival.
Tampa Bay has gone through nearly every situation in just three games this season. It gave up short-handed goals against Boston and used the power play to claw back into contests against Chicago and Buffalo.
With the home opener against Florida on Oct. 10, the Lightning will look to continue the early momentum into a long homestand. Here are the biggest things fans can take away from the Lightning’s 2-1-0 start to the year.
1. The Goaltending Situation Has Potential
It’s unfair to judge Anders Lindback by his 0-1 record. He didn’t get any help against Boston with penalty troubles in front of him. Facing a penalty shot in the first game of the season isn’t the way Lindback or the Lightning wanted to start the year.
Still, Lindback made 25 saves, including a few athletic saves and one off the mask. He did some good things and simply fell victim to shoddy play in front of him.
Ben Bishop hasn’t seen much better in front of him, but he has managed to go 2-0 with back-to-back overtime wins. His 1.89 goals-against average is tied for 14th in the league for goaltenders with at least one appearance.
Bishop has needed every bit of his height and skill as the Lightning still work out chemistry and consistency in front of the crease. The goaltending hasn’t been excellent, but it has some serious potential.
2. Consistency Is Still a Problem
Youth? Growing pains? New system? Whatever reason (or excuse) comes to mind, simply put the Lightning haven’t been very consistent in the early part of 2013. The problem with that is that it was a huge problem last season.
The Lightning didn’t record a shot on goal against Chicago in the first period. For an offense as highly skilled as Tampa Bay’s, that is unacceptable. Not to take anything away from the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Lightning should never be kept away from the net for that long.
The Bolts play with spurts of energy for a few shifts followed by a few shifts of drudgery. Tampa Bay will need to be more consistent from shift to shift if it wants to avoid the up-and-down season.
3. Top Guns Flying High
The Lightning’s top two lines have not disappointed in the early going. Martin St. Louis leads the team with three points. Eric Brewer, Valtteri Filppula, Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos all have two points and the Lightning are in good shape.
With the young players on the roster figuring out how to play in the NHL, the veterans needed to produce early in the season. They have, and the Lightning have picked up a couple of wins in the process.
The Bolts are averaging just two goals per game (again, it’s early) and are still working on establishing the young players, but they can’t be upset with the record.
4. The Lightning Own the Third Period
Through three games, the Lightning have yet to score first in a game. For a team that won just 17.2 percent of games when it trailed first last season, the Lightning are doing a nice job of balancing that out.
Coming from behind every game isn’t a great recipe for success, but the Lighting have owned the third period. Thinking back to last season, the Bolts have been able to rally from big deficits late in games.
This season, the Lightning have outscored opponents 4-1 in the third period or later. Half of the team’s six goals have come in the third period. It has two in the second period and none in the opening frame.
Jon Cooper’s system has been effective so far, but they will need to strike earlier in the contest to get by the toughest teams in the division.
5. Not Too High, Not Too Low
It would be easy to jump on the playoff bandwagon after staying above .500 against some of the toughest teams in the league, but don’t. The Lightning have struggled on the road in recent years but are 2-1 so far this year. Still, stay grounded until after the homestand.
The Lightning are doing good things. They are improving every game, but there is still a lot to polish if they are going to compete for a playoff spot in April.
If last season taught fans anything, it is to not get too high and not too low. Tampa Bay starts a long home stand Oct. 10 that should provide fans with every reason to be optimistic (or pessimistic) for the rest of the season.
The Bolts host teams like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Boston and Chicago during the stretch. If they can maintain a plus-.500 record, fans can start to whisper about the “P” word that has been so elusive the last couple of seasons.
It has been an exciting first few games for the Bolts. Here’s to another 79 more.