The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a few reasons to smile this season and a few teams they are looking down on.
When the experts picked the NHL division favorites for the 2013-14 season, no one expected the Tampa Bay Lightning to be at the top. But after 16 games, the Lightning lead the Eastern Conference with 24 points and have a few surprising statistics that have helped get them to that point—outside of the record.
Let’s face it: Few would have expected the Bolts to be off to their torrid start. Tampa Bay is currently on a four-game winning streak and is tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the longest streak in the league.
The Lightning are also the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. They are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Only the Washington Capitals are close with a 7-2-1 record in that span.
With a 12-4-0 record, the Lightning have been impressive so far this season. Here are five statistics that have helped them get to that mark.
Whether it is in regulation or not, the Lightning have come out on top.
Most (four) of those teams have a modest record of 1-0 in those games, but Toronto, L.A. and Tampa have impressive numbers. Toronto is 3-0, Los Angeles is 6-0 and Tampa Bay is 5-0.
For a team that has struggled to find success in recent years, winning these types of games can be a big confidence booster. Even more impressive, the Lightning are 4-0 in road games decided in extra-time situations.
Winning these close games is great experience for the young talent on the Lightning that are still learning to battle in the NHL.
Great goaltending and improved defense have the Lightning at the top in plus/minus.
Tampa Bay’s offense was expected to be one of the best offenses in the league. The Bolts haven’t disappointed with the sixth-best offense at 3.25 goals per game. The defense has been a nice surprise this season, but Tampa Bay’s plus/minus rating is an even bigger surprise.
The Lightning are tied with the Boston Bruins at the top of the Eastern Conference leader board with a plus-15 rating. The Bruins aren’t a surprise in that category, but the Lightning haven’t had a positive rating since the 2010-11 season when they finished plus-seven.
There are a few contributing factors to this statistic, but the plus-15 rating has been crucial to the Lightning’s success. It has also been a bit of a surprise so far this season—and a welcomed one at that.
Coming from behind hasn't been an issue for this year's Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning like to start fast. Tampa Bay is outscoring opponents 14-6 in the first period, which can significantly limit the number of come-from-behind opportunities.
The Bolts are winning 89 percent of games in which they score first. More impressively, they are third in the league (57 percent) at coming from behind. Tampa Bay is 4-3 in games where the opponent scores first.
They are the only Eastern Conference team in the top five in that category. Toronto is the only other Eastern Conference team to win at least half of its come-from-behind games.
With a young group, this is a great testament to the team buying into coach Jon Cooper’s system.
Led by the league's best goal scorer, Tampa Bay's offense is right on track.
Tampa Bay has the sixth-best offense in the league (3.25 goals per game). Thirty-six of the team’s 52 goals have come on even strength. It has scored two shorthanded goals and 12 power-play goals in the first 16 games.
The Bolts lead the league in goals at home (36) in just nine contests. They are sparked by Steven Stamkos (tied for the league lead with 23 points) and Martin St. Louis (16 points). The offense has clicked early and often this season.
They are 11th in the league at 19.7 percent on the power play and are outscoring opponents 20-6 in the final frame. This team’s offense is practically firing on all cylinders, which has been a big part of the early success.
Ben Bishop has been the Lightning's first star this season.
This offseason, there was a bit of competition for the Lightning’s No. 1 goaltending job. It was said the Bolts had two No. 1 goaltenders, but after 16 games, it has been anything but a competition.
Still, Cooper maintains a diplomatic stance about his goaltenders. While it is rare for a sports writer to actually be right, predictions of Ben Bishop being a 30-game winner don’t seem outlandish anymore.
Bishop leads the league with 11 wins thanks to an 11-2 record. He is 11th in the league with a .927 save percentage and 10th with a 2.12 goals-against average. Bishop has been everything the Lightning have needed and more.
While Anders Lindback is waiting for his opportunity with the Lightning, Bishop’s play has brought him into consideration to lead Team USA in the Olympics.
Bishop’s hot start is the biggest reason the Lightning are sitting atop the Eastern Conference.