The 5 Biggest Letdowns of Tampa Bay Lightning's 2013-14 Season so Far
With 10 games left in the 2013-14 NHL season, the Tampa Bay Lightning sit just two points out of second place in the Atlantic Division and have avoided major letdowns along the way. After finishing 28th in the NHL last season, the Bolts have been victim of only minor disappointments so far.
Barring any big collapse down the stretch, the Lightning should be headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Tampa Bay has a seven-point lead on the final playoff spot and seven of its remaining games are at home.
Still, there are always some disappointments in each season. Whether they are individuals who haven’t played up to par or unfortunate circumstances, here are the Lightning’s five biggest letdowns this season.
5. Less Than 50-50
Speaking of statistics, the Lightning aren’t very good in the faceoff circle. As a team they win just under 49 percent of draws. San Jose leads the league at 53 percent. While this part of the game takes less than a second each time, it can have huge implications on momentum, puck possession and pressure.
A faceoff is a rare time in the game when a puck is legitimately 50-50. Winning a draw can get the puck out of your zone when the line is tired or can get a quick shot in the offensive zone that turns the momentum of the game.
One prime example of the importance of the faceoff is Valtteri Filppula's performance. Filppula is recognized as a solid two-way player, and his 52 percent in the circle only adds to his solid value.
4. Not-so-Special Teams
With all of the talent and speed the Lightning have, they should have solid special teams. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill has been better of late, but they still sit in a three-way tie for 23rd.
The power play was without one of the league’s most dangerous scorers for the majority of the season, but it is still at an 18.3 percent conversion rate. Special teams can be a big part of the game, but as Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues noted, some stats bear more weight than others.
Fortunately, the Lightning are one of the better five-on-five teams in the league.
3. Big Rotten Apple
The departure of then captain and long-time Lightning hero Martin St. Louis can be most accurately described as a letdown. The handling of the whole situation left a bitter taste in the Lightning community and put a blemish on an otherwise illustrious career.
St. Louis was one of the heroes of the 2004 Stanley Cup team and should always be viewed as a superstar in Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the end of his career didn’t play out the way many expected, and he won’t finish his career in a Lightning sweater. That fact is a letdown.
2. Solo Job
Unfortunately, this season hasn’t been kind to every member of the Lightning. Players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman have excelled this year; however, Ben Bishop has grabbed complete control of the crease at the expense of Anders Lindback.
Lindback was supposed to compete for the top job, but after the first start, it has been all Bishop. Lindback is 5-12-2 with a 3.26 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage. The optimism that surrounded the goaltending competition at the beginning of the season has been a letdown any time Bishop hasn’t patrolled the crease.
1. Broken Dreams
At this point in the season, it is easy to ask the “what if” questions. Teams that are out of the playoff picture can ponder their offseason moves or draft strategy from a few years ago. Teams that are on the bubble can ask what if they would or wouldn’t have done this or that. The Lightning’s biggest question is probably what if Steven Stamkos didn’t break his leg?
Stamkos broke his leg Nov. 11. Tampa Bay was in first place in the Atlantic with 24 points. They were 12-4-0 and were flanked by Toronto and Detroit in the division chase. Fast forward to the return of Stamkos on March 6, the Bolts were 10 points behind Boston and in the first wild-card spot.
The Lightning sniper has 33 points in 21 games. How many one-goal games would his production have turned around?
Would a healthy Stamkos have kept Martin St. Louis in Tampa Bay? Would Stamkos have scored 50 goals? Would the Lightning be headed towards a division championship?
One thing is certain when he went crashing into the net four months ago, it was the biggest letdown of the Lightning’s season.