Who's Overachieving, Underperforming for the Tampa Bay Lightning so Far?
The Tampa Bay Lightning haven't shirked lofty expectations from the offseason. The Lightning are 3-1-1 to start the year and have received some strong performances from a wide array of cast members.
The Bolts started their five-game road trip with a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 18. Unfortunately, defenseman Victor Hedman left the game early with what is being called an upper-body injury and won't be able to finish the road trip. Outside of that, the Lightning's season has gotten off to a very strong start.
Tampa Bay hasn't been playing the cleanest hockey, but it has found ways to win games. In the early part of the season, finding a way to win when not playing your best hockey is crucial to avoid playing catch-up later in the year.
With four games left on the first road trip of the season, here is who is overachieving and underperforming for the Bolts so far.
Under: Jonathan Drouin's Thumb
About the only dark spot early in the Lightning's season is the absence of top prospect Jonathan Drouin. Drouin injured his thumb early in the preseason, which delayed his NHL debut and put him behind the pack in the rookie scoring race. Currently, Los Angeles Kings rookie Tanner Pearson leads the league with seven points in six games.
Drouin was sent to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League for his professional debut on Oct. 17, when he notched the game-winning goal. That may be the only AHL game Drouin plays in during his career, but he made an impact.
Witkowski was recalled due to the injury suffered by Hedman.
The Lightning's defensive unit has been strong to start the season. The Lightning are tied for seventh in the league averaging 1.80 goals against. They're also sixth in the league in shots against with a 26.8 per-game average. Both numbers, though early, are nice improvements from their middle-of-the-pack performances last season in those categories.
The defense has chipped in offensively with 13 points in the first five games. No. 1 defenseman Hedman leads the group with seven points. The Bolts have given up nine goals this year, with seven of them coming during five-on-five play.
The defensive unit has eight takeaways on the season, led by Anton Stralman's four.
This unit has been anchored by Stralman and Hedman. Hedman's injury will force Stralman to take on even more minutes to keep the unit performing at a high level.
Over: The Closers
Tampa Bay has been known for its offense for the majority of the franchise's history. With sniper Steven Stamkos on the ice, the Bolts offense can steal games in a hurry.
The Lightning have used their offense to close out games. Tampa Bay has seven third-period goals, which is tied for fourth place in the league. The Lightning are plus-three in the third period.
Stamkos leads the team with five goals. Hedman and Ryan Callahan are right behind with three goals to pace one of the league's best offenses (3.4 goals per game). The Lightning are averaging 32.8 shots per game.
The Lightning's seven-goal performance against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 14 showed just how potent this offense can be.
Over: The Specialists
The Lightning's special teams units have been converting at an elite level early in the 2014-15 season. Led by Hedman's five power-play points, the Lightning's man advantage has been strong.
Tampa Bay is fourth in the league on the power play, converting at a 29.2 percent pace. The Bolts are 7-of-24 this season. They are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most power-play opportunities (24).
Down a man, the Lightning are sixth in the league at 89.5 percent. Last season, the Lightning were 23rd in the league at 80.7 percent. Tampa Bay has given up two power-play goals in 19 short-handed situations.
With 10 short-handed goals last season, the Lightning have one of the league's most potent offenses, even down a man. They have yet to record a short-handed goal this season, but they have enough weapons to change that in a hurry.
The Bolts have been getting strong results this season despite not clicking on all cylinders. With the addition of Drouin, the Bolts might be ready to take their game to the next level.