Tampa Bay Lightning Midseason Report

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Tampa Bay Lightning Midseason Report
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning reached the threshold of 41 games today with a 3-1 victory over the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, bringing their season record back over .500.

The Lightning find themselves right in the middle of the pack of Eastern Conference teams battling for playoff spots.

As we look forward to the second half of the NHL season, let's take a moment and look back at the first half of the season.

Record: 16-15-10, 42 points, 10th in the Eastern Conference

Second Quarter Record (20 games): 7-10-3

Current Pace: 32-30-20, 84 points


Most Valuable Player
: Steven Stamkos, Forward

The young budding superstar has had an outstanding first half of the 2009-10 season. Stamkos ranks seventh in the NHL with 21 goals on the season and is second on the team with 39 points.

His amazing playmaking ability, speed, and wicked shot make him one of the top snipers in the NHL.


Most Improved Player:
Ryan Malone, Forward

After a disappointing 2008-09 season where he scored just 45 points, Malone has had an outstanding beginning to this year, already with 19 goals and 35 points.

Malone is on pace to set career highs in both categories.


Most Disappointing Player:
Alex Tanguay, Forward

Once a reliable 20-goal score and 70 point guy, Alex Tanguay has yet to find his scoring touch in Tampa Bay, managing just 6 goals in 39 games.

Teamed with Vincent Lecavalier, who has also been disappointing this season, neither has been able to provide the second line scoring that the Lightning were hoping to see.


Best Game of the season:
Oct. 22, Lightning 5, San Jose 2

41 games have been played, but the team's best performance of the season is still that one against the Sharks on Oct. 22.

Facing a team with the best record in hockey (right now), the Lightning completely dominated the Sharks from the outset.

Rookie James Wright scored his first NHL goal just 30 seconds into the contest while Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, and Andrej Meszaros each added their own to help Tampa Bay build a 4-1 lead.

Stamkos would end any doubt of a Sharks comeback with an empty net goal.

Mike Smith was on fire, making 32 saves.


Worst Game of the Season:
Oct. 15, Ottawa 7, Lightning 1.

The Lightning have had a few stinkers this season, but the Oct. 15 debacle in Ottawa still ranks as the team's worst performance of the season thus far.

Mike Smith gave the Lightning no chance in this one. Smith surrendered all seven goals in Ottawa's rout of the Bolts. Tampa Bay didn't even get on the board until they were down by five goals.

Smith was off on his angles and simply had no feel for the puck. The defense in front of him didn't help much, looking lethargic most of the game.

Tampa Bay would get their revenge on the Sens a few weeks later with a 5-2 whooping that wasn't as close as the score indicated.


What We've Learned:
If they get offensive support, the Lightning can beat anybody.

Tampa Bay has managed to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race despite averaging just 2.51 goals a game.

Only the bottom-feeding Carolina Hurricanes have scored fewer goals than the 103 total the Lightning have managed over the first half of the season.

The Lightning's goals seem to come in bunches as the Lightning have scored four or more goals 10 times this season. Still, there's been 13 times this season where the team has score one or no goals in a game.

You can't win consistently without putting the biscuit in the basket, folks, which is why Tampa Bay continues to meander around the .500 mark.


What We Don't Know:
When will the light come on for Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay?

Both Tanguay and Lecavalier have been major point producers during their careers, but this far this season both have been major disappointments.

Lecavalier has come on of late, though, and has risen to third on the team with 38 points. Still, Vinny is paid to put the puck in the net and he's only managed to do that nine times this season.

This is the same Vincent Lecavalier who once scored 52 goals in a season. This is the same Lecavalier who's score 29 or more goals for six straight years.

As we mentioned earlier, Tanguay has been a point producer his entire career, yet in Tampa Bay he's failed to score consistently.

Until the Lightning can get production from these two huge pieces to the puzzle, they won't be able to take the next step forward and grab the final playoff spot by the jugular.

 

Prediction

The Lightning's inability to light the lamp on a consistent basis has really hindered their chances to end the two year playoff drought.

The Lightning remain just a point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern conference and with 41 games left to play a lot can happen between now and April.

While this team is young and inconsistent, I still believe they have the tools to be a playoff contender. Still, without being able to score, I don't think they'll be in the final eight.

If Tanguay can find his touch and Lecavalier continues to progress out of his season long funk, this can certainly change.

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