As the Lightning rest during this much needed break, let’s take some time as fans to appreciate the current position. To be only three games under .500 and 9 points out of a playoff spot with 32 games left to play is actually not half bad. I mean, if you were to glance at our injuries list, you can see why. At one point, the Tampa Bay Lightning had nine players out due to injury. During the last game played Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, the team was jokingly called the Tampa Bay Admirals several times. It was appropriate, as the Lightning had four call ups playing for the Lightning. At one point, an entire forward line of AHL call-ups playing together at one point. However, there are your share of negatives attributes that the team must work on fixing if they want any chance at a playoff spot. With a four game win streak going into the All-Star break, it seems like the team is on their way to tweaking its issues.
Alright, so let us start with the negative aspects of the Tampa Bay Lightning so far. Needless to say, I can go off and list many things wrong with the team this year. One thing that I think everyone can agree with is goaltending. Last year, goaltending was an issue with Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. Steve Yzerman went out and acquired Dwayne Roloson and he was an immediate fix. Roloson carried the team deep into the playoffs, and almost into the Cup Finals. However, this year it has been a completely opposite story. The 42 year-old Roloson has the highest goals-against-average (3.65) amongst goalies who have at least ten starts this season. His record is a mediocre 7-10-2 with an .882 save percentage. This is a far cry from Roloson’s performance last year. The organization hoped to find at least one more good year in Roloson, but I honestly think the man is done. Don’t be surprised to see Rolo announce retirement after the season is over. I love him as a person, but his time is done.
The Lightning powerplay has earned itself a nickname through Twitter, especially through @BlackSheepJim: Powerplay Kill. This bit of sarcastic hockey humor comes from the Lightning’s lackluster powerplay this year. At home, the Lightning seem to have no problem on the powerplay. The home powerplay is ranked 8th in the league, as they score on 20.3% of powerplays at home. That’s a comforting number, as any home-ice advantage is extremely helpful. However, away from home, the Lightning are a mere 8.6% on the powerplay. The team has converted on only 8 of 93 chances. If the Lightning want to get anywhere, the powerplay must be addressed.
The injuries list for the Lightning this year has been elongated for most of the season. Before the season even started, we all knew the team would be without the veteran services of Mattias Ohlund. The veteran Swede has been out all year as a result of arthroscopic knee surgery. There were speculations earlier in the season that Ohlund might be back around midway through the season. However, we are now more than midway through the season, and Ohlund still isn’t showing any signs of major progression. Ohlund will likely take the entire season off to nurse his injury and recover from surgery.
Another huge hit to the Lightning is the injury to Dana Tyrell. Tyrell suffered a knee injury on January 15th in a game against the Penguins. As it turns out, Dana will need surgery to repair his ACL in his right knee. Tyrell will miss the rest of the season due to the surgery. Adding to the defensive struggles of the Lightning has been the loss of Victor Hedman. He has been out since December 27th with a concussion. Hedman was spending most of his time taking shifts on the top line with Eric Brewer, receiving valuable experience for a player his age. There is no set timetable for Hedman’s return. The list doesn’t end there though. Ryan Shannon suffered a lower body injury, and will be out for 2-4 weeks. Although Shannon has been a disappointment this year, his presence helps out the rest of the team in terms of ice time. Shannon has also been used to kill penalties. Forward Adam Hall has also been out lately for the Lightning. He suffered a right forearm injury, and last played on January 5th against the Senators, taking only 2 shifts. He will be back in about 2 months.
Steven Stamkos is making his second All-Star appearance this weekend for Team Alfredsson. Stamkos was chosen sixth overall by Alfie in the All-Star draft last night (1/26). Just yesterday, I spotted the Stat of the Day on the team’s official site. It stated:
“Steven Stamkos is the only player in the NHL this season to record at least both 30 goals and 50 points.”
Needless to say, Stamkos is easily one of the top 5 players in the NHL. He leads the league in goals scored with 32, and has a solid 20 assists, totaling 52 points in 48 games. Stamkos’ 32 goals is 5 goals more than any other player in the league. Along with great offensive play, Stamkos has shown great defensive and leadership skills. These are qualities that are hard to find in young scorers like Stamkos. Stammer will be recognized this season as one of the best as he participates in the All-Star festivities.
Lecavalier has been under a lot of fire in the past few seasons. He is making about $10 million per year, and most people think he hasn’t lived up to the amount of money he is receiving. To be fair, Lecavalier is past his 100 point seasons, but as of right now, Vinny is on pace for 70 points. The big, veteran center has 19 goals and 21 assists this season. The biggest thing for Vincent Lecavalier this season has probably been his health. Last year, Vinny was injured for a good portion of the season. This season, he has returned to his usual two way form, playing well defensively, while also being a threat to score.
With all of the injuries the Lightning have sustained this year, the team has gotten a chance to show off some of its depth. We’ve seen great play from role players on the NHL roster, as well as minor league call ups this year.
Teddy Purcell has been a huge help for the Lightning so far this year. He’s logged some time on the penalty kill for the team, and after a terrible start to the year, it seems Teddy has returned to his usual form. Purcell has 12 goals and 15 assists this season. As a second or third line forward, those aren’t terrible numbers. While they aren’t great, Purcell is on the rise this season. Purcell has 4 goals and 1 assist in his last five games. Along with Teddy, Martin St. Louis has also been helping to plug the many holes in the Lightning team. Marty, despite missing some time with a broken.. um, face.. has 12 goals and 31 assists. Marty’s veteran presence, along with his great ice vision, allows him to set up teammates for great opportunities. Marty hasn’t missed a step since coming back from his injury. Ryan Malone has been a bright spot for the Lightning, at least when he’s actually playing. Malone has been out since the 21st of January because of injury. When healthy, Malone is a strong presence in front of the net. He has 10 goals and 17 assists this year. Malone should be back soon after the all star break.
Minor league call-ups have been a big part of the Lightning season so far because of all the injuries. Trevor Smith, PC Labrie, and Mike Angelidis had great games by their standards. They filled the holes well when asked and are now back in Norfolk for further player development. JT Wyman has also been a great call-up for the Lightning. He is still on the NHL roster. It will be interesting to see what will be done with Wyman once he is healthy.
Garon was tough to include in the positives section of my article, but even tougher to fit into the negative category. Despite Garon’s inconsistencies, he is one game over .500 with a 14-13-2 record. Garon’s save percentage and goals against average are pretty decent (.902%, 2.92) If anyone read into this guy before the season started, one may have spotted some scouting reports on Garon. Most stated that he was not a good candidate for a number one goalie spot on any team, and was purely a backup goalie. Well, Garon has snatched the number one spot from Roloson, and hasn’t been terrible in filling it this year.
Notes and SourcesNotes: 14 of the last 34 games for the Lightning are at home… 4 straight games at home after the break… Oberg, Smith, Angelidis, Labrie, all reassigned to NRF… Hedman skated Tuesday (1/24) morning, still wearing no contact jersey… Hedman has been participating in off ice workouts… Martin St. Louis’ “Broken Face” injury was, more specifically, nasal and facial fractures, along with a blood clot in his eye. Sources:
TSN Injuries List TBO.com Article TampaBayLightning.com
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