Tampa Bay Lightning: Analyzing The First Half Of The Season

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a rough start to a season headlined by injuries and underachievement.

I did not expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to play this badly at the start of the season.

Early favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Bolts sit in the middle of the pack after 41 games. They are on pace for a measly 84 points this season on the heels of a three-game losing streak to two below-average Central Division teams at home and a Philadelphia Flyers team that had lost seven of its last eight games.

The offense is not as explosive, and the defense is not competitive against good offensive teams. Neither Ben Bishop nor Andrei Vasilevskiy has provided enough big, timely saves when the defense lapses.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Bolts fans like myself are beside themselves because of this ineptitude, even with all the injuries, because this is a team that came within one game of the Stanley Cup Final last season without Steven Stamkos for every game but one and Ben Bishop during the Eastern Conference Final.

So what’s the problem?

Well, there are a few. The biggest issue I’ve noticed is a lack of energy in the defensive zone, particularly on the penalty kill. The Bolts seem determined to clear the zone with full possession no matter the situation. Due to this they turn the puck over in their own zone and give opposing teams lots of scoring chances in quick succession. This is particularly frustrating on the penalty kill, where they have a 79.4% success rate according to www.SportingCharts.com.

Contrary to their effort in the defensive zone, the Bolts forwards have been highly active and energetic in the offensive zone this season. They sit at 11th in the league with 2.80 goals per game.

The power play is deadly, sitting at 23.8% and 2nd in the league before the loss to the Flyers. But, even with the firepower up front, the Bolts have been unable to score a lot as of late. But, I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of their scoring woes. They just don’t shoot.

Watching the Lightning try to cut into the Flyers’ lead with the net empty today infuriated me as a fan. For three straight minutes, they just passed and passed and passed and suddenly the game was over.

All season, good scoring chances have been left in the air. Players with open shots, oftentimes Nikita Kucherov or Valtteri Filppula, attempt extra passes that get mishandled or intercepted along the way. Sometimes these work, and when they do the goals scored are spectacular, but they fail far more than they succeed.

The Lightning gave up the first goal in a whopping 27 of their first 41 games, partially due to that perfectionist attitude. Playing from behind in 65% of games is not a recipe for success. When the Bolts play teams with strong defenses, scoring becomes very difficult for them when they look for open chances before shooting.

Next: Bolts Kick Off Back-To-Back With Loss To Flyers

It was a terrible first half of the season for a predicted contender for the Stanley Cup this year. Even though they’ve been injured, the Lightning have underachieved this season. They need to tighten up defensively and shoot more if they want to make the playoffs again this year.