One of the massive concerns for the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into the 2023-24 season is their situation between the pipes. With Andrei Vasilevskiy out for two months after back surgery, the Lightning are having to rely on Jonas Johansson to hold the fort down.
But for at least one night, we saw Johansson do something we’ve seen Vasilevskiy do countless times and give the Lightning a victory they didn’t necessarily deserve according to the metrics.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Solid debut
Johansson’s basic stat line of 28 saves on 31 shots, a .900 save percentage, and a 3.00 GAA, doesn’t scream out a top-tier performance.
But when looking deeper, Johansson was forced to come up with some massive saves during the game’s back half that allowed Tampa to stay in it.
Johansson had very little to do in the first period as he only faced two shots, and Nashville had expected goals of 0.1 during the first twenty minutes. The Predators looked lifeless, and it looked like Tampa was going to cruise to a victory without learning much about Johansson.
But Tampa did the Tampa thing where it took the second period off, and Nashville pushed back. Thanks to two powerplays in the second period, Nashville had 34 shot attempts, 13 of which were on frame. The Predators had 19 scoring chances and six high-danger chances.
One found the net on a two-on-one that Ryan O’Reilly finished, but Johansson made several massive saves, and despite Nashville ending the period with an expected goal of 1.73, Johansson kept the Predators at bay.
The third period was, of course, a back-and-forth affair. Nashville scored right off the faceoff because Nick Perbix fell down, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos couldn’t get a clear, and Juuso Parssinen was left alone in front.
Nashville’s third goal was maybe the only one of the three that Johansson would want back, as he got caught looking the wrong way and Tommy Novak snuck one into the top corner on the near side with a great shot.
But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Johansson was under siege for the last 40 minutes of the game. By the time Nikita Kucherov buried the puck into the empty net, Nashville had expected goals of 4.23 but just three actual goals, giving Johansson a goals saved above expected goals on the night of 1.23.
It’s one night for the man who now has 36 career starts in the NHL, but for the Tampa Bay Lightning to stay competitive in 2023-24, they are going to need more nights like this.