The narrative coming into the 2023-24 season was that the Tampa Bay Lightning were finally a rested group after three deep playoff runs ending with appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals. The loss to Toronto in the playoffs stung, but it meant that Tampa was going to get a full offseason to recover.
In the buildup to the season, players talked about how intense camp was and how they felt ready to go on another run.
But 30 games into the NHL season and the Lightning are starting to be in real danger of being cast aside if their play doesn't improve.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Thunderstruck
After last night's loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning have 31 points through 30 games. They are tied with Washington and Carolina for the second wild card spot, but Washington has five games in hand on the Lightning.
Even if we ignore how many points they are or are not back, Tampa is on pace for 84 points this season. The Florida Panthers were the last team to get in last season with 92 points. The season before that, all eight teams that made the playoffs from the Eastern Conference had at least 100 points.
We highlighted earlier this week the yo-yo nature of the squad. When Andrei Vasilevskiy had surgery before the start of the season, Jonas Johansson was able to hold the fort just enough to keep the Lightning in it until Vaslievskiy came back.
But Vassy has yet to find the form that allows him to bail Tampa out when things aren't going great. Since returning on November 24, Vassy has been okay but not elite. In eight starts, he has given up 21 goals off of 19 expected goals. The Lightning is 4-4 with him in the net.
Combined with Johansson not being great in the two starts he has had since Vasilevskiy, and Tampa is 4-6 in its last ten game.
On paper, this team should be better.
And even though they are 8-3-3 at home, the 5-9-2 mark on the road is continuing to hold this team back from going on a run to make believers out of the rest of the league that Tampa will for sure be in the playoffs come April.