For the first half of the 2023-24 season, it felt like the Tampa Bay Lightning were treading water. The Bolts never fell so behind that they were out of the playoff race, but the warning signs were looming that things needed to turn around or end in dissapointment.
There is still a long way to go and the Lightning haven't created breathing room just yet, but the squad is in the midst of a much needed surge to keep itself in the thick of the playoff race.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Best Around
With its victory over Philadelphia last night, Tampa moves to 25-18-5 on the season and has 55 points through 48 games.
More importantly, the Lightning are now in third place in the Atlantic Division ahead of Toronto and Detroit and Tampa is four points up on New Jersey for the final wild-card spot.
Prior to its win over Minnesota on 1/4, Tampa had lost three out of four and there was real risk of the season slipping away. Then in a theme common all season, the Bolts followed up its rare win on the road at Minnesota with a thrashing loss to Boston.
But then for the first time all season, the Lightning have gone on a run. Yes, there have been some weaker opponents in the mix like Anaheim and Buffalo, but wins over New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Philidelphia hold value and give validity to this run.
At the core of this run has been the powerplay carrying the way. Of the six wins Tampa has picked up since 1/9, the Lightning have only scored 12 five on five goals out of 28 goals total. Eight have come on the powerplay,
Nikita Kucherov has continued his torrid pace, picking up at least two points in four of the six wins. Brayden Point has a goal in three of the win, and Brandon Hagel has points in the last five Tampa victories.
Perhaps just as important for Tampa is that Andrei Vasilevskiy is rounding into form. In five of the six wins, Tampa has surrendered fewer goals that what the expected goals were for the night.
Add it all together and Tampa is on a surge it had to have heading into the All Star Break. The only fear coming out of the break is whether or not they can keep the momentum rolling.