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The Good, The Bad, and The Unlucky: a Season in Review
By Jake Ricker
Well, unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lighting’s season has come to a close, and now it’s time to take a look back at the season and see how we did. We will go over the good, the bad, and the unlucky. Please note that these are only opinions and mere observations.
The Bolts offense was absolutely stellar this year racking up 3.54 GPG by the end of the season. The Bolts offense was able to explode whenever they needed. Out of the 54 games won only 12 games had less than 4 goals scored. The Bolts also had plenty of depth to their scoring as 10 players racked up 10+ goals over the season, 5 of them having 20+ goals. Now we know that defense wins championships, but this offense was terrific and definitely a big part of the Bolts success this season. Despite The Bolts offense falling apart in the last two games of the playoffs (probably when it mattered the most) overall they were on point.
Now the defense was definitely not the strongest part of this Lightning team but had its moments. The Bolts gave up a total of 2.85 GPG this season, 13th best in the NHL. The Bolts had a total of 692 giveaways ranking them 9th best in the NHL, but the issues came from inconstancy as the Bolts constantly made bad turnovers in all the games they lost, most of these turnovers led to odd-man rushes which was another big problem for the Bolts defense. This was due to the Bolts defenders constantly pinching up on the play and then getting caught in the offensive zone. The defense was one of the best at scoring goals but it came at a price. The biggest problem for the Bolts was the number of shots they gave up per game. The Lightning gave up a total of 32.7 shots per game, 10th worst in the NHL. Vasilevskiy was consistently peppered with shots making his job very difficult. Overall the defense had its moments, but when things were, bad they were terrible. We especially noticed this in the later rounds of the playoffs where the Bolts made some costly mistakes.
This by far was the biggest success for the Bolts this season. Andrei Vasilevskiy was absolutely stupendous this season. Vasy finished the season with 44 wins a 9.19 SV% and a 2.62 GAA. 1st in wins, 7th in SV%, and 10th in GAA. Vasy is currently a Veznia finalist and is definitely deserving of the trophy. Vasy came up huge so many times for the Bolts especially when the Bolts were giving up 37+ shots a game. I can’t tell you how many times the Bolts would have lost if it wasn’t for Vasy. Not only was Vasy great at stopping every sh but, he could also flash the leather and make it look easy. Vasy made so many stupendous saves we have come, to expect it from him. Vasy struggled a little bit towards the end of the season but we need to remember he is only 23 years old and still has a lot of hockey left in him. Despite a few bad goals in the playoffs, Vasy stole multiple games for the Bolts and kept them out of some big trouble towards the end of the game. As for our backup, the Bolts are looking good here too. The Bolts started the season with Peter Budaj as the backup, however, since his injury Louis Domingue took over and he was great for the Bolts. Domingue finished the season with 7 wins a 9.14 SV% and a 2.89 GAA (all stats with the Lightning) Domingue was no Vasy as a backup but was very solid and has a lot of potential.
The Bolts power play was great this season ending with a 23.9% success rate good enough to rank 3rd best in the NHL. The Bolts had a deadly power play with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on either side. The issue with the Bolts power play was not if they could sore or not it was their consistency. We saw this on display towards the end of the playoffs as the Bolts for some reason could not rack the code of Brayden Holtby. This is definitely an improvement from last year though and got the job done when the Bolts needed it the most. The Bolts had a one-shot style power play and this hut them a few times as they made one too many passes. However, when it worked, it was beautiful. Overall the Bolts did have one of the best power play’s in the NHL despite some struggles in the playoffs.
This was one of the biggest struggles for the Bolts this season as they could just not find a way to stop other teams from scoring. The Bolts finished the year with 76.1% success rate, 4th worst in the NHL. The Bolts penalty kill could just never seem to stop other teams as it seemed to me they did not play aggressively enough. The Bolts also took a lot of penalties which made it hard on the PK to always be out there killing them off. The Bolts penalty kill definitely once the Bolts got into the playoffs but still struggled. The Bolts penalty kill has got to be better and sometimes was a big reason why the Bolts lost games when the offense and Vasy were having an off day.
Overall this was an excellent season for the Tampa Bay Lighting, after all we did make the Eastern Conference Final. The offense and defense were rolling, and the Bolts had the best team in the Eastern Conference (regular season). The biggest struggle was the penalty kill but every team does have their inconstancies and issues. The problem for the Bolts this season was the high expectations and the way the Bolts went out. This team is clearly capable of winning a Stanly Cup and to lose in the Conference Final again is heartbreaking. Especially after a lackluster performance from the team in Game 6 and 7. These performances are unacceptable from a team like this and need to be fixed. With that said the Bolts had a great year and we can only look forward to what next year has in store!