Can The Lightning Be Beat?
By Patrick Hoffman
The answer to this question, at least thus far in the beginning portion of this season, is a no with a capital N.
As of this writing (Monday, November 20, 2017), the Tampa Bay Lightning currently find themselves atop both the Atlantic Division and National Hockey League Standings. At 15-3-2, the club is firing on all cylinders and are showing that last year's playoff-less season was mainly due to injuries and poor timing.
There are several reasons why the Lightning are having so much success to begin the season. It begins with the play of team captain Steven Stamkos, who is healthier than ever and is showing why he is one of the best players in the world.
Through his team's first 20 games, Stamkos leads his club in scoring with 35 points (10 goals and 25 assists). Not only does he lead his team in scoring, but he also leads the league as well.
While we all know Stamkos can put the puck in the net, it his is passing game that has been terrific this season. His 25 assists lead the league and the main beneficiary of his passes has been linemate Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov, who had a great season last year (40 goals and 45 assists for 85 points), is off to a great start this year with 33 points (17 goals and 16 assists). He leads the league in goals and his second in points behind
Behind those two superstars, the offense is very balanced. The team has gotten solid production from the likes of Vladislav Namestnikov (9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points), Brayden Point (8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points), Yanni Gourde (6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points), Alex Killorn (2 goals and 12 assists for 14 points), and Ondrej Palat (5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points).
The team is also getting solid production from it's blue line, in particular Victor Hedman 2 goals and 13 assists for 15 points) and Mikhail Sergachev (5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points). When you're getting offensive production from both ends, you know your team is in excellent shape.
Lastly, this club has gotten outstanding goaltending from netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. In 17 games, Vasilevskiy 14-2-0-1 with a 2.34 goals against average, a .928 save percentage, and 1 shutout.
Because of the kind of wide open hockey that the Lightning play, Vasilevskiy has been counted on to make the big saves this season and so far, he has done so in spades. He is showing this franchise that they made the right decision to keep him instead of Ben Bishop, who is having an up and down season with the Dallas Stars.
While there is a lot of hockey left to be played, it looks like the Lightning are on the right track to having a great regular season and to putting themselves in a prime position to take a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup come April.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.