Bolts at the break: Leaving the NHL in their dust

by Gary Shelton on January 22, 2019 · 4 comments

in general

Steven Stamkos has a good season./STEVEN MUNCIE

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

5 Observations

1. Yes, the Lightning have been superb this season. But the playoffs are a different animal. Nine of the last 10 President's Cup winners have lost in the playoffs. Consider this: After the Bolts, there are seven teams with at least 60 points this year. The Bolts record in 11 games against those teams is 5-5-1.

2. Ever wonder what Takashi Okobu thinks of the Lightning these days? Ever wonder if Art Williams thinks of them. How about Oren Koules and Len Barrie? What they should think is that they should have invested in a minor league. For all of the great things Jeff Vinik has done, that might be the best. The Bolts find contributors every season.

3. The Bolts have to find the money to sign Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point. But they're creative. It might cost them a Braydon Coburn or a Tyler Johnson, but the Bolts still will be good next season.

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Kucherov leads the NHL in points./CHUCK MULLER

4. There is winning it and everything else. So right now, you'd have to say that the 2003-2004 Lightning was the best in this franchise's history. But head to head, I think this team takes that one in six games.

5. Think the goaltending around here is okay? Andrei Vasilevskiy is fifth with 20 wins. Backup Louie Domingue is tied for 14th with 16.Any questions?

Vasilevskiy has made up for lost time./JEFFREY S. KING

Best Games

1. December 13, 2018 -- After missing a month with a broken foot, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stood out in a 4-1 win over second-place Toronto. Vasilevskiy stopped  48 of 49 shots, tying Ben Bishop's save record for the franchise.

2. December 8, 2018 -- Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat each scored two goals as the Bolts matched their biggest margin of the season in a 7-1 win over Colorado.

3. October 13, 2018 -- After struggling to score for two straight games, the Bolts erupted for an 8-2 win over Columbus. Seven players scored the eight goals. Brayden Point had two.

4. Dec. 4, 2018 -- The Bolts fell behind the Red Wings 2-0 and trailed 5-4 late in the third period. Seldom-scoring Cedric Paquette knocked in the game-tying goal, and Nikita Kucherov scored the winner in a shootout.

5. Jan. 19, 2019 -- The Bolts had lost to San Jose 5-2 two weeks earlier, but they played a strong game in doubling up the Sharks, 6 -3. Stamkos scored two goals to lead the attack.

Rinne has been tough on the Bolts. / CHUCK MULLER

Worst Games

October 27, 2018 -- The Lighting hasn't been embarrassed often, but they were against the Arizona Coyotes, one of the worst teams in the league. The Lightning lost 7-1, and it was 6-0 before the Bolts finally scored.

January 13, 2019 -- The Lightning ran into trouble from the Islanders, losing a 5-1 game. The Islanders scored the game's first four goals.

November 19. 2018 -- Nashville's Pekka Rinne actually had one of his closest games against the Bolts, winning just 3-2. However, it ran Rinne's record against the Bolts to 9-0-1 for his career. That's a little one-sided, don't you think?

November 17, 2018 -- Sometimes, even victory doesn't make anyone forget you played badly. The Bolts led Philadelphia 5-1, but the Flyers kept coming. They tied the game at 5-5 before losing to Tampa Bay in overtime. On Dec. 27, they came back from a 5-2 deficit and forced the Bolts into overtime before losing.

November 27, 2018 -- The Bolts managed just one goal against  Anaheim, losing 3-1.  The Ducks were, and are, a .500 team in the NHL.

Point deserves a spot in the All-Star Game./TIM WIRT

Five Who Should be All-Stars

1. Brayden Point

2. Nikita Kucherov *

3. Steven Stamkos *

4. Victor Hedman

5. Andrei Vasilevskiy *

-- * Indicates player is in the game

Johnson scores an empty-netter../JEFFREY S. KING

5 Dumb Rules

1. Why doesn't a shootout goal count? An empty-netter counts, for instance. But it rarely affects anything but the final score. A shootout goal often decides winning and losing.

2. Why does a player get as many points for a second assist as for the goal itself? A second assist is often a pass to another player who makes a nice pass. And the best assist in the world doesn't change the scoreboard unless one puts the puck in the net. Why not a 3-2-1 system where the goal counts three, the first assist counts two and the second assist counts one.

3. Expand the game-night rosters. If a player is on the team, why can't he dress for the game?

4. Bigger nets. If the refs aren't going to make goalies adhere to the pad limitations, then widen the goal.

5. No more off-sides. Nothing is a bigger downer than a great goal being disallowed because a teammate was an inch over the line.

Point scored a hat trick in a hurry./CARMEN MANDATO

Best Offensive Nights

1. Brayden Point              Pittsburgh              Hat Trick in 1:38

2. Steven Stamkos           Rangers                  Hat Trick

3. Tyler Johnson              Carolina                 Hat Trick

4. Nikita Kucherov          Edmonton             5-point game

5.  Adam Erne                  Montreal               Two goals and an assist

Gourde ended a game quickly for Tampa Bay./STEVEN MUNCIE

Fast Finishes

Date Scorer Time into OT Opponent

Nov. 4 -- Yanni Gourde        14 seconds          Ottawa

Dec. 27 -- Alex Killorn          18 seconds         Philadelphia

Dec. 31 -- Brayden Point      35 seconds        Anaheim

Nov. 17 -- Anthony Cirelli     1:47                    Philadelphia

Dec. 1. -- Point                         3:12                    Florida

Kucherov leads the team in assists./CARMEN MANDATO

Leading Scorers

1. Nikita Kucherov      78

2. Brayden Point                64

3. Steven Stamkos            57

4. Tyler Johnson             34

5. Victor Hedman            33

Point has had a breakout season./CARMEN MANDATO

Leading Goal-Scorers

1. Brayden Pont         30

2. Steven Stamkos           26.

3. Nikita Kucherov          22

4.  Tyler Johnson             18

5.   Yanni Gourde            12

(tie) Mattieu Joseph        12

Hedman usually plays more than anyone./STEVEN MUNCIE

Leading Ice Time

1. Victor Hedman 22:11

2. Ryan McDonagh 21:17

3. Anton Stralman 21:14

4. Nikita Kucherov 19:22

5. Brayden Point 18:45

Johnson among the Bolts' top game-winners./CARMEN MANDATO

Game-Winning Goals

1. Brayden Point 6

2. Yanni Gourde 5

3. Nikita Kucherov 3

Steven Stamkos 3

Tyler Johnson 3

Anthony Cirelli 3

Adam Erne 3

Miller has been good in shootouts./CAREN MANDATO

Shootout Goals

1. Victor Hedman.     2      2     100 percent

2. J.T. Miller.              2      2     100 percent

3. Nikita Kucherov.    3     2       67  percent

4. Brayden Point         3     0          0  percent

5. Tyler Johnson          1     0          0 percent

Steven Stamkos.          1      0         0 percent

Anthony Cirelli.           1      0         0 percent

Stamkos has been good on the power play./CARMEN MANDATO

Power Play Goals

Brayden Point                     13

Steven Stamkos                  10

Nikita Kucherov                   9

Yanni Gourde                       4

J.T. Miller                              3

Kucherov needs to lead the rest of the way.//CARMEN MANDATO

5 Closing Thoughts

1. As good as the Bolts are, they still allow too many breakaway attempts.

2. Brayden Point has been the Bolts best player to date. Nikita Kucherov, a close second, needs to be the best player from now on.

3. The Lightning is first in the league on the power play. They're sixth in the penalty kill. If the Bolts can maintain their excellence, even as fewer penalties are called, it will help.

4. What could go wrong? Well, Marty St. Louis could demand a trade in the stretch drive. Wait. We've done that.

5. As good as the Cup-winning Bolts were, don't forget that part of the success was due to the playoff draw. Teams that would have been favored against the Bolts kept losing. That helps in the post-season.

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