With the holiday season wrapping up, PHR will continue its look at what teams are thankful for as we get closer to the halfway point. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We’ll examine what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
What are the Lightning most thankful for?
The fact that they are still in it.
After a dominant 2018-19 season in which Tampa Bay ran away with the Atlantic Division and the President’s Trophy with a dominant 62-16-4 for 128 points and no significant changes to its team, most expected another dominant season once again. That has not happened with the team, almost luckily, sitting in third place in a challenging Atlantic Division as a recent six-game winning streak has improved their record to a more respectable 23-13-4 record. The team seems to have found its game in the last few weeks and hopefully will force their way back to the top of the standings.
Who are the Lightning most thankful for?
The 2017-18 Norris Trophy winner has had several great seasons, but the 29-year-old is on pace for career highs across the board. Through 38 games, Hedman has nine goals and 30 assists, which would translate to a point-per-game season, something he’s never accomplished in his remarkable career. Of course, with so many strong defensive candidates this year, he might have a hard time trying to get nominated for the award, but the defenseman has been a rock for Tampa Bay in a tough first half.
What would the Lightning be even more thankful for?
Andrei Vasilevskiy, the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy winner had a dominant season last year, posting a 2.40 GAA and a .925 save percentage in 53 appearances. However, this year has been a totally different story as the 25-year-old has been less impressive with a 2.83 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Those numbers aren’t terrible, but hardly numbers you’d expect to see out of last year’s Vezina Trophy winner.
Unfortunately, the team isn’t getting better help from the backup position. The Lightning brought in veteran Curtis McElhinney to create a dominant tandem with Vasilevskiy, but the 36-year-old has struggled in his first year in Tampa after an impressive season with the Carolina Hurricanes last year. He currently has a 3.19 GAA and a .904 save percentage in 11 appearances. The team needs both netminders to bounce back and have a dominant second half.
What should be on the Lightning’s Holiday Wish List?
The team hasn’t gotten the dominant individual performances that they did a year ago. Nikita Kucherov has been impressive, but is well below his 41-goal, 128-point season that netted him the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay trophies a year ago. Kucherov so far has just 14 goals and 43 points, which would be solid numbers for almost everyone else on the team, but not so much for Kucherov. The team has seen a number of forwards slip as Brayden Point, Mathieu Joseph and Yanni Gourde, to name a few, have struggled more this year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.