Stralman More than Just a Goal-Saving Defenseman

Highlight reels were busy showcasing the goals fest from Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night. But one highlight that stood out from Steven Stamkos’ eighth career hat trick or a slick (and uncharacteristic) dangle from Ryan Callahan did not involve the red light going off.

Early in the second period, defenseman Anton Stralman slid into the goal crease, mimicking goalies from the past with a “two-pad stack” of his own to prevent the Habs’ Jiri Sekac from scoring.

While the game eventually ended in a blow-out win for the Bolts, at the time of Stralman’s save it was a different story. The game was only 2-1 in favor of the Lightning, with the Canadiens the last team to score. A 2-2 tie could have swung the momentum of the game and given the previously undefeated Habs another win.

The importance of his goal-saving block was not lost on Stralman’s team.

This wasn’t the first time the Swedish defenseman made a highlight-reel save in the blue paint. Hockey fans were quickly reminded of another one of Stralman’s goal-saving moves from last season’s Stanley Cup Final, when he made a goal-line save for the Rangers.

Despite entering the league in the 2007-2008 season with the Maple Leafs, many hockey fans saw Stralman’s efforts during those Stanley Cup playoffs as his breaking out party. Without the firepower of Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban, Stralman’s work largely went unnoticed, with minuscule point totals and a low career plus/minus rating. However, with the rise of advanced stats such as Corsi and Fenwick, his true value was understood, leading to taking notice of his unflashy, reliable game.

Stralman’s next contract will be something of a litmus test of where analytics are in hockey. He had one goal and 13 points in 81 regular-season games, and has no goals and five points in 24 playoff games.

Dig a little deeper, however, and Stralman’s value becomes more apparent. There are marks in all the boxes that get checked for someone who could be undervalued.

The Rangers had a low shooting percentage while he was on the ice, helping depress his traditional numbers. He starts more shifts in the defensive zone, which can hold down goal and point totals. All of his advanced statistics are better relative to New York’s team average, and the Rangers were a borderline-elite team in the regular season based on those metrics.

It is because of these qualities that his arrival in Tampa Bay during the 2014 off-season was embraced by Lightning fans. Paired with emerging superstar defenseman Victor Hedman, who had a breakout season of his own last season, Strahlman already is proving his value to the team.

In four games this season, Strahlman’s on-ice Corsi is among the top players in Tampa Bay at 32.04 over the course of 60 minutes, best among defensemen for on-ice shot differential. This drops to 7.35 when Strahlman is not on the ice. The Lightning also experienced an 11.54% shooting percentage while Strahlman takes the ice, which is first on the team. He also tops the charts in on-ice team goals for at 6.01.

For fans of traditional stats, he is also a plus 3 for the year. This is while logging the second most minutes on the Lightning. And for fans of the red light, Strahlman has had been dishing the puck for three assists in four games, fairly impressive numbers for a player not known for offense.

While he might be instantly remembered for making impressive goal-saving moves in the crease, Anton Stralman proves his worth in all areas on the ice.