Lightning Stock Up, Stock Down: Hedman, the Bottom Six & More

It was a very challenging week for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In between tough losses to the Boston Bruins on Saturday (March 25) and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday (March 21), was the 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (March 23). After the Senators game, head coach Jon Cooper and captain Steven Stamkos discussed the team’s need to learn “tough lessons” from the lopsided defeat.

Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down
Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down (The Hockey Writers)

While the response following the Senators game was much better, it was still not enough to defeat the Bruins, who clinched the Atlantic Division title with the win. The Lightning did show some grit in that contest and came out of the gate very physically. Ultimately, it was not enough to overcome some of the same issues that have hampered the Lightning in the last month, leading the team to their fourth straight loss, and a 4-5-1 record in the last ten games.

Stock Down: Lightning Bottom Six

In his postgame interview, Bruins’ head coach Jim Montgomery summed up the game best: “I loved the way we overwhelmed them with our depth.” Outside of being a good physical presence, the bottom two lines have not added enough to help put the Lightning over the top. By contrast, the Bruins got the game-winning goal from fourth-liner Garnet Hathaway, whom they acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Capitals. Hathaway’s goal off a rebound that resulted from him and his linemates outhustling the Lightning.

Stock Down: Lightning Power Play

The Lightning are 2-for-11 on the power play, including not being able to capitalize on some 5-on-3 attempts. Recently, Cooper talked about the team not having their scoring touch, which is critical in these situations. Both Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos have seemed to have their fair share of shots go off the post lately, which may be explained by fatigue, as the Lightning have played the most games of any team since the All-Star Break. Like a baseball player in a slump, it may also be that their shooting is just a bit off.

Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At times, the issue for the Lightning is that they pass too much on the man advantage. When they struggle, they pass three to four more times before shots are taken, usually looking to feed Stamkos and Kucherov. Everyone in the NHL knows this and has gone to great lengths to deny them good looks.

Related: Celebrating Jon Cooper’s 10-Year Anniversary as Lightning Coach

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This brings down their high-danger scoring chances on the power play, which statistically has been proven to be a major factor in power play success. The Lightning also struggle to get clean entries into the zone when their power play falters.

Stock Down: Penalty Kill Efficiency

The Lightning are third in team penalty minutes this season at 11.6 penalty minutes per game (PIM/G), behind only the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers, which has put a lot of pressure on their penalty killing units. In the month of March, the Lightning are 71.1 percent on the penalty kill, with only three teams having worse percentages. While the Lightning have been cutting down on taking penalties, their penalty killing efficiency has dropped.

Stock Up: Victor Hedman

One of the few positives that has occurred this week is that Hedman is starting to step up a bit more on the offensive side of play. The 32-year-old did lead the team in shots taken during the first two periods of the Bruins game. He also scored the team’s only goal, a shorthanded one no less courtesy of Alex Killorn keeping the puck alive in the offensive zone, which gave Hedman the chance to jump up and fire a perfect shot past Linus Ullmark.

Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The hope for the Lightning is that Hedman becomes more comfortable with his blue line partners, freeing him up to be more aggressive in the offensive end. While he is not close to the numbers he posted last season, there is little doubt that the Lightning are much more dangerous as a team when the former Norris Trophy winner can contribute at both ends of the ice.

Stock Down: Protecting the Front of the Net

Protecting the front of the net, or preventing high-danger chances, has been a concern since the All-Star Break. This was very evident in the Bruins game, as Hathaway’s game-winning goal came on a rebound in front of the net. They have also struggled with turnovers leading to odd-man rushes. The Lightning have been one of the worst teams in the NHL in allowing high-danger chances since the All-Star Break, a trend that needs to be reversed very quickly.

With only eight regular season games left, the Lightning conclude their road trip on Tuesday (March 28) with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. They will then return home for two games, starting on Thursday (March 30) against the Washington Capitals. Their week concludes on Saturday (April 1), when they host the New York Islanders.

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