Welcome to this edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stock Up and Stock Down. This is the first in what will be a weekly column released each week detailing the highs and lows of the team’s performance.
It is a very long season, and one might be quick to worry about how the Tampa Bay Lightning will fare this season after going 1-2 during their first week. However, before we enter with the stocks up and down, it’s worth pointing out that the Lightning were dealt a tough hand to open the season. Playing three games on the road, two of which were against playoff-caliber teams, is hard enough. If you throw in the fact that the team and the community are still in the process of dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Ian, one can understand why the opening week saw a team that did not play to its potential.
Stock Down: Losing Faceoffs
It has not been a good start for the Lightning in the playoff circle, as they have lost far more faceoffs than they have won during their first three games. Even in their lone victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they won only 29 percent of the faceoffs that night. In their two losses against the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, they only won 36 and 38 percent of the faceoffs. While faceoffs won can be one of those misleading stats, losing faceoffs consistently is a recipe for disaster. Case in point: a lost faceoff led to a Jake Guentzel deflection for a score in the loss to the Penguins. Of course, a team wants to win the faceoff battle, but being at least around 50 percent would be a big help.
Stock Up: Steven Stamkos
The 32-year-old has started the season well, scoring four goals in those first three games. In addition, he accomplished some milestones during the first week. On opening night against the Rangers, his power-play goal was the 973rd point of his career, allowing him to break into the top 100 for career points in NHL history.
With his assist in Saturday’s game against the penguins, the Lightning captain recorded his 492nd career assist and passed Vincent Lecavalier to take sole possession of the second-most assists in franchise history. Overall, Stamkos has now recorded points in 11 consecutive regular season games. He has 29 points over that 11-game span with 13 goals and 16 assists.
Stock Down: Puck Management
In the two losses, the Lightning were very sloppy with the puck, leading to their opponents dominating possession time and being a major factor in losing those contests. Head coach Jon Cooper acknowledged that this was an issue. “The big thing is, and it comes right down to it, if we’re not going to manage the puck and we’re going to turn it over, especially to teams like this, it will be a long night for you.” Turning the puck over led to many opponent rushes, leading to the team allowing 39 shots on goal against the Rangers and 45 against the Penguins. Way too many shots for good teams, no matter who you put in net.
Stock Up: Ian Cole
In what must have been a huge relief for the veteran defenseman and the team, the NHL announced last Saturday that its investigation “found no evidence” to support the allegations against Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Ian Cole that emerged earlier this month. Cole has now been reinstated by the Lightning following a short suspension. He had been counted on to provide some depth on the blue line in the absence of players lost during the offseason and the injury to Zach Bogosian.
The league’s security and legal departments conducted the NHL’s investigation, which found that “the investigation included a detailed review of online and social media, public data, and court records and law enforcement checks. In addition, despite attempts by the League to make contact with the anonymous source of the social media post, those efforts were unsuccessful.”
Stock Down: Special Teams
During their first three games, the Lightning went 3-for-14 on the power play. The worst part of this was that during a power play against the Rangers on opening night, they decided to make a line change and not account for the whereabouts of Mika Zibanejad, one of the best short-handed scorers in the league. He took advantage of that by roofing in a shot off a Jacob Touba pass that goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had almost no chance of stopping. The penalty kill has also been below par, as the Lightning gave up two power-play goals in those first three games.
Staying out of the penalty box would go a long way toward taking care of that issue. Victor Hedman discussed that in a post-game interview after the Penguins’ loss. “We’ve just got to make sure that we try to stay out of the box, especially against a team like this who can generate a lot of chances.” The Lightning have given each of their opponents four power-play opportunities during their first three games. In all, they have allowed four power-play goals total during those contests.
This wraps up the first edition of Stock Up, Stock Down for the Lightning. The regular season is only two games old, and there is still plenty of hockey to be played. The team hopes to reverse their fortunes when they play their home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, Oct 18. The puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET at AMALIE Arena. On Friday, they will travel cross-state to face their rivals, the Florida Panthers, before returning home on Saturday to host the New York Islanders.