Thirteen games into the 2019-20 season, things felt somewhat dire around the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team that dominated the 2018-19 regular season before flaming out in the playoffs still looked haunted by the ghosts of their early postseason exit. Sure, they found ways to win games, but the Lightning simply looked off on the ice, being a step or two behind their opponents.
Due to a bit of a scheduling quirk, however, the Lightning experienced a reset roughly one month into the season. With a long trip to play the Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm, Sweden as a part of the NHL Global Series, the team played two games in roughly two weeks.
After pulling out two wins in Stockholm, the Lightning will get back to their regular NHL schedule. After sweeping their games in Sweden, there’s plenty of positives for fans across Tampa Bay to look forward to as the team works to get back to their 2018-19 midseason form.
New Faces Adjusting to Lightning
For a team that won 62 games last season, the Lightning saw a significant amount of roster overhaul throughout the 2019 offseason. By opening night, Tampa Bay featured four new forwards, a new defenseman and plus a brand-new backup goaltender.
These new faces were one of the factors that helped create the Lightning’s somewhat rough start to the season. Players looked out-of-sync on the ice, as they attempted to learn their place in the line-up.
As October progressed, however, the Lightning’s roster started rounding back into form. Injured players like Brayden Point and Cedric Paquette returned to the lineup, while new faces adjusted to life in Tampa Bay.
By the time that the Lightning left for Sweden, the roster appeared more or less complete. It contained a better mixture of veterans and new faces with a more defined role with the franchise. While not perfect yet, this shows that as the season progresses, the team should continue to unify and gel into a more complete unit.
Lightning Ready for More Home Games
Another quirk to the start of the Lightning’s season was their brutal schedule. After playing opening night in front of a sold-out home crowd, the team immediately went on a six-game road trip. Following this road trip was a short three-game homestand, which ran into another three-game road trip and then the Stockholm series.
This schedule would be trying for any team, as the Lightning had to fight their way through some of the best teams in the NHL while getting little to no time in front of their home crowd. While they won’t get an extended homestand until December, the team will at least get a better spread in November.
This matters to the Lightning because they normally thrive at home. Over the last three seasons, they’ve gone 84-31-8 at home, versus a 74-38-11 record on the road. While that’s not a massive difference, it’s still 10 more losses on the road.
So, with a more consistent home schedule, the Lightning should see an improved record. If they don’t, then this may be a sign of a difficult season ahead.
Swedish Sweep a Reminder of Lightning’s Potential
If there’s one thing that Lightning fans should take out of the Stockholm sweep, it’s that this team is still incredibly good at hockey. When their talent is on full display, they still can dominate all aspects of the game.
Related: Palat Is One Lightning Bright Spot
However, just because they can be the best team on the ice, it doesn’t mean that they will be. Talent alone doesn’t win games in the NHL, as the Lightning learned through their first 15 games.
There’s plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2019-20 season, and if the Lightning can build upon their Sweden sweep of the Sabres, they should be back to midseason form sooner rather than later.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.