Remember the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning? You know, the team with the explosive offensive firepower that scored at will, overpowering opposing defenses and goalies as they surged all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals?
Yeah, them. Where has that team gone this season?
After finishing as the highest-scoring team in the NHL last year, producing an average of 3.16 goals-per-game, the Lightning’s scoring has dried up dramatically so far this season, currently sitting 23rd in the league at 2.30 goals-per-game. Not surprisingly for a team that’s relied so heavily on offense, their record has suffered as a result of that offense’s struggles. Tampa finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference last season with a very impressive 108 points, but is tied for 8th right now.
It’s quite a surprising turn of events. The Bolts came within two wins of a Stanley Cup victory just this past June, falling in six games to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. With a very young core of players the team was, understandably, expected to be not just a top contender again this year, but also a heavy favourite to actually win the Cup.
Steven Stamkos, the team’s top offensive weapon, leads the Lightning in scoring, but with 15 points in 23 games he’s below the pace that he’s played at over the last six years. Their second line, popularly referred to as “The Triplets,” produced more than a lot of other team’s first lines last season, but it seems like their production as a trio will fall short of where it ended up a year ago. Veterans Ryan Callahan and Valteri Filppula have started slowly.
What’s gone wrong in the scoring department? It’s tough to say definitively, but a few potential causes pop up. As Dan Herrejon noted last week, both a “hangover” from last year’s deep playoff run as well as an increased emphasis on defense, to create more balance throughout the roster, are likely culprits. Additionally, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals might have some unintended effects, as all the other teams in the league were able to closely watch the Lightning and carefully scrutinize the best ways to shut them down.
Overall, however, there’s still plenty of time for Tampa Bay to rectify their situation. Even the very same Blackhawks stumbled out of the gate last season before eventually recuperating and fighting their way to a championship. That being said, though, a quarter of the season has already passed and early ground has been lost, so the team will need to regain their scoring touch sooner rather than later if they don’t want to face a massively uphill climb to repeat, and improve upon, their success from last season.