(Photo via Tampabay.com)
By Michael Wax
The Lightning are in the midst of their second massive break this month, and the team looks to be in good shape. Sitting at 32-11-6 through 49 games, the Bolts rank 2nd in the Atlantic division with 70 points, and their points percentage of .714 ranks third in the entire league. They have a healthy +30 goal differential, and have two players within the top-20 of NHL scoring (Steven Stamkos in 10th; Victor Hedman tied for 19th). All of this is phenomenal considering the amount of turnover the Lightning experienced this past offseason. However, going deeper, there is one concerning thing in the Lightning's game: The amount of OT games the team has played.
Now, this needs to be very clear: this is not about wins and losses. The team is currently 7-2 in OT games, and their 2-4 record in the shootout won't matter come playoff time. It's not even about the way they play in OT; 3-on-3 doesn't exist in the playoffs. It's about the amount of time that the team has spent in the extra frame, which is one of the highest in the league.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Lightning have played 42 minutes, 47 seconds of OT, which ranks fourth among NHL teams. Anaheim far and away leads the league in OT time on ice, but the Lightning are certainly in shouting distance of 2nd place, which is Vancouver (43 minutes, 11 seconds). This number is surely going to move over the 60 minute mark, meaning the Lightning will have played over an extra game The Bolts have played in 153 games, regular season and playoff, since the COVID-19 bubble in August of 2020, the most in the league during that time. Since they've already played a ton, getting themselves into OT sprints doesn't bode well for their 2021-22 playoff chances.
The big thing is that not only has the Lightning core experienced these extreme amount of games, but the pieces they brought in have been on big playoff runs recently as well. Corey Perry has played in 157 games since the start of the 2020 bubble, with his two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals before joining the Bolts. Pierre-Édouard Bellemare has played in 126 games, making it to the second round with Colorado twice. Even someone like Zach Bogosian, who has been injured for the majority of this season, has played in 88 games since that 2020 bubble started. The less time the Lightning could spend in OT games going forward, the better their chances are at getting far in the playoffs.
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