Halfway Review: A look At The Lightning's Season So Far.

Updated: Jan 27


(Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning)


By Jake Ricker


We have officially passed the halfway mark of the 2021-2022 NHL season as the Lightning played their 43rd game of the season and sit atop of NHL standings. Now it's time to take a look and see what the Bolts have done well and what they can still improve on this season.


The Lightning currently hold a record of 28-10-5 for a total of 61 points. This puts them 2nd in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference and 3rd in the entire NHL as of January 25th. Last year the Lightning held a record of 29-12-2 after 43 games played. With nearly an identical record compared to last year, the Lightning seems to be continuing where they left things last season. Despite having a similar record to last year, this team is very different from previous seasons, with many new faces joining the team.


Offense

Despite losing an entire line from last year's team, the Lightning have continued to be one of the top-scoring teams in the NHL. They are 6th in GF/GP at 3.42 and hold a +28 goal differential. This is primarily thanks to Steven Stamkos, who leads the team in goals and points. While this is lower than the Bolts 2019 totals at the halfway point, it is important to remember they have n a large part of the season without Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.



The two new vets of Corey Perry and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare have provided the Bolts with not only great leadership but have also shown their goal-scoring ability. Perry, who was off to a slow start, currently has 11 goals this season. Bellemare hasn't scored as much but has found many other ways to contribute, which we will get to later. Both of these guys have helped fill the hole left by players like Yanni Gourde, who not only brought firepower but grit to the bottom six as well. Neither Perry nor Bellemare are afraid to throw some hits when necessary or jump in front of a puck.


One of the reasons the Lightning have had so much success in recent years is because of how well they have developed their younger players, and this year is no different. Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Ross Colton, better known as the kid line, have also risen to the occasion. These three have combined for a total of 14 goals so far this season and have made countless great plays that have helped the Bolts pick up momentum when they were down.


Defense

While the defense didn't lose as many players as the offense, it has still been rock solid for the Bolts. Victor Hedman is having yet another Norris Trophy caliber year with nine goals, 35 assists, and 44 points which is 2nd among NHL defensemen. Hedman even enjoyed the challenge of playing with just four defensemen when the Bolts were dealing with injuries. All six of the Bolts starting defensemen have positive goal differentials this year as they continue to not only play strong defensively but contribute offensively as well.


We also can't forget about Ryan McDonagh, who is often overlooked. McDonagh leads the team with 69 blocked shots and has taken the least amount of penalties among the starters. The Lightning have had to deal with multiple injuries on the back end, with players like Cernak, Rutta, and Bogosian all currently missing time. Luckily players like Cal Foote have continued to improve their game and helped fill those roles.


Special Teams

Special teams has had their ups and downs this season, but that's nothing new for the Bolts. The Lightning are currently ranked 19th in the league when it comes to the power play at 19.9%. This is one area where the Bolts need to improve on. Even with Kucherov back, the Lightning have had nights where they could not convert on any of their seven power plays. This might be an area the Lighting will want to keep their eye on come trade deadline time if it continues to struggle. (Not that there is much wiggle room in the cap)



As for the penalty kill, the Lightning are a little better in this department, ranked 13th in the NHL with a 81.1%. Bellemare and Joseph have been the bright spots on the PK. These two have dominated other teams' power plays by breaking up their entries and passes. They also have created a large number of shorthanded chances. However, Joseph struggles to score on these. The penalty kill can improve, but it is defiantly not the biggest point of concern for the Lightning.

Goaltending

What's really to say here. Vasilevskiy is again dominating the NHL as he continues to make saves you thought weren't possible. Vasy currently holds a .922 save percentage which is the 3rd best in the NHL. His 2.25 GAA ranks 5th among goalies that have played 25 games or more. But perhaps the best upgrade in net for the Bolts this year is Brian Elliott.


Elliott has played in 9 games so far this season and has a .907 save percentage and a 2.57 GAA. For those wondering, this is a slight improvement over Curtis McElhinney, whose best save percentage was a .906 in his first year with the Bolts. McElhinney does not get nearly enough credit as he deserves (learn more about him in our latest interview!), but Elliott, when not left out to dry, has made some solid stops in net and is a more than serviceable backup for the Bolts.


Final Thoughts

Once again, the Lightning are in a great spot when it comes to points and personnel. The only real place they can improve is on special teams. Players like Stamkos have risen to the occasion with Kucherov and Point missing time, and the young and new faces have started to find their role here in Tampa Bay. But as the Lightning learned the hard way, it doesn't matter where you finish in the regular season as long as you make the playoffs. If the Bolts can finish the season strong and healthy, there is no reason for them not to take yet another run at the Stanley Cup.


Let us know your thoughts on the Bolts season so far and where they can improve in the comments below.



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