Blog Entry

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Posted on: December 28, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 5:21 pm

Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look what has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

By: Adam Gretz

It was less than a year ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 from representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Thirty-five games into the 2011-12 season and Tampa Bay finds itself in 13th place in the conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. As we talked about last week, that's already a deficit that is dangerously close to being too much to overcome at this point in the season, especially with five teams ahead of them for the last playoff spot.

So what has changed for Guy Boucher's team in a span of eight months, going from potential Stanley Cup team to what is currently one of the worst teams in the league?

The easy answer is goaltending, as the duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has been dreadful, currently owning the second-worst team save percentage in the league, barely ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 30th spot. The position was a major problem in the early part of last season as well, and it was covered up with a short-term band-aid thanks to general manager Steve Yzerman's New Years Day trade that landed Roloson from the New York Islanders. He ended up getting hot at the right time and helped lead the Lightning through the first two rounds of the playoffs as the team upset Pittsburgh and Washington, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the former, and sweeping the latter in four straight games.

Entering this season the Lightning decided to stick with the 42-year-old Roloson, a risky maneuver given his age and the number of miles that were already on the tires. So far, it hasn't worked out.

While the Lightning have become synonymous with their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap and have faced their share of criticism for playing such a "boring" system (no, we haven't forgotten about this), the team has given up a ton of goals over the past season-and-a-half. A lot of that has to do with the bad goaltending, as the Lightning do a pretty good job limiting the number of shots taken by the opposition (though, they are worse in that area this season). Still, they were 21th in the NHL in terms of goals allowed last season, and after 35 games this season are 27th.

There are a couple of things working against the Lightning this season.

While the team has young Stars in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and great veteran players like Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, it also has some older parts that, obviously, are now a year older than they were a year ago. Even worse, they've also been without defenseman Mattias Ohlund for the entire season, a player that handled some of the toughest minutes and assignments last season. He didn't provide any offense, but he was the go-to guy in terms of defensive assignments. His absence has not only impacted the overall depth on the team's blue line, but also forced Hedman and Eric Brewer into playing all of the tough assignments that Ohlund would have ordinarily handled.

And, of course, there is more.

Let's just look at some numbers through the first 35 games of the past two seasons:

Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 vs. 2010-11 Through 35 Games
Year W-L-OTL Goals For Goals Against Shots For/Game Shots All. Game PP Goals PP OPP PP %
2011-12 15-17-3 95 117 28.8 30.6 18 123 14.6%
2010-11 20-10-5 109 114 32.5 27.1 35 149 23.0%

So here we are. Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson has been pointing out over the past week on Twitter that the Lightning have given up nearly the same number of goals this season as they did through the same number of games last season. And he's right. But that's not necessarily a good thing because the number is way too high. And again, the Lightning had a trade in their back pocket on Jan. 1 last season that enabled the team to improve that area as the season went on. Roloson wasn't great, but he was good enough and enough of an upgrade over the alternative. He also hit the aforementioned hot streak at the right time. If the Lightning hadn't made that trade there's a good chance that playoff run never happens. Yzerman is going to need to pull off a similar move (or perhaps a bigger one, involving more of a long-term solution that isn't a player over the age of 40) to help get Tampa Bay back where it wants to be (and needs to be) in the crease if a return to the playoffs is in the team's future.

But while the goals against are nearly identical, there's a pretty large difference from one year to the next that sticks out like a sore thumb: the power play.

Both the number of power play opportunities and the frequency in which they've been able to score on the man advantage. The Lightning didn't win many games last season by keeping their opponents off the scoreboard, they won a lot of games by outscoring them in some of the highest scoring games in the league. A lot of that was the result of a power play that was pretty much unstoppable when it was on top of its game.

A year ago Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the league, converting on 20 percent of its chances. This season? 25th. And even worse, it's a unit that's not generating a ton of shots when it does get an opportunity.

It's been a perfect storm for Tampa Bay this season. Some aging players, bad goaltending, the absence of the best and most reliable defensive defenseman on the team and a power play that's regressed. Basically, a little bit of everything.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:45 am

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Xfactor09, you are a complete moron. If you ever watched the Lightning, you would see that they play the 1-3-1 for about 2 minutes once every three games, they rarely ever use it. Second, this old guy St. Louis outscored every single one of your Wings last year, so the point that he is an old fart and still outplayed your sorry Wings, who did not come within one win of the Stanley Cup, makes you look even more idiotic. The sooner you stop hating on the Florida hockey market, the less of a fool you will look when your team gets beat by an expansion team from California in the 2nd round of the playoffs, which actually just happened last year. This laughable hockey market just so happens to sell more tickets than "real" hockey markets like  Boston, Pittsburgh, and New York and they also beat "real" hockey teams in the playoffs like Washington(sweep) and Pittsburgh.

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:19 am

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Mr_chopper....the reason why, is because he is not about to trade a first round pick for a goaltender mid-season. You have to be smart enough when to recognize when it's your year as a franchise and when it's not. And when you play the style of hockey they do. You definatly have to know it's not your year. Besides, what can they get rid of? Vinny at 7.5 per. Ya, OK! Who's the sucker to take that knid of contract besides Montreal. Scott Gomez...Really? Boston won't deal Rask, not with Thomas at that age. Anyways, Tampa made it's bed with those contracts, now it's time to go nighty night on the season. Other than last year's fluke of a season it's been 4th,5th, their own divison. Now if t hey can only find someone to take Vinny's 60 point a season contract, it only expires after the 2019 season. Did I mention he was getting the 7.5 per through the whole thing, no front/back loaded thing or nothing either. Suckers! I love being a Wings fan. Makes me proud to see player's be true to the Organization who in turn treat them as such. You never EVER see any contract squable or player disruption from within the locker-room. Continuity creates quality. Quality creates victory. Victory creates Stanley Cups. Stanley Cups create a Dynasty of an organization. All of this success comes with drafting NO EARLIER than the 25th pick annually. Now that is how you build. Name and Rounds. Franzen 3rd, Datsyuk 6th, Zetterberg 7th, Filppula 3rd, Hudler 2nd, Helm 5th, Abdelkadder 2rd, Kindl 1st, Kronwall 1st, Ericsson 9th, Howard 2ndand Oh and fella named Lidstrom 3rd. This is what Yzerman wanted, but he did not want to wait for Kenny Holland to retire. So, Florida huh. Some kind of hockey market I hear. Right next to Schuffle board night at the Condo's near Del Boca Vista...Faze 2. LMAO. 

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: December 30, 2011 8:45 am

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

UndecidedUhhh Booooooring!!! YAWN!!! This article must be about the Lightning, because it's just as boring and useless. Hi, point out something we DON'T know please. This stuff is more like...a matter fact, not groundbreaking if you pay attention to hockey. Who writes this stuff. They play a 1-3-1. Not because they want to, but because they have to. Do you really think Steve Freakin' Yzerman wants to watch this kind of hockey? AS IF! But he has to, because it's what he has to work with. Ya, Stamkos is great, Hedman is still learning. But after that, St.Louis and Lecavalier are getting older and well incase you people didn't know prior to reading this article, they have Old, boken down farts for goaltenders. That one is on Stevie Y. Who'd he think he was? The Dominator. Last I checked, Roloson wasn't winning any Vezina's. That's the award for best goaltender's Mr Gretz. So in summation, old player's combined with old goalie's and no plausable depth on the team, what we have here is a case of the Suckie's. Happens every year in every sport come playoff time. One team always plays above it's expectations, comes back the following season thinking "They were who were thought we were" of themselves. But as reality usually checks in sooner than later, it comes crashing down and it's shown that smoke screen that was the playoff run of 2011. 1-0 Boston, was it really?

Since: Feb 4, 2009
Posted on: December 29, 2011 7:31 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

They need alot of help to get to the playoffs this 2011-12 NHL season and fast and right know they are 15-17-3,95 goals for,goals against 117,and they still have a long way to go.

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: December 29, 2011 6:09 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Adam, you missed the biggest reason why the Lightning are underperforming. HOME GAMES. As of Today, the Lightning have played only 14 home games, the fewest for any NHL team.  Last year, the Lightning accumulated the 2nd most points in the Eastern Conference when playing at home.

Since: Jun 4, 2011
Posted on: December 29, 2011 4:42 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The team's current roster is not much different than the one that went to conference Finals.

Amongst top 6 Forwards, only Simon Gagne is gone with Brett Connolly replacing him and while he does not have Gagne's experience, he is less likely to be miss 20 games (for health reasons) and has a bright future.  Amongst bottom 6 Forwards, only Sean Bergenheim is gone.  On D, same group. Lundin was the 6th Dman and Gilroy should be able to fill in Lundin's minutes without killing the team.

The team's bottom 6 overachieved last year and Yzerman expected them to take further steps forward.  Lecavalier (on pace for 56 pts)and Malone (on pace for 40 pts) not producing to match their cap hits ($7.727M and $4.5M). Limits the ability to add bottom 6 depth.

Goaltending was problem last year - Roloson had nice run - but had to expect a drop at 42.  He had some horrible starts in playoffs as well, a precusor to this year's performance.  Played 68 games in 06-07, and 63 games in 08-09 but otherwise played between 48 and 54 games when was the designated starter for his team.  Garon is a career back up.

At this point, looking at current standing, they should ride out Roloson and Garon and hope for another hot streak.  In off-season, there will be a deal for a long term solution with one of Canucks, Sabres, Blues or Predators.  Canucks will be looking to move Schneider (unless TB wants a bigger deal involving Luongo).  Sabres may move Miller if they like Enroth.  Blues have Elliott who has proven to be 1A or 1B with Halak.  Preds might move Lindback (who looks solid) with Rinne signed long term.  Also, Leafs have Gustavsson who is performing well now and Reimer coming back to take #1 job.  Capitals have Neuvirth and Holtby, assuming they keep Vokoun for another year.  Lots of options to pursue later and may be cheaper in terms of picks or players.

Since: Dec 6, 2009
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:42 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

I think Stevie-Y is a great GM, but why he is waiting so long to make a deal for a decent goalie?  The season is quickly flushing away and they are wasting the offensive talent they have by not getting someone to stop the puck. Surely, someone like Schneider or Rask could be pryed away with a 1st rounder and package.  

Since: Nov 7, 2010
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:37 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Martin and Malone lost some games...Purcell and Downie not at full strengh
no need changes...Tampa will surge as alwyas when the season heating up..and they will be ready in playoff
Roloson is old but in the playoff will rebound...surely someone as C.Anderson(on the rebuilding Senators...)or Harding(soon the Wild would  drop in the division...),Brodeur are better options than Garon

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:24 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

the goaltending has been bad....but im not pinning the hole thing on the ohlund and more importantly they let mike lundin sign with minnesota...dude was a rock last season and they miss him alot on the secondary scoring..malone and purcell need to put some goals in the does downie...the powerplay isnt very good...when the get set up they apply loads of pressure...but they havent been winning faceoffs and they flat out suck at cgetting the puck in the zone without dumping and chasing...they have to start carrying the puck in on the powerplay.

the fix..catch lightning in a bottle pun intented...the oilers are fading..and i think khabibulin could be had for a smaller price...while old he still can win you games..and its going to make the fans happy..they need a defensive defenseman..and it wouldnt hurt to find a secondary goalscorer... 

Since: Nov 18, 2006
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:12 pm

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Ohlund not being there hurts but it's not what is killing this team. We have Brewer, and he wasn't here last year. The G's have been TERRIBLE. Not just making saves either... they have both been atrocious handling the puck. They've allowed at least 3 goals from turnovers behind the net.

The PP has not only been unable to convert, but they are also giving up a bunch of shorthanded goals. They are far too passive on the PP. They need to get aggressive... and they need to start shooting the damn puck! They were so good on the PP last year cause they got the puck to their best shooters and let it rip. Now, I'm suprised if they even get a shot on goal on a PP. That's a stat I would too see the a differential on... Shots on Goal per Power Play. I would bet my house that they had a MUCH higher ratio last year.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or