The Pony Express

The Tampa Bay Lightning Continue to Bring the Thunder

With the season coming to a close, the Lightning secure a spot in the playoffs 

The+Amalie+Arena+packed+with+fans+during+the+Lightning%27s+game+against+the+Dallas+Stars+on+Feb.+14.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning Continue to Bring the Thunder

The Amalie Arena packed with fans during the Lightning's game against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 14.

The Amalie Arena packed with fans during the Lightning's game against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 14.

Amanda Hase | The Pony Express

The Amalie Arena packed with fans during the Lightning's game against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 14.

Amanda Hase | The Pony Express

Amanda Hase | The Pony Express

The Amalie Arena packed with fans during the Lightning's game against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 14.

Amanda Hase, Staff Writer

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Out of their 65 games played this season, the Lightning have racked up 102 points, leading the Eastern Conference and entire league by over 13 points with a record of 49-12-4. The team has consistently held the No. 1 spot in the league since Nov. 29 and previously held a 10game win streak which set a franchise record. If the Lightning continue this trend the President’s trophy, the award given to the franchise with the most points collected during the regular season, could finally make its way to Tampa.   

As the end of the season approaches, this graph shows the large lead the Lightning have against the rest of the league in both goal differential and points.

  “We’re dominating in every aspect of the game. So, beating us now is pretty much impossible looking at it from a statistical point of view. Numbers don’t lie and we have some very strong supporting numbers,” hockey enthusiast junior Carson Harris said. 

At this time last season, the Lightning had 90 points with a record of 43-17-4. They maintained a somewhat strong season and stormed in and out of the No. 1 spot in the league. Although the Lightning led the league with 54 wins, they landed themselves third overall in points with 113 at the end of the regular season. Their inability to shut down the power play could be what held the Lightning back from a more successful season. They had a penalty kill percentage of 76.03 which was below the league average of 79.82.  

In the first two rounds of the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Lightning saw much success against the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins. The lightning scored a total of 50 goals throughout the play-offs, but unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to get them to the cup. The team went on to play the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference finals. In game six of the series the Lightning’s offense seemed to have shut down, and went two games without scoring a goal. Even though the Lightning fought their way to game seven, their season came to an end after the Capitals shut out the Lightning with a final score of 0-4.  

To be sure that the Lightning don’t have a repeat of last season, the team has done their best to improve upon their offense by strengthening the power play. With over a month left of the regular season the Lightning already have 63 power play goals, coming very close to passing last season’s total of 66. Defensively, they have improved their penalty kill, leading the league with an 86.8 penalty kill percentage. The Lightning’s blue line players do a great job at breaking up passes and blocking shots, which has allotted their offense enough opportunities to create plays and score goals.  

“You want to keep the power rolling throughout the playoffs. We need to keep up with the fast playoff pace and make sure we’re keeping track of things and remaining focused, so we don’t fall off like our previous season,” Lightning fan senior Alec Gremer said. 

One of the key components in improving their defense has been starting goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy. In his last four games, Vasilevskiy has made 131 saves and has only allowed eight goals to be scored against him. After gaining a 3-0 victory against the Montreal Canadians on Feb. 16, Vasilevskiy broke a franchise record, passing former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, by recording 18 career shutouts.   

Nikita Kucherov after gaining his 70th assist, setting the franchise record for most assists in a single season. (@TBLightning on Twitter)

The Lightning have their fair share of talented forwards, but one that stands out is 25-year-old Nikita Kucherov. After getting three assists and two goals in the 1-5 win against the Colombus Blue Jackets on Feb. 18, Kucherov set a franchise record for most assists in a season with 73 “helpers”, which is first overall in the NHL. Also, in the shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres, Kucherov became the first player in 22 years to reach the 100-point mark in 62 or fewer games, the fastest being Mario Lemieux who reached the mark in 61 games back in the 1996-97 season. He is also the only player in franchise history to record multiple 100-point seasons, his being in consecutive years. He has been a powerful forward for the team and has led the league in points since Dec 27. If he can continue to play as he has, Kucherov will easily break the franchise record for most points in a season, currently held by Vincent Lecavalier with 108.   

 The Lightning will be “back in black” tomorrow night at the Amalie Arena to face the Ottawa Senators. The Senators currently hold the last spot in the league standings with a record of 22-37-5 and 64 points. They recently traded away three of their top forwards, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone, in exchange for first and second round draft picks for the next few seasons. Even though the Senators are in a tough rebuilding stage, the Lightning still have to treat this like any other game and hope to start the month off with a win at home.  

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The Tampa Bay Lightning Continue to Bring the Thunder