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Analyzing the Recent Struggles of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning struggles

Following the 8-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lighting have now lost four games in a row. The Lightning sit fifth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 10-10-5 and a goal differential of negative ten. Why do the Lightning keep losing games? Are there positives hidden behind the results we are not aware of? Will the team get back on track? Let’s analyze the last four games and take all of it in one step at a time. Perhaps there’s a solution to the Tampa Bay Lightning struggles.

Tampa Bay Lightning Struggles In Multiple Facets

Opponents Superb Goaltending Play

The Lightning offence has been in a drought over the past four games. The team has scored just five goals in their last four games. However, Tampa Bay has faced fantastic goaltending performances.

Jake Oettinger recorded 1.94 goals saved above expected (1.94 GSAx) against the Lightning on Saturday. Moreover, Tristan Jarry posted a 1.72 goals saved above expected (1.72 GSAx) performance last Thursday against Tampa Bay. Additionally, Connor Ingram recorded 2.26 goals saved above expected (2.26 GSAx) against the Lightning last Tuesday. Lastly, Alexander Georgiev posted a 2.93 goals saved above expected (2.93 GSAx) performance last Monday against Tampa Bay. 

Consistent goaltending is not easy to come across at an NHL level, but the Lightning have run into a few hot goaltenders in a row. One may claim that Tampa Bay is making the goaltenders’ job easy. However, history tells us the Lightning is a team loaded with shooting talent, and the puck will eventually bounce their way.

The Lightning Historically Outscore Their Expected Goals

A lack of talent is the least of concerns for Tampa Bay fans through the losing streak. After all, Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL scoring race with 40 points on the year. The Lightning historically outpace their expected goals by a wide margin due to their offensive deception.

Tampa Bay built their offensive deception through the one-timer. When the goaltender must move from post to post, the probability of a save decreases. Passes that cross the “Royal Road,” an imaginary line in the center of the offensive zone, increase the probability of a goal. Expected goal models do not take pre-shot goaltender movement into account. Therefore, one-timers do not receive as much credit in the models, despite players often shooting into an open net.

The Lightning finds success when they zip passes cross-ice for one-timers. The team ranked in the 83rd percentile of one-timers per hour in 2022 (All Three Zones). We would like to see Tampa Bay use the one-timer more to get the goaltenders moving cross-crease, instead of the offensive strategy they have employed recently.

Aimless Shots on Goal

A trend of the past four games has been stacking shot attempts regardless of the time and location. The Lightning recorded 76 shot attempts against the Colorado Avalanche, 77 shot attempts against the Arizona Coyotes, 79 shot attempts against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and 64 shot attempts against the Stars in all situations. Furthermore, Tampa Bay recorded more shot attempts than their opponents every game.

We are witnessing the Lightning rush shots to the net due to their lack of goal-scoring. However, we want to see the Lightning hold the puck and find high-percentage plays. The roster has too much talent for the Lightning to throw low-danger shots on the net.

The Lightning must revert to their “run and gun” offence where they are patient for the more dangerous scoring chance. There is a mental aspect of goaltenders finding a rhythm when facing low-danger shots in quantity. We see this trend with the Carolina Hurricanes‘ inability to outpace their expected goals.

What This Means for the Future

The Lightning should not press the panic button yet. The team has proven they can hang with top teams in the league this season. The Lightning must change their play style and target cheap trade deadline acquisitions. In addition, hockey is the most luck-dependant sport out there. Tampa Bay’s luck will eventually turn, but only if they control the mental side of their game.

Goaltending Statistics via MoneyPuck

Shot attempts via NaturalStatTrick

One-Timer Statistics via AllThreeZones


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