With 15 games games remaining in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been surging. The Lightning recorded their 50th win on Saturday, March 2, against the Ottawa Senators, tying the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings as the fastest team in league history to reach that mark. The Lightning beat the Senators 5-1.
Tampa Bay are in first place in the NHL. The Calgary Flames sit second at 89 points and the Boston Bruins trail behind them with 87. The Lightning have 104 points.
Much of the Lightning’s success can be attributed to their star forward, Nikita Kucherov, who leads the league with 75 assists and 106 points. At 25 years old, Kucherov has back-to-back 100-point seasons. Kucherov’s dominance has helped the Lighting average a league-leading 3.82 goals per game, with a league leading +84 goal differential.
Much of Kucherov’s success comes in the power play. Tampa Bay leads the NHL in power play percentage. The Lightning have a power play success rate of 28.9 percent. They also lead the league in penalty kill percentage, killing off 86.0 percent of their penalties.
The Lightning’s goaltending has been top-notch in the past few years with Andrei Vasilevskiy as the number one goalie. Vasilevskiy is second in the NHL with a .931 save percentage, only trailing St. Louis’ goaltender Jordan Binnington, who has a .933 save percentage. Vasilevskiy is also second in the league in shut- outs with six, trailing Marc-Andre Fleury of the Las Vegas Golden Knights with eight shutouts. Vasilevskiy has helped the Lighting average 2.62 goals against per game, which is fourth in the NHL.
It seems the only thing the Lightning are looking to improve as they continue their quest for the Stanley Cup is their shots against per game. Tampa Bay averages 32.3 shots against per game, which is 22nd in the NHL.
Tampa Bay’s defense is led by 6’6 Victor Hedman. In 58 games this season, Hedman has recorded nine goals and 32 assists for a total of 41 points. Hedman is a +15 on the season, averaging almost 26 minutes of ice time per game. Hedman is the defending Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defensemen.
The Lightning are looking to win their first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history. The annual award is given to the team that finishes the regular season with the best overall record. The winner receives $350,000, to be split between team personnel and the players. It seems as though it is a given that the Lightning will win the award unless the team loses their next 15 games. There is a belief that the Presidents’ Trophy carries with it a curse, saying that whoever wins the Presidents’ Trophy will not win the Stanley Cup.
Only eight teams have won both the Presidents’ Trophy as well as the Stanley Cup since the award was introduced in the 1985-1986 season. The last team to win both the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup was the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, but perhaps the Lightning have what it takes to pull off that tremendous feat this season
Contact Jack Breitowich at [email protected]