Forensics: What’s Behind the Lightning’s Late-Season Push?

by Cam Robinson on March 17, 2017 | (0 Comments)

What's behind the Lightning's late-season push?

What the heck is going on in the Big Guava these days? It seems like just a moment ago the Tampa Bay Lightning appeared destined for a quality draft pick and a rare season without playoff hockey. They lost their franchise player early in the year and followed that up by trading last season’s Vezina runner-up, their jack-of-all-trades middle-six centre and have yet to fill the glaring hole on the right-side of their defensive unit.

 

Yet here we are, half way through March, 69 games into the season, and the Bolts are tied for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

 

How is this happening?

 

Well, the Lightning are getting contributions from an array of players throughout their lineup and are riding that momentum towards a dangerous round one matchup with one of the league’s best teams.

 

This week on Frozen Pool Forensics, we’ll dig into a few players who have played key roles for Tampa in their remarkable turnaround.

 

**

 

Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov

 

While this column is going to be focusing more on the unsung heroes of this recent stretch of play, we’d be woefully remiss if we didn’t talk about the herculean efforts of the team’s top forward and defenseman.

 

Hedman is well on his way to his first Norris Trophy nomination as the league’s top defender and with good reason. His 59 points through 66 games trails only Erik Karlsson’s 62 and Brent Burns’ 70. The powerful Swede has been everything for Tampa Bay this year, contributing on a career-high 62 percent of all goals scored while he’s on the ice (IPP) and has nearly doubled his previous career-high in power play points.

 

He has 17 points in his last 14 games and is a horse at both ends of the rink.

 

NHL Stats - Last 5 Years – Victor Hedman

 

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

66

14

45

59

0.89

4

45

140

10.0

73

4

27

0

110

0

 

03:02

53.8

39.1

24:13

39.8

2015-2016

78

10

37

47

0.60

21

46

180

5.6

62

1

11

0

132

0

 

02:37

44.9

37.7

23:04

38.1

2014-2015

59

10

28

38

0.64

12

40

115

8.7

51

3

11

0

110

0

 

02:31

41.9

46.1

22:41

37.4

2013-2014

75

13

42

55

0.73

5

53

164

7.9

85

3

14

0

100

0

 

02:27

44.5

39.2

22:07

36.7

2012-2013

44

4

16

20

0.45

2

31

76

5.3

56

0

2

0

84

0

 

01:44

30.9

49.1

22:40

37.4

Average

82

13

43

56

0.68

11

55

172

7.6

83

3

17

0

136

0

 

02:31

44.1

41.4

22:57

37.9

 

 

Meanwhile, Kucherov has been one of the most dynamic and lethal offensive players in the entire league. His 1.11 points-per-game output sits fourth in the entire league behind just Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

 

These results have been buoyed by the tremendous pace he’s set in the last month. His 20 points in the last 11 games lead the league over that span and has allowed him to set a new career-high in both goals (31) and points (69) with 13 games remaining.

 

You’re looking at one of the brightest young stars in the game.

 

Top 10 Point Categories – Feb 20th-Mar 15th

Points accumulated during all situational strengths.

Click on the table headers to sort your results! Try it out!

Rank

Name

Pos

Age

Yrs

Team

GR

GP

EV

PP

SH

Pts/G

TOI

PTS/60

Points

1

KUCHEROV,NIKITA

R

23

1

T.B

13

11

10

9

0

1.82

20:44

5.3

20

2

FORSBERG,FILIP

L

22

2

NSH

13

11

15

1

1

1.55

18:27

5.0

17

3

KANE,PATRICK

R

28

7

CHI

13

10

14

2

0

1.60

21:14

4.5

16

4

EICHEL,JACK

C

20

0

BUF

12

10

8

7

0

1.50

19:28

4.6

15

5

MARCHAND,BRAD

C

28

5

BOS

12

10

13

2

0

1.50

19:05

4.7

15

6

JOHANSEN,RYAN

C

24

3

NSH

13

11

11

3

0

1.27

18:42

4.1

14

7

GAUDREAU,JOHNNY

L

23

0

CGY

12

10

13

1

0

1.40

18:06

4.6

14

8

GETZLAF,RYAN

C

31

9

ANA

12

9

11

2

0

1.44

20:47

4.2

13

9

JOSI,ROMAN

D

26

3

NSH

13

11

9

4

0

1.18

25:47

2.8

13

10

MALKIN,EVGENI

C

30

8

PIT

13

10

8

4

0

1.30

19:25

4.0

13

 

 

But we’ve come to expect greatness from these two players, who else has jolted the Bolts and needs to be on your fantasy radar?

 

 

Brayden Point

 

The evolution of Point has not been without wonder. The Lightning selected the slight forward in the third-round back in 2014 as questions swirled surrounding his strength and play away from the puck. This allowed the first-round talent to slip right into Stevie Yzerman’s lap.

 

After a wildly successful junior career which saw him win a World Junior Championship and rack up 1.29 points per game over 252 contests, the Calgary native appeared destined for a stint in the American League to begin his first professional campaign. However, Point came into camp last fall and forced his way onto the big squad and has never looked back.

 

His half-point-per-game numbers would be noteworthy in most rookie classes, but 2016-17 has seen a veritable bevy of high-flying freshman and thus he’s flown almost completely under the radar.

 

He’s starting to make a name for himself during the fantasy playoffs though.

 

With the Lightning’s centre depth being tested greatly due to injury, Point has stepped up and thrived in an offensive role next to Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. He put up eight points in 10 February contests and has recorded three goals in his last two games.

 

He’s giving Yzerman even more ammunition with which to play hardball with Tyler Johnson during contract negotiations this summer.

 

2016-2017 Regular Season

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

POINT, BRAYDEN

55

12

15

27

0.49

2

14

91

26

4

9

0

22

02:25

44.0

2.1

16:12

26.6

To Date

2017-03-14

Pace

68

15

19

33

 

2

17

113

32

5

11

 

27


 

         

 

The former Moose Jaw Warrior captain had been seeing around 40 percent of his team’s power play usage from the second unit throughout most of 2016-17 but that number has spiked of late and should be intriguing to fantasy owners looking for a playoff boost. Over the past four contests, Point has been dishing the puck on the top unit to one of the league’s top snipers for over 60 percent of the team’s man advantage time and saw a career-high 81.7 percent share in the most recent game.

 

Being able to absorb a loss of three centremen, as the Lightning have had to do the last week, while having a player like Point step up and produce is massive for this team’s turnaround. He would be an excellent option to stream in during your playoff matchups as the Lightning have a chalked full schedule down the stretch with plenty of off-night contests.

 

Dynasty leagues better keep a close eye on this player, as his offensive upside is very high and with a cap crunch in Tampa, he may be thrust into a full-time top-six role beginning next season.

 

 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

 

Much had been made about the future of Vasilevskiy. He had long been anointed as the top goaltending prospect on earth and was primed to take over the reins from Ben Bishop – if not due to cap difficulties then through unrelentingly quality play.

 

Well, things hadn’t been going so smoothly for the 22-year-old Russian.

 

While analysts and prognosticators mused on the potential destination and outcomes for unrestricted-free-agent-to-be, Bishop, Vasilevskiy wasn’t doing too much to assure a smooth transition.  The first two months of 2017 brought with them just a .908 save percentage, three wins in 15 appearances and a giant question mark hanging over the former first-round selection.

 

However, since Tampa Bay moved Bishop to LA at the trade deadline and firmly promoted their goaltender of the future to their goaltender of the present, Vasilevskiy has proven his mettle.

 

Using Dobber’s Goalie Calculator, look at his numbers heading into Thursday’s crucial contest with the Maple Leafs.

 

Goalie Calculator

GP 6
Wins 5
GAA 1.45
SV%0.954

 

These are the type of numbers we expect from a potential star netminder on a team that boasts the fire power that the Lightning have. Remaining focused and weathering the bumps that will assuredly rise over the final three weeks of the season will be the difference between making a late push and getting over the hump.

 

 

Tampa Bay baffled many with their poor play and are now rectifying it by boasting contributions throughout the lineup and are brimming with confidence as the games become the most difficult. If it’s not already too late, riding Lightning players through your push for a fantasy hockey title wouldn’t be the worst idea.

 

The Bolts own a terrific schedule in the final two weeks of action, playing six games in the final nine days, including five in a seven day stretch that is a daily lineup setter’s dream.

 

**

 

Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.

 

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