Lightning top league standings, have more work to do

The Lightning are settling in to where those offseason expectations put them in—atop the NHL standings. At least for the night.

Scoring, goaltending and for the most part, solid team defense is clicking. It looks like the second period needs some cleaning up, especially when it comes to penalties and killing them successfully.

Here’s a look at team stats for the Lightning in order of worst to first:

  • Penalty Kill Percentage: 76.1 percent—25th in league
  • Power Play Goals Allowed: 11—24th in league (tied with four other teams)
  • Shots per game: 30.1—16th in league
  • Goals against per game: 2.67—14th in league
  • Face-off winning percentage: 50.6 percent—13th place
  • Leading after second period win percentage: 88.9 percent—12th place
  • Winning percentage when outshooting opponent: 70 percent—9th place
  • Leading after first period win percentage: 83.3 percent—7th place
  • Shots against per game: 27.4—6th in league
  • Scoring first winning percentage: 80 percent—5th place
  • 5v5 goals for/against ratio: 1.38—4th in league
  • Trailing winning percentage: 60 percent—4th place
  • Power Play Percentage: 26.4 percent—3rd in league
  • Goals per game: 3.80—2nd in league
  • Power Play Goals: 14—Tied for 2nd in league
  • Winning percentage when being outshot: 75 percent—1st place

The takeaway for me is that the Bolts need to close the door a bit more, especially late in the second and into the third. They allowed Detroit to creep back in but as the stats show, they were able to overcome that deficit and win.

Not every team is going to be perfect and some of these stats offset the others, allowing a team to cover up for its mistakes and shortcomings. Take a look at the penalty kill. It needs huge improvement at 25th in the league, but I was surprised that the Lightning only managed to score one shorthanded goal with how aggressive the forwards are.

Brian Boyle popped in that shorty on Thursday night against the Flames where the Lightning earned several other short-handed opportunities and a couple breakaways thanks to the drop-pass used by the Flames breakout. However, after Boyle scored the shorty, they allowed a power play goal 20 seconds afterward. Buzzkill.

Short handed goals are a bonus when killing penalties and at this point, the unit needs to not be aggressive to the point where they’re looking to strip a puck and go the other way with it. Instead, they need to still limit space but focus on getting a stick on the puck enough to clear it and change.

The Lightning are taking 9.8 penalty minutes per game, which is the eighth lowest in the league, so it’s not like the team is on a parade to the box. That’s 66 penalties in 15 games. For comparison, Winnipeg has the most at 90, which includes three misconducts

Here is how the Lighting penalties per period break down after I went through each box score for the season (NHL doesn’t keep track):

  • 1st — 17
  • 2nd  — 36
  • 3rd  — 13
  • OT — 0

Remember that some penalties offset like roughing and the five fighting majors the Lightning have on record. Three of the fights occurred in the first period and two in the second period, according to HockeyFights.com. Maybe it’s the long change, but couple the a long change with a penalty kill and you can see where things can get hairy. Seven of the goals allowed on the PK also occurred in the second period by my check and then three in the third period and only one in the first.

If the Lightning want to be ultra stingy, it’s clear that second-period penalties need to be cut down along with snuffing out power plays in the second period. (Maybe no coincidence that the second period typically has more goals scored in the league.)

These numbers also bleed another way in that refs put their whistles away in the third period sometimes (and too many in overtime) and the first period seems to be standard.

At 15 games in, the Lightning are showing what they’re capable of and hopefully the team continues to do its homework for the rest of the season to become an elite first-place team and not a San Jose Sharks/Washington Capitals first-place team.

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