by Leah Mize
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their fifth win of the season Wednesday, Oct. 23 against the Pittsburgh Penguins winning 3-2 at Amalie Arena.
Game highlights included a game-winning power play goal scored by defenseman Victor Hedman and a “save of the year” worthy move by reigning Vezina Trophy Winner Andrei Vasilevskiy.
All of Tampa’s goals were scored by veterans such as Alex Killorn and Cedric Paquette.
Crucial players including Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Mikhail Sergachev all picked up personal points with assists.
The Bolts struggled but they pushed through and their efforts were rewarded with a win and two points that they need. While points matter year round, it’s usually better for teams to consistently put themselves in a playoff spot by winning as many games as possible.
The Lightning currently have 12 points in the Atlantic Division, placing them fifth overall in the division behind the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Penguins put up a good fight against the Lightning, even with numerous players out of their lineup due to injury such as Evgeni Malkin.
The game against the Pens was a good way to measure how the Lightning can compete with teams of a similar caliber in the league’s other divisions. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 after years of rebuilding to achieve this goal. They drafted important players such as captain Sidney Crosby, made smart trades, and endured their struggles.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Lightning are on a similar track as the team has won a Cup before but it was during the pre-lockout era and the franchise was completely different back then.
The Lightning have drafted key players such as Stamkos, Kucherov, and Vasiliskiy as well as traded for players like Sergachev. They’ve also brought on unrestricted free agents like Kevin Shattenkirk who has been scoring goals and earning points consistently so far into his tenure as a Bolt.
Currently the Atlantic Division is led by the Buffalo Sabres with 19 points. The Boston Bruins follow close behind with 18 points and the Toronto Maple Leafs are staving off a possible collapse as tensions between the team’s results and head coach Mike Babcock rise, which opens the door for the Lightning to pass them in the standings.
The Lightning’s position in the standings right now is not bad and likely due to the fact that they have played less games so far than their divisional competitors. The more games teams play the more opportunities they get to score points. Once the Lightning’s schedule balances out and they are able to rack up more points it will be easier to get a better view of where and how they stack up.
Across the rest of the league, the story bears a close resemblance. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers are off to a great start while teams such as the Dallas Stars are struggling to identify the holes in their game.
In sum, the Lightning are not in a bad position at all. It is the timing of it all that is the most damning.
For those who are looking to satiate their anxiety about the team’s progress, wait until game 20 or game 40 and check the team’s record then. Generally speaking, by this checkpoint any issues a team has will be obvious at which point the solutions should also be clear.
However, there is little need for Lightning fans to be overly excited or concerned. There are at least five months of hockey left to play and truly anything could happen between now and then. At this point in the season, not even a month in, it is just time to watch as the players just “do that hockey.”
Leah Mize can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org