Sunday, October 6, 2013

Analysis: Tampa Bay Lightning 3 Chicago Blackhawks 2

The game last night featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks was an interesting one with multiple mini-stories embedded within. The most ominous stat was a fat zero in the shots on goal column for the Lightning at the conclusion of the first period. In fact, the Lightning were out-shot in every period except in the overtime period (shots tied at 2). So, was the Lightning offense really that bad? My answer is no. In fact, I do not believe that the performance by the Lightning overall was bad.

Fans will look at stats as and end-all-be-all most of the time, especially in hockey. There is so much more behind the stats than is showed simply by the numbers. The Blackhawks managed 39 shots on goal, but I would argue that most of their scoring chances were not high quality ones. After not getting a shot on goal until about halfway through the first period, the Blackhawks proceeded to shoot from everywhere. That being said, most of those shots were long range. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop stole two points for the team, but his saves were rather simple. The Lightning allowed most shots from the outside along the half-boards or the blue line. Bishop did not have much trouble seeing the majority of shots and was able to control his rebounds and cover the puck. The rest of the team cleared out rebounds and eliminated Blackhawks players in front of the net physically, which is something that was rarely seen last year.

Defensively, last night's game was very well played for the Lightning despite giving up 39 shots. However, the offense was more questionable. No shots in the first period is not a good number, even if it is against one of the top defensive teams from last season. The Lightning have always had an issue with getting shots on goal, and not for a lack of talent. The team has a tendency to try and score a pretty goal, giving up a point blank shot chance for an extra pass instead. Of course, the Blackhawks did do a great job of suffocating the offense for the Lightning. Chicago forced the Lightning to dump and chase the majority of the time, and was able to beat the Lightning to the puck. Breakout plays were smooth, as every player on the Blackhawk team was in the exact right spot on the ice to execute the transition out of the zone.

The Lightning were finally able to establish some offensive leverage, scoring two goals within about 2 minutes in the middle of the final frame. Captain Martin St. Louis led the charge, scoring the team's first goal and setting up the typing goal on the power play by Teddy Purcell. From there, the next big story was Ben Bishop. Bishop made big saves during a late penalty kill for the Lightning, and then stopped Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa in the shootout. Valtteri Filppula scored the lone shootout goal for the Lightning. Last season, defense and goal tending were the two major issues fans wanted to see fixed this season, I think last night was a big step in the right direction.

Image credit: CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 5: Teddy Purcell #16 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (right) celebrates with teammates Ryan Malone #12 and Steven Stamkos #91 after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks to tie the game in the third period during the NHL game on October 5, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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