The Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL. They have been all season and the Oilers will need to be awake and ready from the opening faceoff, or the Lightning will embarrass them.
1. Tampa Bay is a league-best 19-8-2 on the road, where they’ve outscored teams 102-69. The Oilers are 11-13-2 at home and have been outscored 69-92. Tampa’s goal differential is +33 on the road while Edmonton is -23. That is a difference of 56. Wow.
2. If you’re wondering why the Bolts are so good, Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in scoring with 66 points and is a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. Victor Hedman is one of the best D-men in the NHL and was the PHWA mid-season Norris trophy winner. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with seven shutouts, has a .930sv%, a 2.22 GAA and a record of 31-9-2. He’s been the best goalie in the NHL by far. Toss in Steven Stamkos, fifth in NHL scoring with 60 points, sophomore Brayden Point, 20 goals and 46 points, as well as Tyler Johnson, Vlad Namestnikov and Yanni Gourde, who all have 16+ goals, and the Lightning are scary good.
3. The Bolts have six players with 16 or more goals. Only 72 players in the league have 16+ goals. Vegas has five, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Calgary and the Islanders have four. The Oilers have two. Arizona is the only team without a player with at least 16 goals. The league has 49 players with 18 goals and Tampa has five of them, while Vegas has four, Boston, Dallas and the Islanders have three. Arizona, Edmonton, Nashville, Columbus and Detroit have none. The Lightning offence is really good.
4. Jon Cooper has changed up his top line recently. Chris Kunitz is playing with Stamkos and Kucherov. He had separated Kucherov and Stamkos recently also. Kucherov has played 743 5×5 minutes and he’s played the most with Stamkos (575) and Namestnikov (513). Cooper has spoken recently about his team needing to be sharper, and by switching lines in the past month he is just trying to keep his team focused.
5. Tampa hasn’t shown any real weakness this season. They are dominating teams at 5×5. They are second in GF and have allowed the third fewest GA, outscoring teams 120-81. They have the fifth best PP at 23.2% and they have had the fifth most PP opportunities (181). The Oilers have the fewest PP chances with only 134.
6. The Oilers have had 20 fewer PP chances than every team in the league except Columbus (146), Anaheim (147), Toronto (150) and Los Angeles (151). Not only do they not get many chances, but the Oilers are now 31st in both the PP (14.2%) and on the PK (71.7%).
7. The Oilers have never finished last in the NHL in PP% or PK%, but they did finish second worst once on the PK. The Oilers will try to avoid becoming the eighth team in NHL history to be worst on the PP and PK in the same season.
8. These seven teams accomplished the double-whammy of special teams ineptitude:
Buffalo Sabres in 2015… 75.1% and 13.4%. (Finished last in league)
Florida Panthers in 2014… 75.9% and 10%. (Finished 29th)
Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010. 74.7% and 14% (Finished 29th)
Anaheim Ducks in 1995… 75.6% and 11.4%. (finished 24th in 26-team league)
Quebec Nordiques in 1991… 73.4% and 15.5%. (Finished 21st in 21-team league)
Toronto Maple Leafs in 1989… 72.7% and 16.7%. (Finished 19th in 21-team league)
Washington Capitals in 1978… 71.4% and 12.5%. (Finished 17th in 18-team league)
They all finished in the bottom-three in the standings.
9. Tampa Bay is the only team in the NHL Connor McDavid has yet to produce a point against. He’s only played them twice, but he has two points against every other team in the NHL and four points against everyone except Carolina, NYI and NYR. Tampa is one of five teams he doesn’t have a goal against including Winnipeg, Ottawa, New Jersey and Boston. But he has eight assists in eight games versus the Jets, eight apples in five games versus. the Devils, seven helpers in three games versus. Boston and six assists in five games versus. the Senators. Prior to the New Years game versus the Jets, I asked McDavid if he knew the teams he hadn’t scored a goal against. He thought about it for a few moments and then listed them off and said he has no points versus Tampa. His memory is impressive.
10. Alex Ovechkin is the only player on pace for 50 goals. He has 32 in 52 games. He’s on pace for exactly 50 and if he keeps up his pace it will be his eighth 50-goal season. Unreal. Only Evgeni Malkin, 29 goals, is within five of Ovechkin. Since the start of the 2011/2012 season, Oveckin has the most goals, 289. Stamkos is second with 221, John Tavares has 208, Mac Pacioretty has 205, Tyler Seguin 202 and Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski with 202 are the only others with 200 goals. Stamkos, the second most productive in that time, has 19 this season. It is remarkable how Ovechkin can continue to score goals at this pace.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 02/05/2018 – 9:00am MST