Analyzing the Tampa Bay Lightning: How the East champs stack up in 2023

Over the past three years, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won the Stanley Cup twice and were two wins short of a three-peat. So why does it feel like they are being overlooked in 2023?

The Lightning have been overshadowed in the Atlantic Division this season by the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, but they are too dangerous to discount. Nikita Kucherov is on pace for 123 points, which would be the second most of his career. At his current rate, Brayden Point will top 50 goals. Steven Stamkos is still an elite finisher.

Here is a look at how other important Lightning players are performing this season:


Hedman has been a Norris Trophy finalist in each of the past six years, winning the award in 2017-18. That is a level of consistency that no modern defenceman can match. (The last defenceman to be named a Norris Trophy finalist in six consecutive years was Nicklas Lidstrom from 1997-98 to 2002-03.)

Hedman remains a workhorse, averaging more than 24 minutes per game. But he has looked a little off this season.

Hedman’s offensive production has slipped this season. He is averaging 0.51 scoring chances per 20 minutes, compared to 0.72 last season (when he scored a career-high 20 goals) and 0.9 in 2020-21. The Lightning are controlling 52.6 per cent of expected goals at even strength with Hedman on the ice, down from 55.1 per cent a season ago.

The departures of shutdown specialist Ryan McDonagh and longtime partner Jan Rutta have surely affected Hedman, who has had to take on tougher assignments. There is also the fatigue factor; the 32-year-old Hedman has played 71 playoff games since 2020, averaging 25:19 of ice time over that span.

A struggling Hedman is still a threat on the back end with his ability to move the puck and tee it up for his teammates in dangerous scoring areas. Fortunately for the Lightning, Hedman has time to find his game before the playoffs.


During the Lightning’s back-to-back championship runs, their third line was the envy of the NHL. Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow were capable of impacting games on both sides of the puck, outscoring opponents 15-9 at 5-on-5 over two postseasons.

All three left the Lightning following the 2020-21 season. Coach Jon Cooper has tried different combinations, recently going with Ross Colton, Nick Paul and Pat Maroon. The results have been promising; Colton, Paul and Maroon have outscored opponents 4-3 in 153:09 of ice time, using their size to win board battles and disrupt breakouts.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois has a knack for finding depth players who can rise to the occasion. Paul, acquired from the Ottawa Senators in March 2022, is a perfect example. He has 40 points in 71 regular-season games with the Lightning and scored five goals in the playoffs last season, including two game-winners. Brandon Hagel, also acquired at the trade deadline last season, has developed into a multidimensional scoring threat.

Like their championship-winning predecessors on the third line, Colton, Paul and Maroon can pose matchup problems for opposing teams.


Where would the Lightning be without Vasilevskiy? The goaltender’s playoff numbers are absurd; Vasilevskiy has saved around 34 total goals above expected over the past three postseasons.

Vasilevskiy has had a solid season, having saved 2.23 goals above expected across 37 starts. Through the same number of starts last season, though, Vasilevskiy had prevented an extra 16.6 goals against.

Vasilevskiy is facing roughly the same amount of scoring chances per 60 minutes this season (21.9) as he did through 37 starts last season (21.1), so team defence is not to blame. He is not having as much success stopping shots from the slot, giving up 2.11 slot goals per 60 versus 1.74 at this stage last season.

As one of the most accomplished playoff goaltenders in league history, Vasilevskiy has more than earned the benefit of the doubt.

Stats via Sportlogiq


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