The Tampa Bay Lightning rebounded from a horrid effort against the Chicago Blackhawks last Saturday with an encouraging performance against the struggling Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday. Tampa Bay controlled the puck for most of the night, as adding Teddy Purcell to the “Top Gun” line in place of the healthy-scratched Richard Panik seems to be (for now) a tactical adjustment that worked.
Special teams for now still leave something to be desired, as the Lightning gave up a pair of power play goals to a team that hadn’t yet scored one on the season, but there’s very little tactically to criticize regarding the kill and we can chalk this up more to early-season variance than an appreciable trend or issue with the kill.
Scoring chances were actually fairly even at both 5v5 and on each team’s power play — I had Buffalo with 5 chances on their man advantages, converting on two. Tampa Bay had 5 as well, converting on just one, a nice triangle play with Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, and Teddy Purcell which seems to be a nice wrinkle to a power play normally predicated on setting Steven Stamkos up in and around the left circle for one-timers. Total chances were 19-16 in favor of TB, and at evens they were 14-11, so the puck possession gap was a little bit bigger than the chance gap indicating that while Tampa Bay controlled shot attempts for most of the night, Buffalo was actually doing a decent job of clogging up shooting lanes and keeping shots to the perimeter.
As for the re-tooled lines, well, slotting Teddy Purcell in Richard Panik’s spot worked out brilliantly here. Palat-Johnson-Purcell accounted for 100% of all unblocked shot attempts while they were on the ice for this one — oser 14 minutes for each skater — meaning that they had a Fenwick For % of 100. Which is really, really, (admittedly unsustainably) good. But so far, that experiment is working. Head coach Jon Cooper had noted that part of scratching Panik and moving Purcell down was to give the kids more puck possession, and while it’s not an admission that the organization is tracking Fenwick/Corsi, etc., it does seem to align with what the numbers are telling us.
Most impressive however is the overall team effort in controlling play throughout the night in spite of some special teams woes. Chicago is a truly elite puck possession/defensive team, but Buffalo is not. You shouldn’t need to steal two points from the Sabres, and in spite of what some might have you believe, they didn’t. They earned the win tonight with some key coaching adjustments and better overall execution of a gameplan that worked throughout much of the night.
Following is the scoring chance and zone event data we tracked for this game that is, we believe, exclusive to Bolt Statistics: