An old high school coach of mine used to say that most sports matches feature 3 “runs”. Whichever team manages to control 2/3 “runs” within a game will usually win it. It’s not a perfect model but it fits pretty well to this match-up between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota Wild.
The Fenwick chart below will have you believe that the Lightning were being outshot and outpossessed for most of the night before rocketing past the Wild in the third period, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. In a classic ‘shot quality’ vs. ‘shot quantity’ debate, the Wild were content with long, unscreened wrist shots on Ben Bishop, and while their puck retrieval was good (and something that should be looked at, defensively for the Lightning) they were failing to generate any real scoring chances in the first, so their Fenwick numbers are a little misleading.
I tracked Tampa Bay with 9 of the first 10 scoring chances in the game (well into the 2nd period) and chances ended up 16-6 overall in favor of the Bolts, so Minnesota was bottled up pretty much all night as the Lightning kept a potent forward group (Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, among others) out of the dangerous areas around the front of the net, which helps to explain some of Ben Bishop’s stellar numbers.
Moving Teddy Purcell down with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat continues to pay dividends for the Lightning, as that line was terrific yet again. Secondary offense is something the Lightning will need to have this year with teams like Minnesota who can put out a top defense pairing for 30 minutes and neutralize the Stamkos line. Ryan Suter played almost thirty minutes in this one, so Palat-Johnson-Purcell saw the other defense pairings quite a bit. All three controlled 50% or more of shot attempts; Johnson was at 75% Corsi For for the night, Purcell at 66.7%.
With Minnesota’s measly 6 chances on the night, only Valtteri Filppula and Richard Panik finished the evening with a negative scoring chance differential as Jon Cooper continues to roll his lines fairly effectively and once again got strong minutes from the top of the lineup straight down to the bottom. The Lightning had an edge early, weathered a storm in the second period, and then ran away with things late after a Steven Stamkos breakaway goal. The third period surge in particular — when score effects should theoretically push Minnesota to carry the play — is encouraging looking forward. Bottling that effort and continuing to use speed through the neutral zone to gain entry into the zone and create meaningful possession and scoring chances will be key, and the third period tonight should be a model for closing out close games for the future.
Following is the scoring chance and zone event data we tracked for this game that is, we believe, exclusive to Bolt Statistics: