Game 18 Statcap: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (SO)

Playing without Steven Stamkos for the first time in over 300 games, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night in Montreal put out an effort that can serve as a roadmap to hard-fought victories without their leading scorer in the lineup.

The Lightning played a simple, clean game. On the road, the club minimized turnovers, collapsed to the defensive zone when needed and worked hard to keep pucks in Montreal’s zone for lengthy periods of time, keeping the pressure of their depleted defense corps which was also missing Sami Salo and Keith Aulie. Ultimately, the Bolts fired over 40 shots on Montreal goalie Carey Price, the first time all season long they reached that benchmark for shots on goal. Tampa Bay dominated the possession game from the third period on despite holding on to a late 1-goal lead.

Scoring chances, which ended up being 13-12 in favor of Tampa Bay overall, suggest that while Tampa Bay was carrying play for much of the evening, the Canadiens were still finding ways to penetrate the defense of the Bolts and get good looks on goaltender Ben Bishop, including a couple of golden chances in the slot from Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec. But Bishop continued his hot start, stopping everything but a tip in front by Danny Briere which tied the game late in the third.

Puck possession and team defense were certainly emphasized by the coaching staff with Steven Stamkos out of the lineup, and the Bolts responded with some of their best play in those areas all season long, against a quality Atlantic Division opponent. Skaters vs. skaters, the Lightning won this game handily — only the stellar play of goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 35 of 36 shots at even strength (.972 ESSV%) — kept the Habs in it.

Tampa Bay finished the night with a 58.5% Corsi For, one of their best single-game marks of the season, and since the entire game at 5v5 was played at ‘5v5 Close’, the results are even more impressive. Holding on to a 1-goal lead, on the road, and still carrying play is a very good sign for this team moving forward. They showed a willingness to shoot the puck from everywhere and were much more effective at retrieving loose pucks in the offensive zone to create second and third shots and shot attempts on the same shift, which built the large possession advantage. After Montreal scored the game-tier, the Lightning actually widened the shot/possession gap, pushing harder into the offensive zone and putting more pressure on Carey Price before regulation was over.

Ryan Malone scored the team’s only goal in the first period on a deflection of a seemingly harmless Eric Brewer wrist shot, and he spent most of the night down on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and BJ Crombeen. It’s hard to view that lineup decision as negative, or even as a demotion, as that trio was very effective for Jon Cooper at 5v5 and Malone is still a big contributor on the power play. All three members of that line were above 75% Corsi For, simply dominating the Canadiens whenever they were on the ice (most often against the defense pairing for Montreal that included Douglas Murray). If the Tampa Bay fourth line can get that type of matchup on a regular basis and has the strength and skill of Ryan Malone, they might be able to provide the secondary scoring the Bolts will need consistently without Stamkos.

The scoring chance differential standouts were mostly on the Canadiens, however. Other than Mark Barberio (+5/-1) most of the Bolts were even or worse. PK Subban was a superb +7/-1 and Tampa Bay built most of their advantage whenever Michel Therrien decided not to have Subban on the ice. Victor Hedman and Andrej Sustr, a new pairing with the Sami Salo injury, got some tough 5v5 minutes and were exploited. Hedman was +1/-7 and Sustr was +0/-6, so this was a rough first outing for them as a pairing. Expect some growing pains with Sustr playing top-4 minutes until Sami Salo returns from his lower-body injury.

Fenwick (Unblocked Shot Attempts) Timeline via Extra Skater
Fenwick (Unblocked Shot Attempts) Timeline via Extra Skater

Following is the scoring chance and zone event data we tracked for this game that is, we believe, exclusive to Bolt Statistics:

Lightning Totals

Scoring Chances

[table “60” not found /]

Zone Entries (Even-Strength)

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Zone Exits (Even-Strength)

[table “62” not found /]

Game Logs

Scoring Chances

[table “55” not found /]

Zone Entries (Even-Strength)

[table “58” not found /]

Zone Exits (Even-Strength)

[table “59” not found /]

We’d like to acknowledge utilizing data from the game report produced by Extra Skater and the Scoring Chances and Zone Entry Nexus applications created by Josh Weissbock.

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