How much can you put in to a 6-1-0 start?
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-2-2, 6 pts.) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (6-1-0, 12 pts.)
It depends on what you want to believe. Tony made a good point over at The Confluence about sports fans and how we love hyperbole.
Truth is, the first 25 games are all about forming an identity. So far, the Penguins have shown us they have fortitude and composure like you would expect from a Stanley Cup winner. It’s important to remember, though, that the Pens got off to the best start in franchise history last year, only to nearly fall out of the playoff picture completely.
As for the Lightning, their start has been an average 2-2-2. That’s an improvement over last year’s disappointment and, though Washington has been lighting the lamp with ease, the Caps defense is atrocious and they lead Tampa Bay by just two points.
If you want to look at hot starts for Tampa Bay, look no further than former Penguin Ryan Malone. In six games he has six goals — including a hat trick against Carolina — and is third on the team in scoring.
Martin St. Louis leads the Bolts in scoring with 10 points (3G+7A) and is followed closely by former first-overall selection Steve Stamkos —3 goals and 4 assists.
What to watch for
The Lightning can score, there’s no doubt. However, the problem with Tampa — and the rest of the Southeast Division — is defense. To the 16 goals they’ve scored in six games this season, they’ve allowed 23.
As a whole, the Southeast has given up 94 goals. Each team has allowed more than 20 — expect for Atlanta, which has only played three games — and of the five teams in the division, only Washington has scored more than it has allowed. The Caps have scored 26 and allowed 22.
The point is Tampa Bay, and the Southeast Division, has a collective defensive problem that can be easily exploited and beaten by other teams in other divisions.
The Lightning’s major success comes in their power play, which is currently clicking at 22.2 percent. St. Louis and Stamkos each have two power play goals to their name.
The Penguins have been a highly penalized team in the early season and would be wise to stay out of the box against Tampa Bay. Disciplined hockey against the Lightning can make a win rather easy.
In just his first full year as a starter, Alex Goligoski has gotten off to an outstanding start. He leads the team in plus/minus rating with a plus-7 and is third on the team in scoring with five points (1G+4A). His totals could easily be higher, as he had one goal eventually credited to Evgeni Malkin and another called off after it went in on a penalty call on the Pens.
For the Lightning, Malone has scored six goals on 18 shots for an incredible 33.3 percent shooting percentage. Such stats are typically inflated early in the year, but his total is definitely eye-catching.
Chris | PPT