There’s little question that the Lightning are the best team in the league. While Vegas would love to claim that and their points total says it, the Lightning are just really good instead of feasting on luck and the unprofessionalism of hockey players who apparently just discovered that Las Vegas exists or something.
What’s scary about the Lightning is that according to the metrics, there really isn’t a weak spot to find on them.
To wit: Currently, the Lightning are fourth in the league in Corsi-percentage, and fifth in expected-goals percentage. But what makes that more impressive is that it’s not a case of a few players boosting the rate, and carrying others who are dragging them down. They’re solid 1-12 at forward and 1-6 on defense. Let us go further into it.
When you look at the individual players, no player is more than two percentage points below the team rate when looking at their relative Corsi-percentage. That’s Braydon Coburn at -2.03. And no player is more than two points above the team rate relatively either, which is Andrej Sustr at +2.1.
You don’t find that with the other teams at the top of the possession marks. The Bruins see a difference of about 11 points in their relative marks, with Patrice Bergeron at the top at +6.19 and David Krejci at the bottom at -5.75. The Stars have a difference around 14 points from their bottom player relatively to their top. The Predators have a difference of 16. The Hawks, who yes are still one of the better Corsi teams in the league, have a difference of 13. There just isn’t a hole the Lightning have to cover for.
It’s the same when it comes to the types of chances they create and give up. Coburn is their worst relative expected goals player at -5.7 percentage points, while Brayden Point is their best at +2.96 percentage points. The Stars have a 16-point difference from their worst expected goals to their best. The Oilers do as well. The Canes have a 17-point one. The Bruins have a 14-point gap. There’s just nowhere to go with the Lightning.
This is about as solid as a group in this department as we’ve seen in years. Which bodes well for the spring. Even if teams are able to keep Stamkos and Kucherov quiet at even-strength, and that’s a challenge, and even if they can keep Johnson and Point on a leash behind that (getting harder), the Lightning can get you from the third and fourth lines too if they have to. That’s how teams end up on parades.
What’s scary for the rest of the Atlantic Division is that the Bolts are probably going to be able to keep this depth together for a while. Only Namestnikov requires a new deal next year of the players who matter, and he’s restricted. Sustr does as well, but that’s up to you whether that matters. Kucherov could demand 8-10 million or more in two years’ time, but Stralman, Coburn, and Girardi are off the books then as well.
We probably should get used to this.
Game #47 Preview