NASHVILLE — A quarter of the season is gone; who is the 2018-19 Lightning? In short, it's a good team. The Lightning has been at or near the top of the league throughout the first 20 games. Going into Sunday's games, the Lightning and Predators were ...and more »
By Diana Nearhos
Published: November 18, 2018
NASHVILLE — A quarter of the season is gone; who is the 2018-19 Lightning? In short, it's a good team.
The Lightning has been at or near the top of the league throughout the first 20 games. Going into Sunday's games, the Lightning and Predators were tied at No. 1 with 29 points apiece, which should mean another good game between them in Nashville on Monday night (Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM).
Though saying that Saturday's overtime win over the Flyers was one of the Lightning's bottom five games so far, coach Jon Cooper praised his team's first 20.
"Overall, our team has played hard," he said. "We had to battle through injuries. You lose (Victor) Hedman, (Ondrej) Palat, (Anton) Stralman, (Andrei) Vasilevskiy, and they still keep finding a way."
Let's take a closer look.
The Lightning has struggled to score first in games. Of its 20 games, the opponent has scored first in 11. But the Lightning has done a good job responding to the other team scoring first. It has the best winning percentage in the league after giving up the first goal (.636).
The starts are a concern for Cooper, but not a major one.
"Sometimes you can play well but you don't have the lead," he said. "It's like you did everything you possibly could, but you're down. If we were playing poorly, then I'd have an issue. But I don't think we've been playing poorly; just, we're down. That's what happens in games."
Some of those slow starts haven't been bad necessarily, but they look worse juxtaposed with very strong second periods. The start in Buffalo on Tuesday, for example, was average, until the Sabres scored late in the period. The Lightning's second and third were great, making the average start look even worse, and it lost 2-1.
If the Lightning is capable of that play in the second and third, why can't it play like that from the start? If anyone had the answer, the Lightning would have done it by now.
The big question right now is at goaltender. Vasilevskiy is out for four to six weeks with a fractured left foot and that hurts. He has been one of the most important players, if not the most important, for the Lightning.
The team has faith in backup Louis Domingue, though, who becomes the starter in Vasilevskiy's absence. He has mostly played well in his seven starts. The two games in which he allowed more than three goals (five to the Flyers and seven to the Coyotes) featured poor defensive showings in front of him.
This is a team that rose to the occasion when Hedman missed seven games with his injury, suffered Oct. 26 against the Golden Knights. Defensemen stepped into different roles, and as impactful as Hedman is, the Lightning didn't suffer with his loss.
The question is if it cannot suffer with Vasilevskiy out for at least 14 games.
The Lightning made history in a way it didn't want to Saturday.
It became the first team in NHL history to squander a four-goal lead in the third period and still win.
The Lightning led Philadelphia 5-1 going into the third and ended up needed overtime to win. The Flyers scored four goals in a span of 6:04.
Cooper said after a well-played loss to the Predators on Nov. 1, sometimes you deserve the two points but don't get them, other times its the opposite. The Lightning didn't deserve the two points it got Saturday, but it'll take them.
C Brayden Point wasn't the only one with a crazy hat trick last week.
Predators C Calle Jarnkrok scored his first career hat trick against the Kings on Saturday, and it was a variety pack. He scored an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal.
He's the seventh player to score such a hat trick since the 2013-14 season.
Point's hat trick came in 91 seconds on three power-play goals against the Penguins on Thursday.
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