It is not an overstatement to say that the Tampa Bay Lightning have had a spectacular 2018-2019 year. NHL experts placed the Lightning as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup before the season began and the team has been absolutely dominant from game one and onward.
Despite surprisingly losing 3-0 at home to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, the Lightning were able to become the first team this year to punch their ticket for the 2019 NHL playoffs. With the Columbus Blue Jackets losing 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens losing 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday as well, it is now impossible for the Lightning to be pushed out of a playoff spot.
In addition, the Lightning managed to clinch a postseason appearance after only 68 games played. The fastest NHL team to do so since the Washington Capitals during the 2009-2010 season who clinched after 67 games played according to NHL Discussion.
Throughout the course of the 2018-2019 year, the Lightning have recorded numerous accomplishments both by individual players and as a group. For starters, right-winger Nikita Kucherov is currently running away with the Art Ross Trophy. The 25-year-old has registered an astounding 110 points in just 69 games. Kucherov is 13 points ahead of right-winger Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks who is second in the league in scoring.
With these totals, the Russian native hasn’t just set personal records, but Lightning franchise records as well. After his first of two goals against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, Kucherov surpassed Vincent Lecavalier for most points notched in a single season by a Lightning member according to NHL Discussion. Lecavalier previously held this record after his 108 point season during the 2006-2007 year.
On top of Kucherov, his teammate Brayden Point is not too far down the list at tenth with 82 tallies in 67 contests. The 22-year-old is also ranked sixth in the league in goals with 37. Point’s numbers this season have already surpassed his previous career high totals from last year where he recorded 66 points and 32 goals.
Lastly, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is on his way to his second straight Vezina Trophy nomination. The 24-year-old barely lost the award last season to Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. However, this year Vasilevskiy has made a persuasive case for him to be this season’s goalie of the year. The Russian native currently leads in the NHL in save percentage with .931 and ranks second in the league in shutouts with six and is fourth in both goals against average with 2.24 and wins with 31.
Team wise, the Lightning have dominated the statistics column. They rank first in the NHL in both power play percentage with a 28.6 percent success rate while on the man advantage and penalty kill percentage with 85.5 percent.
At the moment, the Lightning have a record of 52-13-4 and a point total of 108 in 69 games played. The next best team is their divisional rival, the Boston Bruins who have 93 points in 68 games and a 42-17-9 record.
In the past few seasons, the Lightning came close to hoisting the Stanley Cup, but narrowly fell short. The Lightning have suffered game seven loses in the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past eight years. The occasions include 2011 against the Bruins, 2016 against the Penguins, and 2018 against the Capitals.
In 2015, the team was within inches of their first Stanley Cup since 2004. However, they lost in six games to the Blackhawks.
Although playoff history suggests that the Lightning are not the strongest of finishers. The Lightning’s record and statistics this season have presented the most convincing evidence yet that this year the team could finally get over the hump and seize a Stanley Cup.