Tampa Bay Lightning 2017/2018 Regular Season Review
It’s a wonderful time to be a Bolts fan. The Tampa Bay Lightning have won the 2017/2018 NHL Atlantic Division and are Eastern Conference regular season champions. We did it! It’s been a wild ride and as Lightning fans ourselves here at Friendly Kia (well, most of us anyway), we’re ready for the playoffs!
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It’s undeniable that the game changes once you hit the playoffs. The dynamics surrounding how a team is set up and whether certain players are going to be rested are no longer in play. Every game is an important one and the last few seasons have taught us that you don’t ever sleep on a 3-1, 2-0 or even 3-0 lead (looking at you, 2014 Sharks).
Because of that, we want to go through the regular season and treat it as its own contest. Would we be so quick to separate the two if it wasn’t a great season? Probably not, but the Lightning did some incredible things this year that are worth noting. Here are our favorite moments and takeaways from the 2017/2018 Tampa Bay Lightning season!
Tampa Bay Has a Legacy Goalie
One of the brightest spots of the 2017/2018 season has been the meteoric rise of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Contributing largely to the Bolts’ early status as a league-dominating side, Vasilevskiy saw the fall/winter of 2017 give him some incredible save percentage numbers: .923 in October, .939 in November and .945 in December.
The second half of the season was a bit more humbling for the 23-year old Russian, who despite a minor slump finished the season with a decent .920.
With Vasilevskiy’s age, this hiccup isn’t much to worry about. The path of a top athlete almost always sees him/her struggling to find consistency in their early years, rather than prestige. The early part of the season gave us a fascinating look into what will be the expectation for the Lightning goal once Vasilevskiy has matured a bit and found more consistency.
The Best 6, not the 6 Best
Throughout the season, we were optimistic about the chances of Kucherov and/or Stamkos to challenge for the top scorer. While Kucherov did enjoy a 100-point season, neither of the two power players finished in the top 5 with Kucherov barely cracking the top 10 at 39 goals in 80 games.
On the other hand, the Lightning did earn the highest goals-per-game tally and finished with a goal differential that was 36% higher than the nearest runner-up. So while our blog on the trending targets for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2017/18 campaign may make it seem like they fell short of expectations, a regular season division/conference win is nothing to be disappointed by.
It really speaks to the team dynamic that’s present as opposed to the star power of the side. Yes, Kucherov and Stamkos and Vasilevskiy are skillful players, but the individual contributions and synergy of the side is significantly more responsible for the Lightning’s success this season. That excellent team dynamic isn’t something money can buy!
This season was one of many incredible moments. The Lightning became the first team to reach 100 points, as well as the first team to clinch a playoff berth. Beyond that, Braden Holtby being scored on by Kucherov for a second time with the fake-out goal was so good that it took top honors in our “Great Moments in Lightning History” blog post, which you can read here.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, being able to hear all of the Bruins fans going on and on and on and on and on about how they were going to beat the Panthers and take the division/conference this last week only to have them blasted by our noisy neighbors to the South in a delightful 4-2 rout was a real treat.
Thank You Bolts, Lightning Fans and Florida Panthers for a Great Season!
Coming off the disastrous NFL season for the Buccaneers, this season was a great and energizing one for Tampa Bay sports fans. As we move into the post-season, we’re confident in the Lightning’s ability to destroy the Devils (who barely got in) and move even further ahead.
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