Tampa Bay Lightning 2018-19 Regular Season Recap and Playoffs Prognostication
We’ve made it to the end of another Tampa Bay Lightning regular season and what a season it was. The only thing better than seeing the 2018/19 regular season go down in history as a record-breaking romp is a well-substantiated hope that this is just the beginning of the Lightning’s new dynasty.
Indeed, this year saw the Tampa Bay Lightning finish with an astonishing 128 points from 62 wins, tying the NHL record for most wins and coming close to the one for team points.
This season also saw the Lightning finish with an astronomical goal difference of 103 from 325 goals scored – the second-highest in the NHL’s last two decades.
Finally, Tampa Bay’s team points gulf between them and the Calgary Flames is the highest gap in points since the 1995/1996 Detroit Red Wings (a team widely considered to be one of the best ever).
[READ MORE: Our Mid-Season Predictions were…Pretty Good!]
Individually, Tampa Bay had fewer league leaders than might be expected from a season like this. We’ll discuss why we think this is an asset to the team as they head into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a bit.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the 2018/2019 regular season and what we expect heading into the playoffs.
1. Greater Consistency Paid Off for the Bolts
In our preview of this season, we stressed that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s greatest challenge was against their own stamina limitations that led to costly slumps last year.
This season proved that the Bolts had it in them to destroy their regular season fixtures list without flinching. The juggernaut season enjoyed by Kucherov, Stamkos and Co. is a testament to the team’s ability to power through slumps.
This is especially evident by our next point.
2. Jon Cooper’s Focus on Spirit is a Central Part of the Lightning’s Identity
Tampa Bay came from behind to win, a record-breaking, 29 times this season. Their .600 points record when down after the first period not only topped the league but is the highest in the last 20 years of the NHL.
As fans, we know that there was a tangible indomitability for the Lightning this year. Tampa Bay going down by one or two goals in the first period didn’t feel final or decided at all. This was a season where we expected Tampa Bay to turn around the game while trailing and they often did (more than half the time).
Whatever Jon Cooper and the leadership staff at the Amalie Arena are doing to help inspire the Bolts is working.
3. Tampa Bay Has a Team that Will Dominate for Years
With rising stars like Vasilevskiy in goal, Tampa Bay has cemented a lineup that can continue to lead the NHL for three, five or even ten more years. The team’s gradual build and ability to stay under the NHL’s salary cap has meant that players who are here are committed to the vision of the Bolts – namely, bringing back the Stanley Cup and keeping it at the Amalie Arena.
4. Whole > Sum of the Parts
We don’t want to take anything away from players like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy and others who all enjoyed massive individual seasons (Kucherov led the league in points at 128. Vasilevskiy had a save percentage of .925).
This season, however, showed us something we’ve always known about the Lightning, at least for the past few years. They’re not a team of superstars. The Tampa Bay Lightning have always proven that team chemistry and putting the right players on the ice together leads to massive gains over teams that just try and pack their roster with the biggest names.
While players like Alex Ovechkin and Leon Draisaitl each scored over 50 goals, the Lightning became the first team since the 1995/96 Pittsburgh Penguins to see three or more players with 40 goals each. While teams were busy banking on star players to move the W-L sliders, the Bolts were racking up historic win percentages, record-tying wins tallies and a jaw-dropping goal differential.
5. The Stanley Cup is Coming Home!
Last, but not least, we have to believe that no single team has a shot against the Bolts as they move into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Get your parade pants ready, because come late May, there’s going to be a party in Tampa Bay!
Join us in cheering on the historic 2018/2019 Tampa Bay Lightning as they bring our trophy back home this year.
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