Gameday Preview: Tampa Bay


PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 18: Steven Stamkos  of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores the hattrick in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)



The Flames make a brief pit stop in town this evening before they head to the West Coast for a couple of matches, but tonight’s affair is an interesting one to say the least. The Lightning have some pretty famous men in their employ, and have likely needed good work from all of them to overcome some horrific netminding.



Unlike previous iterations of the team, this edition is out-shooting their competition by an extremely healthy margin. That 6.8 Shots/60 differential 5v5 is the game’s best by a pretty wide amount, and a complete 180 from last year, when no significant Tampa forward finished in the Corsi black. This year, not one is in the red. This isn’t a situation where the personnel is dramatically better, either, since the one player who was a clear roster upgrade, Simon Gagne, has only played part of the year. Of course, maybe having a fairly infamous EV sinkhole the likes of Vinny Lecavalier on the shelf has been a feature as opposed to a bug in terms of controlling play at EV, but even he was in the black before he was hurt. Guy Boucher might be a good coach, but I’d guess that mere competence behind the bench can take on the appearance of genius considering some of the pikers that patrolled that spot in recent years for Tampa. How much credit any coach should get for a significant EV turnaround is always an interesting question, but he’s had the look of an upgrade thus far.


The game’s still won or lost by actual players, though, and the Lightning do have some serious weaponry up front, with Steven Stamkos leading the team in scoring. He’s playing pretty decent comp this year and managing to outshoot it, which is good progress for a young player even with Martin St. Louis helping him out. They’ll operate alongside Simon Gagne this evening from the looks of things, so Boucher is loading up that group in Lecavalier’s absence. That will leave Malone, Dominic Moore and Ted Purcell as a second group, as Steve Downie is on the limp with a high ankle sprain. 



BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Nathan Gerbe  of the Buffalo Sabres falls as he defends against Nate Thompson  of the Tampa Bay Lightning at HSBC Arena on November 20, 2010 in Buffalo, New York. Tampa Bay won 2-1. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)



One of the under-appreciated things about Tampa is the solid work they’ve gotten from their support players. Hall, Thompson, Moore and Bergenheim have all outshot some decent competition this year, with the first two gents doing good work against top lines on more than a few evenings. Their usage so far this season would suggest a night against Iginla’s line, so it will be interesting to see if Boucher continues that approach. 


The other notable thing that the Lightning force all opposition to address is a quality PP, which will an area to watch tonight and not simply because Steven Stamkos is really productive when up a man. The Lightning overload the strong side more than most teams in an effort to isolate Stamkos on his off-wing, and teams have respected their other weapons enough that Stamkos has flourished over the last couple of years. He’s very astute for a kid at finding the soft spots in a PK as well. Even accepting his improvement at EV, it’s still on the power play where the Lightning’s top scorer is most likely to hurt any team.


Tampa’s backline is anchored by Mattias Ohlund, who gets the toughest assignments in terms of match-ups and Zone Starts of any player on the club. He’s doing so with Randy Jones as his regular partner this year, leaving Victor Hedman in the relatively good care of Brett Clark, and I’m not being flip. Clark’s a good vet Dman who was another astute pickup on Steve Yzerman’s part, one a few spare part types that have flourished on the Gulf Coast this autumn.



WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 26: Dan Ellis  replaces Mike Smith  of the Tampa Bay Lightning skate in the second period of the game against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on November 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)



Nothing is ever perfect, though, and this Lightning team’s cross to bear thus far has been terrible goaltending. It’s not often that a team’s best man at that position sports a .879 EVSV%, which is where Dan Ellis finds himself entering this evening’s play. I could write off his play to this point as some sort of revenge of the Twitterati, but Mike Smith is working at a .870 level, and both of those figures are 1980’s quality performance. Neither goalie has been anywhere near this bad historically, so I would guess that Tampa won’t have to cover for that manner of incompetence all season long, but they are struggling at a level that would have pushed most teams over the edge. The killer PP and general out-shooting have papered over the goaltending deficiencies for now.


So, stay out of the box and generate shots on net to test some shaky goaltending. Seems like a plan for most nights, of course, but tonight’s game should be a particularly good affair for that approach. 



  • BobB

    @ RCleave

    Neither goalie has been anywhere near this bad historically, …Tampa won’t have to cover for that manner of incompetence all season long… The [offense] have papered over the goaltending deficiencies for now.So, stay out of the box and generate shots on net to test some shaky goaltending.”

    Robert, at risk of beating the goalie apologist drum all day long I have a question for you.

    How can we say whether this is a result of poor goaltending vs poor systems?

    I know half the people reading this are hearing nails on the blackboard right now, but hey, we thought the world was flat once. 80’s goaltending happened in 80’s run and gun offense days.

    We can go back to the pre-war era as well if we want to see numbers that beat current goalie statistics. The game was different then.

    My point is this. We both know that if goalies faced only breakaways all night long. Their sv% would be somewhere between .500 and .700 (that’s shootout range)

    So, it’s dubious to discount a ‘quality shot’ concept.

    Therefore, I would say that if BOTH of Tampa’s goalies are performing 1. lower than historical, 2. similarly and 3. poorly compared to the average this year. That Tampa’s problems with goaltenders likely start with the guy behind the bench and then the 5 guys out in front of the keeper.

    Why is it unreasonable to assume that Tampa’s problems are not system based vs Goalie-performance based? Do we believe that Tampa trading for another ‘better’ goalie will likely make a marked difference in their nets?

    I say that’s doubtful.

    • Robert Cleave

      Lawrence, Tampa gives up the second fewest 5v5 shots/60 in the league. If that’s a failing system, sign me up. Unless you can prove that they give up a statistically disproportionate amount of breakaways and odd-man rushes for their SOG against every night, the preponderance of other evidence just suggests bad play. They could also both snap out of it given their mutual histories, and I’d give them the credit at that point, rather than suddenly lauding some alleged improvement in Tampa’s “system”.

      • it it what it is. the stats support the claim. both are having to say the least miserable campaigns. a need stevie y has to address. kipper for a boat load of prospects perhaps. oh ya i forgot we hit the 50 contracts with all the ranchhands from d+s ranch.

    • There wasn’t a single goalie (with more than 10 starts) within range of .887 last year. The only three guys below .900 were Osgood, Huet and Leclaire.

      Devyn Dubnyk managed a .902 ES SV% in 19 appearances behind one of the worst teams in recent memory (coached by a man who seemed more annoyed and befuddled than engaged). Dwayne Roloson and Rick Diepietro were both above .910 for the woeful Islanders in 09-10.

      So either Yzerman and Boucher have crafted a team that outshoots the opposition a league best 6.8 shots per hour while simultaneously giving up better quality opportunities than the worst teams in the league last year…or…

      we’re talking about randomness. Neither guy has seen 300 shots at ES yet. Smith even has a higher PK SV% (.914) than his PP SV% (.750!!).

      So, yeah, I think the safe assumption is variance for now.

          • PrairieStew

            its all positive energy. these guys know whn they make mistakes. as plante used to say why get yelled at by one guy when i keep getting yelled at by 15000 every night. steve yzerman learned his trade from the best, he is passing on the legacy to the next generation.

    • BobB

      No offense intended here, but in trying to defense Smith and Ellis, what you’ve put forward is the fact that you haven’t watched a Lightning game this season and seen how Smith and Ellis are playing.

      Bad positioning on outside shots is part of the problem, strong rebounds given up by either netminder is a problem, over-aggressive play by Smith often comes back to haunt him.

      But, what ultimately comes back to haunt either goalie are simple lapses. Smith especially (who has not been the same goalie since his 2008 concussions).

      Every goalie has bad game, but the past 16 periods of aciton for the Lightning (not counting overtime play or the shootout) has netted opponents 30 goals.

      16 periods, starting in the 3rd period on November 24th against the Rangers. The Bolts gave up 3 unansswered goals in the third. They then went on to lose 6-0 to Washington, 4-3 to Florida and 8-1 to Boston. They beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in OT and beat Colorado (you’re welcome) 6-5…

      One can say that this is just a bad stretch for the Lightning. But you have to SEE the kind of porous work going on in net during those games to get a general feel for how bad the tandem that is now known as “Smellis” has played.

      Do the Bolts give up odd-man rushes? Yes. Do all goals come from hanging a netminder out to dry? Nope. Not even close.

      • PrairieStew

        Thanks for your contribution John.
        I am suprised by their turnaround in terms of possesion and shots as outlined by Robert here.

        So do you feel the Lightning are close to being a legit contender, with only weak goaltending holding them back ?

        On another thread one of the Flames nation posters is proposing Kiprusoff moving to TB as part of the Calgary rebuild. What say you

      • BobB

        Fair enough. No offense taken. That’s good for us to hear.

        I said it twice, I haven’t watched the Bolts this year. It’s not common you see both guys suck so badly, but if that’s the truth, I’ve got no problem with it. I’ve just heard lots about this 1-3-1 “system”

        Look, I wasn’t “defending” the goalies, I just know that sometimes the numbers… especially in such small samples can be misleading. I was more curious as to if they were deserving of the “they suck” label, or if this is more a 1-3-1 problem?

        Roy hates it…he’s a goalie. Ha!

  • everton fc

    the bolts have a desire to succeed, to bust a nut for the guy upstairs. stevie y has injected life into the franchise. players want to play for stevie. unlike the situation in sutterville. looks to me that brent has questioned the leadership in his recent press comments.iggy says they need a bounceback game.

  • BobB

    @ Kent.
    @ Robert.

    Sure, fair enough. First, I can’t prove anything, in terms of disproportionate shots. That’s why it was a question. I’m still trying to figure out the subtleties of looking at advanced stats myself.

    Second. Kent, if ONLY three goalies were around .900 and NONE were within .887 range, isn’t that even more odd that TWO on the same team are? That’s like two related people flipping two coins numerous times and both having the same disproportionate number of “heads” when everyone else isn’t. Is it wrong to question the relationship?

    Third. If it’s randomness and small sample then why are we discussing it like it’s terrible play or a problem? If it’s randomness, isn’t it then just bad luck? Isn’t it then just as likely we get shutout tonight? In other words, is TB better than they appear, or worse? They are -10 GD, in 5th place, with the most goals allowed in the league, yet 7-2-1 in the last ten.

    I’m reading this as: Tampa will likely shoot and score high volume, they will allow few shots, but have crappy goaltending and will likely allow many goals. We could win 4-3

    I want to know if it is: Tampa will likely shoot and score high volume, they will allow few shots and have decent goaltending that has been screwed by the bad-luck bounces. We likely lose 4-1


    Shoot and score high volume, allow few shots because of strong possession, but have many breakdowns, lots of breakaways and two-on-ones against. Typically…it’s river hockey against these guys. We win or lose 9-6.

    I understand that anything can happen in tonight’s game, but I’ve never watched this team, and the mind-bendingly crap goaltending of both guys, just sounds like a weak hook to hang one’s hat on.

  • I would liken the Tampa system to NHL 11, you only give up 10 shots a game, but they score on 2 of those because your only giving up high quality scoring chances.

    It’ll be interesting to watch tonight, first off to see if it is the goalies, the system or the team defense,

    and Second, to see if Calgary can put more than one goal behind this shaky goaltending.
    My fear is that we run into that old cliche of a hot goaltender, which the flames seem to run into 2 out of every 3 games.

  • everton fc

    @ Hal a Pena
    “the bolts have a desire to succeed, to bust a nut for the guy upstairs. stevie y has injected life into the franchise. players want to play for stevie. unlike the situation in sutterville. looks to me that brent has questioned the leadership in his recent press comments.”

    Spot-on. The coach cannot continue to question the leadership of his players, though. This doesn’t float in business, nor in sports.

    The key statement you make, Hal, is this:

    “the bolts have a desire to succeed, to bust a nut for the guy upstairs.”

    I’d add they have a similar desire to succeed for Boucher.

    Could Playfair create similar desire in the current roster of Flames? Like Boucher, a young, inexperienced NHL coach….

  • everton fc

    Kipper to Tampa is madness.

    Kipper should not be moved. He’s an elite goalie, the likes of Brodeur. All we need is a capable backup to extend Kipper’s shelf-life.

    The jury’s still out on Karlsson.

    • PrairieStew

      Whenever trading Kipper comes up, a couple of positions stake themselves out. One is yours, that he should under no circumstances be moved. The other is that he’s not worth anything on the trade market, so why bother if ( as now) Vokoun and Gigure look to be moved as well due to pending UFA status.

      I land somewhere in the middle on this. For sure the team can not be competitive this year without him, so trading him is conditional on giving this year a probably next the heave ho. I certainly wouldn’t do it as a means to make the team more competitive in the short term ( this year or nex) or a shake things up move to salvage this year. This is a long term view that is contingent on moving other assets and committing to rebuilding, unless you are acquiring a #1 goalie in another deal. Neuvirth or Varlamov ?

      He is 34, so there are fewer years ahead of him than there are behind and the cap hit is pretty high – the goalie market has corrected a bit. He was elite last year, but that was following three years of declining performance where both the GAA and sv pct went up. Two years ago he finished with a .903 – somewhere around 30th – not exactly elite.

      • BobB

        “but that was following three years of declining performance where both the GAA and sv pct went up.

        That argument is a lark, the same happened to Hasek. Kiprusoff put together 4 consecutive years that (as far as I’ve found, and I’ve looked) are tied for second best ev sv% on NHL record @ .932 at over 5000sa. Kiprusoff and Vokoun have done it, Hasek has the best(.936)… the only three over .931. Kiprusoff actually faced more shots than Hasek as well 5284 vs 5002 over their best stretches.

        The first three years Kipper was .937 combined over 2700 shots. That’s Hasek-at-his-best good. It’s possible Hasek had even better stretches but evsv% wasn’t recorded prior to 97/98, however, Hasek’s best year was 98/99 so it’s doubtful. It’s strange that many think Hasek was the best in history, yet many would never think anything near that of Kiprusoff. I doubt they would rate him top 10.

        Yes, Kipper had a poor year in 08/09, and bounced back the following with a better than career average year. He ranks 4th in the NHL of active goalies in evsv%.

        I think with Kiprusoff, on a whole…all his years in Calgary, we’ve had it too good. Now that he has normalized a bit, we’re super critical. Which I would say is extreme. If you can even compare your goalie with Hasek, you’ve got an elite one.

        • PrairieStew

          While evsv % might be the fairest stat to compare the worth of a goalie, you would hope that the PP sv %, in terms of ranking would be fairly close. Currently Kipper is 5th in evsv% at .920 but 43rd in PPsv % at .863. That’s a huge gap, and you can’t put it all on the team.

          Which years for Hasek are you referring to. I can see no 3 year period where both the save pct and the GAA are poorer every year in succession.

          By the four year window on Kipper I assume you mean the year before the lockout and the next 3.

          The first year after the lockout, the team gave up only 200 goals, but 80 were on the PP – I can see how the evsv% would have been awesome.

          The next year 81 pp goals against, but 226 total; Kippers overall sv % dropped from .923 to .917.

          In Keenan’s first year the PPGA dropped to 72, yet GA went up to 229. Kipper fell to .906 overall

          In Keenans second year PPGA fell again to 58 but goals against went up to 248. Kippers overall sv % bottoms at .903.

          Last year the PPGA went down again to 54, down only 4 but overall GAA went down to 210.

          So the PPGA have gone down every year but if you look at ev GA by the team it’s a kind of a scary looking curve since the lockout. 120, 145, 157, 190, before settling back to 156 last year.

          So far this year Kipper is at .908 and 2.80, it’s not looking like last year; but the PK is not doing as well, on pace to give up more than 70.

          I guess I don’t disagree that Kiprusoff has been one of the best goalies in the league since 2003, and that last year was probably his third best among his 6 full seasons of work. Clearly if he were 29, not 34 I would feel better about him going forward being able to replicate years like last year; but he is not. Hasek played very well right up to 40 but he played much less than Kipper has. If you take out the partial year in Detroit, the lockout year, his final year (at 43) and the 2 years before he became a regular in Buffalo – Hasek had 10 workhorse years where he average 3416 minutes. Kipper is on pace for 4300 minutes again this year which would bring his 6 year average since the lockout to 4360.

          So, as we have all said for 4 or 5 years; we need a decent back up that is going to play 1500 minutes not 500.

  • BobB

    Hasek ev sv%

    97-’98 1476 1561 0.946

    98-’99 1290 1364 0.946 (Hasek’s “best” season)

    99-’00 673 729 0.923

    00-’01 1245 1348 0.924

    01-’02 1170 1265 0.925

    03-’04 217 238 0.912

    Hasek cumulative

    0.946 97-’98 1561

    0.946 98-’99 2925

    0.941 99-’00 3654

    0.936 00-’01 5002

    0.934 01-’02 6267

    0.933 03-’04 6505

    Kipper cumulative//actual

    0.941 03-’04 734 // .941

    0.941 05-’06 2098 // .941

    0.937 06-’07 3708 // .932

    0.932 07-’08 5284 // .919

    0.926 08-’09 6882 // .908

    0.927 09-’10 8490 // .928

    0.926 10-’11 9029 // .920 (this year)

    I’m NOT suggesting in ANY way that Kipper is ANYWHERE NEAR the goalie Hasek was, just illustrating “decline”.

    If that isn’t a fall-off for Hasek, I don’t know what is. .946 to .925 (.021), he was injured that next year so I ignore the .912 cause sample is tiny (200shots).

    Cumulative as well drops .013 at evens, although he played for a better and better team.

    Look, everyone gets older. Everyone plays with variation.

    Kipper faced more shots in 5 years than Hasek in 6. He had the one poor year, which no one seems to be able to move past. His cumulative has dropped .015 over 7 years vs Haseks .013 over 6. Kipper sure hasn’t played on the quality of teams Hasek did, played only one year in the “dead-puck era” but we see similar fall-off. Nobody was equally critical of Hasek.

    You have to choose what you want to measure. You’re putting value in certain metrics and then taking it away when it suits your argument.

    “The first year after the lockout, the team gave up only 200 goals, but 80 were on the PP – I can see how the evsv% would have been awesome.” I’m not sure what this means? That the goalie deserves blame for PP goals against, that he doesn’t deserve credit for ev? That team deserves credit for even? That the team doesn’t deserve blame for penalties?

    Of course the goalie is part of the PK, but there is SO MUCH variation and team effects that we could argue forever about that.

    You tell me what’s a good unit of measure of a goalie and I will give you the numbers that show you Kiprusoff is as consistently elite as the other “elite”.

    What do you think it is? Minutes? Shots against? ev sv%? raw sv%? wins? GP? minutes without injury? The guy plays a ton and makes a ton of saves, that’s what you want from an elite goalie.

    • PrairieStew

      There is no argument that Kiprusoff has been an elite goaltender. The question is: once a general decline has begun can he bounce back up to an elite level. By any measure I think we agree that his best 2 seasons were immediately before and immediately after the lockout. What followed was 3 seasons of progressively declining performance in every metric we are talking about total sv%, ev SV % and GAA, followed by last years bounce back ( again in all of those stats), so the question is what can be expected going forward. Cumulative statistics are good for evaluating who has been the best over a number of years, but using them to predict future performance is dangerous.

      So, the decline you illustrate for Hasek shows a drop after his best season, then 2 years of holding pretty steady (at 36 and 37), before another decline. He then had one season in Ottawa, where his totals actually improved, but he was 41 by that time and did not sustain to that bounce back level beyond that season. It’s not the decline specifically I was looking for, but whether or not the bounce back after a decline can occur and for how long it can be sustained.
      Kiprusoff has the advantage of age over Hasek when comparing these periods and projecting future performance, but age straight across is tempered somewhat when I look at the workload. That Kipper has played 900 minutes on average more than Hasek in his heyday, is worrisome – he can’t play these kind of minutes forever.
      My concern is this : is it realistic to expect that Kiprusoff can continue to perform at the level he did last year. I am not suggesting he needs to be as good as he was is 03-04 or 05-06; just can he sustain without further decline ?
      Your showing of Kiprusoff’s ev sv% proves that he has been elite – usually in the top 5 of that category. Further, by citing his .920 this year showing little decline, you make the case that he is still elite. Historically however, he has not been in the top 30 in PP sv %, bottoming out at .857 in 07-08. Whether that is the team’s fault or his, he has been the one consistent factor in that equation through 4th coaching regime and a revolving door of players. So far this year he has seen more PP shots than anyone, but again ranks about 30th in the league ( taking out anyone with less than 10 games). At .863 that is the second lowest he has produced, and by comparison Tim Thomas is stopping at .931 on the kill and Carey Price at .915.
      How many times have we said this year – if not for the power plays against.

      I am not looking to criticize Kiprusoff to blame him for the state the team is in. Clearly it’s not his fault, however his performance is critical to any success. If he can contribute at a level like last year through the end of his contract, I think we’d all take that, regardless of what is happening up front. But to me it is a waste if he is a top 5 goalie that makes a 28th place team a 20th place one. If he can not, and a further decline is coming, moving him should be considered a possibility.