Sunday, January 16, 2011

How elite is Tampa Bay?


As I alluded to a few days ago, I was going to compare Tampa Bay with some of the other top teams in the NHL because the Lightning seems to have way more blowout losses or losses to bad teams than any other team, yet they're currently second in the East. So I went all NiNY on your asses and geeked out the numbers.

The criteria: I picked the top four teams in each conference to use for comparison. A "bad loss" is defined as a loss to what is currently a non-playoff team. A "ghastly loss" is a loss of three goals or more to a non-playoff team. Standings are as of 3 p.m. ET on Jan. 16. And frankly, this list could be a lot different in a couple days given the massive turnover potential in the West.

Philadelphia (28-11-5)
Losses by 3+ goals: 6 (5-1 Pittsburgh, 3-0 Montreal, 3-0 Boston, 5-0 Florida, 6-2 Vancouver, 5-2 Anaheim)
Bad losses: 6 (2-1 OT St. Louis, 2-1 Columbus, 3-2 SO Calgary, 2-1 SO New Jersey, 5-4 SO San Jose, 5-0 Florida)
Ghastly losses: 1 (5-0 Florida)
Total: 13

Boston (24-13-7)
Losses by 3+ goals: 4 (5-2 Phoenix, 3-0 Carolina, 4-1 Atlanta, 3-0 Anaheim)
Bad losses: 8 (2-1 SO St. Louis, 2-0 Ottawa, 4-3 SO Los Angeles, 3-0 Carolina, 3-2 SO Toronto, 3-2 Buffalo, 7-6 SO Buffalo, 3-1 Minnesota)
Ghastly losses: 1 (3-0 Carolina)
Total: 13

Pittsburgh (28-14-4)
Losses by 3+ goals: 4 (5-2 Dallas, 7-4 Boston, 4-1 Rangers, 4-0 Minnesota)
Bad losses: 5 (4-3 Toronto, 1-0 OT St. Louis, 3-1 Ottawa, 2-1 SO Islanders, 4-0 Minnesota)
Ghastly losses: 1 (4-0 Minnesota)
Total: 10

(Note: This isn't nearly as ugly as I thought it was going to be. It makes me think I made a mistake.)

Vancouver (29-9-6)
Losses by 3+ goals: 3 (4-1 Los Angeles, 6-2 Minnesota, 7-1 Chicago)
Bad losses: 5 (2-1 SO Los Angeles, 4-1 Los Angeles, 6-2 Minnesota, 4-3 OT Buffalo, 3-2 St. Louis)
Ghastly losses: 2 (4-1 Los Angeles, 6-2 Minnesota)
Total: 10

Detroit (28-11-6)
Losses by 3+ goals: 5 (4-1 Dallas, 5-1 Atlanta, 5-2 San Jose, 5-0 Los Angeles, 4-1 Chicago)
Bad losses: 7 (4-3 OT Minnesota, 3-2 OT Los Angeles, 5-2 San Jose, 5-0 Los Angeles, 4-3 St. Louis, 4-3 OT Islanders, 3-2 SO Columbus)
Ghastly losses: 2 (5-2 San Jose, 5-0 Los Angeles)
Total: 14

(Note: The 5-0 loss to the Kings was a 51-save shutout by Jonathan Quick. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a goalie.)

Dallas (27-13-5)
Losses by 3+ goals: 7 (5-2 Anaheim, 5-2 Los Angeles, 5-0 Colorado, 4-1 Toronto, 5-2 Phoenix, 7-3 Detroit, 4-1 Vancouver)
Bad losses: 6 (5-2 Los Angeles, 3-1 Los Angeles, 4-1 Toronto, 3-2 SO Columbus, 4-3 OT San Jose, 3-2 SO Calgary)
Ghastly losses: 2 (5-2 Los Angeles, 4-1 Toronto)
Total: 15

Phoenix (23-13-9)
Losses by 3+ goals: 8 (3-0 Boston, 5-2 Ottawa, 3-0 Tampa Bay, 6-3 Dallas, 3-0 Nashville, 3-0 New Jersey, 6-1 Pittsburgh, 4-1 San Jose)
Bad losses: 7 (4-3 OT Carolina, 5-2 Ottawa, 2-1 SO Florida, 3-2 Minnesota, 4-3 St. Louis, 6-5 OT Minnesota, 2-1 OT Buffalo)
Ghastly losses: 1 (5-2 Ottawa)
Total: 16

How does Tampa Bay stack up?

Tampa Bay (26-15-5)
Losses by 3+ goals: 10 (6-0 Florida, 5-2 San Jose, 6-3 Washington, 5-1 Pittsburgh, 4-1 Minnesota, 6-0 Washington, 8-1 Boston, 8-1 Pittsburgh, 6-3 New Jersey, 5-2 New Jersey)
Bad losses: 12 (6-0 Florida, 3-2 OT Islanders, 1-0 Los Angeles, 5-2 San Jose, 4-1 Minnesota, 4-3 SO Florida, 4-2 Calgary, 4-3 SO Edmonton, 2-1 OT Islanders, 6-3 New Jersey, 5-2 New Jersey, 6-4 Carolina)
Ghastly losses: 5 (6-0 Florida, 5-2 San Jose, 4-1 Minnesota, 6-3 New Jersey, 5-2 New Jersey), and that's not counting the three other losses of six goals or more
Total: 27

Now, this system was as scientific as it gets. I should submit this for like, the Nobel Prize of Math, or something.

Anyway, let's pretend this all symbolizes something. So, what conclusions can we draw from this? First off, I'm pretty sure I typed "Minnesota" a lot. So you guys have that going for you, which is nice.

Tampa Bay might have Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis but that is a team with serious flaws. I don't know if it's having a first-year coach who hasn't been able to make necessary adjustments at times, or a lack of veteran leadership, or that no-name and apparently no-talent defense, or the continuing porous goaltending (the occasional Dwayne Roloson shutout aside.)

In his three Lightning wins, Roloson gave up a total of one goal. In his other three outings, he gave up 14 goals in just 100 minutes of playing time.

It's almost a wonder that Tampa Bay has managed to be atop the Southeast Division. And no, we can't say it's because that division sucks this year. Right now, that division has three playoff teams with Carolina knocking on the door (though the Hurricanes would likely knock out Atlanta.) The Northeast and Northwest divisions are arguably worse. And I'll point out that the Atlantic Division has two of the worst teams in the league, but it also has two of the best plus a third very good team in the Rangers.

I'm not saying the Lightning are going to be a favorable draw in the playoffs for anyone. But as they stand right now, they shouldn't inspire fear either.

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