The numbers jump off the page.
To the surprise of many, they suggest that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s best offense is not coming from Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier, but rather its defense.
The Bolts have scored 25 goals through the first eight games of the season, second to only Washington and Pittsburgh, who through Sunday’s games, were the only clubs to have more with 29.
With such an impressive showing offensively thus far in the young season, the source of where the goals are coming from may often get overlooked, and might even be the cause of a certain misconception.
The Lightning have no shortage of high-powered offensive forwards, but consider this: Tampa Bay’s defensive corps has bolstered the team’s scoring punch with eight goals in as many games to start the year. Through Sunday, no other team had received more than six goals from the players along its blue line.
“The mentality has always been defense first,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “But I think we try to get shots in as much as possible from the back end and create a lot of chaos for the forwards. Sometimes, those pucks are going to go in.”
Following Pavel Kubina’s goal that beat Ryan Miller in a 3-0 shutout of Buffalo on Monday night, the Lightning now have six different defensemen who have scored at least one goal this season. Hedman, along with Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brett Clark, each have two. Bruno Gervais has one goal, which came in his team debut in the season’s third game against Washington. Each of the past two defending Stanley Cup champions – Boston and Chicago – have just one defenseman who has lit the lamp this season.
By comparison, the next closest teams to have as many defensemen chip in with at least one goal are St. Louis and Anaheim, who each have four.
Tampa Bay received just 21 goals from seven defensemen in all of 82 regular season games a year ago, but the sudden offensive spark coming from the Lightning blue line this season is hardly unusual.
“It’s all part of our approach,” Hedman added. “It’s fun to score goals and chip in offensively, but like defense, that’s part of the game too.”