Tampa Bay extended its current win streak to six games with a pair of victories over the weekend, a 7-4 blitzing of Columbus on Saturday followed by a 4-3 shootout triumph in Detroit on Sunday.
With 23 points through their first 15 games, the Lightning are tied with Anaheim for most points in the NHL. The Bolts are tops in the Eastern Conference, two points clear of Montreal and Pittsburgh.
Here are a few things we learned about the Lightning during their recent run.
1. Six victories in a row place this Lightning team among good company
Tampa Bay hasn’t won six in a row since 2010-11. That season, the Lightning matched a franchise record for most wins in a season (46), qualified for the postseason for the sixth time in team history and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling in seven games to Boston.
The only other Lightning team to record a longer winning streak? That would be the 2003-04 squad, you know, the one that captured the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. The 2003-04 team also won 46 games during the regular season and holds the Lightning mark for most consecutive victories when it won eight games in a row (Feb. 23-March 6).
Not saying this current Lightning squad will match that level of success, but, the precedent has been set.
2. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill has suddenly shown some holes
A week ago, the Lightning had one of the better penalty-kill units in the NHL.
The Bolts have allowed a power-play goal in the last four games and have given up seven their last 15 times shorthanded.
What had been a slow trickle of misfortune on the penalty kill turned into a fully-sprung leak in Columbus. The Blue Jackets tallied three of their four goals on the power play and had a 60 percent success rate (3-of-5) scoring with the man advantage.
The Red Wings continued to crack the Bolts’ penalty kill, converting on two-of-four chances.
The Lightning have given up 11 power-play goals total in 46 times shorthanded. Their 76 percent success rate on the penalty kill ranks an abysmal 25th in the NHL.
The penalty kill was a constant worry for the Lightning last season too, the Bolts ranking 23rd in the league at 80.7 percent (52-of-270).
3. What sophomore slump?
Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson has had an incredible start to 2014-15, allaying any fears the 24-year-old would suffer the dreaded sophomore slump in his second full season in the NHL.
After bursting onto the scene as a rookie last year, playing all 82 regular season and four postseason games and recording 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists in all competitions) to finish third in voting for the Calder Trophy, Johnson has been even better this season.
The Spokane, Wash., native currently leads all Lightning skaters in points (18) and assists (13). He has recorded a point in all but three games and set a career high for points and assists in a single game (4 assists vs. Arizona, Oct. 28). The free agent signee (March 17, 2011) had a career-best seven-game point streak from Oct. 14-28.
Johnson scored the first goal of the 2014-15 season for the Lightning, and, after going 11 games without a goal, has regained his scoring touch, putting four on the board over the last three games.
At the moment, Johnson’s 13 assists are tied for fourth most in the NHL and his 18 points are tied for fifth best in the league.