35 Points After 30 Games: I've written about the playoff-pace metric earlier in the season. Typically, 96 points is a "safe" total to ensure a postseason berth. Teams aim to maintain a pace of 12 points every 10 games. That translates to 96 points after 80 games, with two extra contests at the end of the season to pad that amount.
The Lightning had 12 points after 10 games and 24 after 20. In their third 10-game segment of the season (which just ended with last night's contest against Boston), the Lightning gained 11 points. So despite some up-and-down results recently, they're holding steady regarding their points pace.
As far as where things stand vis-à-vis the other teams within the Atlantic Division, the Lightning, who have had a busy schedule over the past few weeks, still own games in hand on every other Atlantic Division club.
Video: Mish's Mic | Lightning vs. Ducks
How They're Playing: Would the Lightning liked to have banked more than 11 points over the past 10 games? Of course. They left some points on the table in games 21-30 - mostly in home contests. The Lightning went 2-0-1 on the road in this 10-game segment, but just 3-4-0 at home. Still, as the players and coaches have expressed recently, they feel as though they're playing, generally, good hockey.
It's true that they've made some costly mistakes, errors that they have to own. Against Minnesota, they struggled with the all-important shift after a goal. They had two poorly-executed line changes in their loss to Carolina. Some isolated puck management issues led to crucial opposition goals against St. Louis, Washington, and the Islanders.
But those have been either intermittent errors or short lapses within games. As a whole, the Lightning are executing well. Specifically, they're playing very hard and consistently bringing a high compete-level to the ice. As a result, they've won lots of puck battles. This has led to plenty of puck possession. Sometimes, that hasn't translated to a victory. In many of their recent losses, opposition goalies have neutralized their possession advantage. Or the other team has defended well without the puck.
Still, the building blocks for success are there. And they were a key component to their 21-30 segment wins over Buffalo, Nashville, San Jose, Florida, and Boston. If they continue to play with the same level of urgency, they'll get rewarded more often than not.
Video: Stamkos, Killorn score in 2-1 victory vs. Panthers
My Mea Culpa: During the third period of Tuesday's game at Florida, Panthers forward Brett Connolly tipped in a point shot. His stick blade was very close to the crossbar. Officials ruled it a goal on the ice - the tally would have cut the Lightning lead to 2-1 with about half a period left to play. But then it went to video review and was ruled a "no-goal".
On the air, I wondered if this was a coach's challenge. (Officials didn't announce anything - they just went straight to a review). But I remembered that, during a game earlier this season on Long Island, the Lightning had challenged a potential Anders Lee high stick.
One of the new aspects to the video review rule this year is that coaches can challenge for a "game stoppage". This would include a high stick. But a failed challenge results in a minor penalty.
The Connolly play was a close one. I commented that the Lightning successfully "rolled the dice" because they risked losing the challenge and having to go on the PK.
Well, I was wrong. The Lightning didn't ask for a coach's challenge. The game stoppage challenge for a high stick doesn't apply when the puck goes directly in the net. In that case, it's an automatic review. (Similar to a puck that may or may not have been kicked in the net.)
So to clarify. On a play in which a player deflects a puck into the net, the player's stick cannot be above the height of the crossbar. If there's any doubt, officials automatically review it. No coach's challenge.
If a player plays a puck with his stick above the height of his shoulders, it's a high-stick infraction. If the opposing team touches the puck next, play continues. If not, there's a whistle. If the call is missed and a goal is scored, the defending team can issue a coach's challenge.
Thankfully, the Lightning didn't have to worry about a challenge on the Connolly play. And my apologies for mixing things up.