Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Misconception Of Alex Killorn

Let’s take a look at Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Part 17 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluations has arrived. Last time, I looked at rookie forward Mathieu Joseph’s season, and he was far better than I had initially thought before I started. This next player is another in which I don’t believe he had a great season, but could definitely surprise me. He’s someone who I’ve seen thrown around by fans, including myself, in trades, and some fans just don’t like him at all. This intriguing third line winger, is Alex Killorn. 

The Basics

Alex Killorn played in all 82 games last season, and recorded 18 goals and 22 assists (40 points). Averaging 14:52 time on ice, which was a career low, Killorn started just 46.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone, also a career low, being used more defensively than on offense. However, he followed that up with fantastic possession numbers, with a 54.2 Corsi-For%. He also posted a career best takeaway to giveaway ratio of 30 to 22, which is a +8 differential. That marked the first time in his career that he had more takeaways than giveaways. For PDO, which is ultimately measured and calculated luck, he posted well above the average of 100, with a 102.9, which is very lucky, and means he might not have as good of a season next year, unless his luck holds true. When Killorn was on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 46.4, another career high for Killorn, and an expected goals against of 35.7, his second lowest total since the 2014-15 season, which is a +10.7 differential. 

Advanced Analytics

Looking at his stats, he’s solid all the way around, but those stats don’t always translate into the advanced analytics that I use. CF% does not mean he is good at breaking out of the defensive zone or gaining entry into the offensive zone. But he still had some really solid numbers last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the spider graph below reflect that, even a little bit. 

Killorn (red), stands out when it comes to his shooting metrics. He shoots a lot (Shots60), and gets a lot of goals, or just general contributions off of those shots (ShotContr60), but doesn’t necessarily gain assists off his shots, whether it’s tipped or put in off a rebound (ShotAssists60). Where he really struggled, relative to the other two players on the graph, was in his effectiveness of entering the offensive zone, as he posted last in both entry metrics (PossEntry60, PossEntry%). He ranked second in the exit metric that calculates how often he breaks out in a 60 minute span (PossExit60), and tied for first in how many exits he posts relative to the total number of times he attempts an exit (PossExit%). To dive in deeper on his exit metrics, I looked into CJ Turtoro’s Exits per 60 minute visual. 

Killorn ranks 9th on the Lightning roster when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. The one problem is, Killorn has the second lowest number of total breakouts, ahead of only Brayden Point, among the top 10 players. He is effective passing the puck up and out of the zone, but doesn’t often find himself skating it out himself. If there isn’t any passing options or room to skate, he dumps or clears it out to reset in the defensive zone. He doesn’t have a very high number of fails either, nearly half the amount that Mathieu Joseph had in a near identical workload, so he does just fine breaking out and doesn’t face too many problems in doing so. However, where I am most interested is in how badly Killorn looked entering the offensive zone on the spider graph. Let’s take a closer look at his entry metrics, by using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual. 

Killorn ranks 12th on the Lightning roster in entering the zone. The struggles we thought we saw on the spider graph really wasn’t much of a struggle at all. The spider graph looks at controlled entries, when a player passes or skates it into the zone. It doesn’t take into account uncontrolled entries, which is when a player dumps it in deep. When you take controlled and uncontrolled and put them together, Alex Killorn really isn’t bad at all. He just looks for the smart play, sends it in deep, and then forechecks hard. He tends to skate it in himself when he doesn’t dump it in, relative to him passing to a teammate. But the best part about Killorn’s entry metric, is the fact that he seemingly never fails. He has the second lowest fail total among the 14 players listed, behind only Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

 

In Conclusion 

Killorn may not be the best player on the Lightning. He also doesn’t have the best contract. However, he is a lot better than many people think. He was very safe with the puck last season, able to enter and exit the offensive and defensive zones without turning the puck over very often. He had good shooting stats and nearly had a 0.5 point per game total, which is solid, considering he played less than 15 minutes per game (on average). Maybe there’s just a misconception of him due to the fact he has such a bad contract, but no one really knows. Looking at everything, maybe we should hang on to Killorn for at least one more year, because his value is lower than his production, and the Lightning won’t get a fair return for him. 

 

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner

Tampa Bay Lightning: Evaluating Mathieu Joseph

Part 16 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluation is here, and after evaluating back to back defensemen, it’s time to go back to the forward core. This forward was a rookie last season, and had a pretty good year at that.

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After being selected 120th Overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he quickly made his way through the Tampa Bay Lightning’s prospect pipeline, and quickly earned a role on the NHL squad. That player is Matthieu Joseph.

The Basics

Joseph played in 70 games last season, and was able to produce 13 goals and 13 assists (26 points). That may not sound too good, but he did only average 11:22 time on ice, and only started 48.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite a higher defensive zone deployment, Joseph had solid possession numbers with a 51.4 Corsi-For%. He had a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 28 to 24, which is a +4 differential. Joseph also recorded a 101.2 PDO, which may not seem like much over the average of 100, but it’s still a pretty big difference in luck, and Joseph had a good amount of luck. With Joseph on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 34.9 and an expected goals against of 29.5, which is a +5.4 differential.

Advanced Analytics

On the surface, I’m really liking a lot of what Joseph brings to the table. He managed to get nearly 30 points in a fourth line type of role, while being deployed more defensively than offensively. He had solid possession numbers and had a fantastic takeaway to giveaway ratio. He also pushed the pace of offense a bit, having an expected goals for of nearly 35 and keeping the expected goals against down below 30 shows his responsibility on the back end. If we look at a spider graph visual, we will better understand the areas in which Joseph truly excels at.


Joseph (blue) has consistent numbers across every metric. He doesn’t have one glaring weakness, not anywhere. He contributes a decent amount through his shooting (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60), but could look to shoot a little more in the future, as he shoots the least among the 3 forwards shown (Shots60). Where he is outstanding, and completely ahead of the other two forwards shown in the graph is his effectiveness at entering the offensive zone. He also manages to break out a decent amount, as he ranks first in the metric that calculates defensive zone exits over a 60 minute span (PossExit60), but then ranks last in a metric that calculates the amount of defensive zone exits out of the total number of defensive zone exit attempts (PossExit%). Since exiting the zone is a shady area of the graph, we’ll head over to CJ Turtoro’s Exits per 60 minute visual and get a better look at his breakout attempts.


Joseph ranks 10th on the team when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. The one knock on him is his small workload when it comes to breaking out, as he has a smaller workload than every player ahead of him except for Brayden Point. He passes it up and out to a teammate a little less often than he skates it out himself, but the controlled breakouts (passing out, skating out) exceeds the uncontrolled breakouts, which is him dumping or clearing the puck out. The one problem I have, is his amount of failures. While it may not seem bad, look at other players with a similarly light workload, and he has the most failures among them. He must work on fine tuning his breakout for next season. Where he really excelled, however, was his effectiveness when entering the offensive zone, according to the spider graph. Using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual, we can see just how effective he was, and why.


Joseph ranked 3rd on the team in entering the offensive zone, ranking higher than Steven Stamkos. He loved taking matters into his own hands when entering the offensive end, as he preferred carrying the puck in himself over passing it up to a teammate to do the dirty work. He skated it in himself just about as much as he dumped it in deep, which is why it reflects so positively on the spider graph. But what’s even better is the fact that he had a very heavy workload despite a small amount of minutes, and still had less fails than 7 of the 9 other players in the top 10. He is fantastic and very effective when on the rush, and gaining entry in the offensive end.

In Conclusion

Mathieu Joseph has come a long way, and fast, from being a fourth round pick. Once he made it to the NHL level, he took advantage of every second he had there. Now, next season, with Erne potentially out the door, JT Miller traded away and potentially Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson out next, there are doors being opened for Joseph. Next season will be a gigantic year for him to prove just how good he can be. I could see him slotting into the JT Miller role, where he rotates up and down the top 3 lines, playing on Steven Stamkos’ line, Brayden Point’s line and Anthony Cirelli’s line. My prediction is a 45-50 point campaign for the former 120th overall draft pick.

All stats via Hockey-reference.com, NHL.com
Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Credit: Dinur Blum

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Potential Line-Up Additions

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a long and, quite simply, brutal off-season ahead of them. Who will be gone, and who will be brought in?

 

Emotionally, Tampa Bay Lightning fans have gone into phases of disappointment, finger-pointing and finally, disbelief after a 62-win regular season and zero post-season victories. Then add to that on the surface of the whole off-season, the expected cap crunch. It’s obviously a very stressful time of the year for the Lightning faithful. 

 

What’s The Plan?

I have already written a piece on each phase of the offseason. I started by covering potential draft options for the Lightning, the re-sign phase, and trades/signings during the free agent period. I also did a piece on Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

But for this article, I decided to change it up. I went to several different people and asked them what players would make sense for the Lightning to trade for or sign during the free agent period. Keep in mind, I’m not mocking any trades, looking at salary caps, or saying these things should happen. These are simple suggestions that could be very intriguing coming from not just me, but several hockey fans, as well as a few other writers on the Puck77 site.

 

Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes

The Lightning may be looking for a change of leadership after the embarrassment of a first-round exit. This does NOT mean that the person who suggested this wants Lightning forward Steven Stamkos out by any means, but Williams is a veteran leader and a captain of a team who has more postseason wins in the second round then the Lightning had this entire postseason.

Although he is 37-years-old, Williams is coming off a 53-point season with a young Carolina Hurricanes team, and he currently sits at five points in 10 post-season games. A clutch playoff performer and incredible locker room leader, Williams would be a great addition, although extremely unlikely.

 

Ryan Reaves, Vegas Golden Knights

The biggest element to playoff hockey is its intensity. It’s easy to say physicality in the playoffs may be one of the most compelling elements to success, as the Lightning were dominated in the physical aspect of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. When a guy like “Muffin Man” Ryan Reaves is on the ice, I don’t think many people can out-hit you.

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Although not much of a producer (he’s never had a season with over 20 points), Reaves adds something to a teams game that is often overlooked. He is praised as a great teammate and locker room presence, and is a cheap addition to the bottom-six.  Something that could definitely happen, especially if Adam Erne does not re-sign with Tampa this off-season.

 

Brian Boyle, Nashville Predators

I’m not kidding you when I say Brian Boyle was the most suggested add for the Lightning when I asked around. It makes sense too, as Boyle may not be too expensive and has offensive upside, especially if paired with guys like J.T. Miller and Mathieu Joseph. 

A member of the Lightning previously (2014-17), he knows Cooper’s system and he has played with some of the guys on the team in the past, like Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson. With his prior stint on the Lightning, his offensive upside and his physical presence, this is a move that is certainly realistic and something the Lightning should pursue.

 

Connor Brown, Toronto Maple Leafs

This is another suggestion that intrigues me. Connor Brown is young (25) and often underused by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not to mention, the salary situation that the Leafs are in could make Brown expendable.

He has decent offensive upside for a bottom-nine role (three consecutive seasons with 27+ points, including a 20-goal, 36-point campaign in 2016-17). He’s also a physical presence on the ice, and has far more takeaways (120) than giveaways (68) in his career. He would be another great fit for the Lightning, and realistic based on Toronto’s situation. Again, highly unlikely, but still something to keep an eye on.

 

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

The first defenseman that was suggested, Jacob Trouba is a solid blueliner, and has been for a few years with the Winnipeg Jets. He is slated to be a free agent after recording 50 points this past season. As a defenseman that’s super impressive.

Add him to the list of Lightning defenders Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh as high-end offensive blueliners for the Lightning, and you have one incredible d-core. Add in Erik Cernak as a solid transitional and defensively responsible blueliner, and one of Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta and Dan Girardi as a stay-at-home type, and you have yourself arguably the deepest and most talented defense in the entire NHL.

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This is just a pipe dream however, as the cap situation may be too much to work around, and Trouba could be looking for top-two money and minutes if he leaves the Jets. Something he most likely won’t get with Tampa.

 

Jordie Benn, Montreal Canadians

Jordie Benn has been a solid bottom-pair defenseman basically his entire career, and would be a great fit in the Lightning organization. If Tampa lets Coburn and Girardi walk away this offseason, Benn would be a nice addition.

He blocks a ton of shots (128 this season), and plays a physical brand of hockey. He does give the puck up often, which was the downfall for Tampa this season, but again, his physicality and blocking is important and deserves a look.

 

Patrick Nemeth, Dallas Stars

Not as offensive as Benn (10 points to Benn’s 20 this season), Patrik Nemeth does block more shots (131 blocks) and has more hits. He also turns the puck over less, although Benn does have more takeaways. What this tells me is Nemeth is purely a stay-at-home, shot blocking, physically inclined defenseman, who tries to play it safe with the puck rather than drive the offense. If he’s paired with either Hedman or Sergachev, he could be a solid addition. Again, however, it’s not very likely, but something to look for.

 

Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson was considered the best of the best on the blue line in the National Hockey League and is still considered a premier defenseman. However, an injury ravaged season, as well as a new system and new players to learn to play with and gain chemistry with, caused the elite Swedish blueliner to take a step back.

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This opens the eyes of several NHL franchises as he could take a cheaper deal than what he would have had he been available last off-season. This is still a longshot for the Lightning to reel in, as they have their own agenda and free agents (Brayden Point) to deal with, making this a very difficult signing. 

 

Matt Duchene, Columbus Blue Jackets

Matt Duchene has been tearing it apart the playoffs. He ripped up the Lightning in round one, and continued his strong play into round two against the Boston Bruins. He is also a leader on and off the ice, and if he does come to Tampa Bay, he could take them to that next step in the playoffs, as he appears to be clutch in the big moments.

Again, a long shot, but it would be an incredible acquisition if they traded a few players on semi-hefty deals (Killorn, Johnson, Palat) and bought out one big contract (Ryan Callahan) to free up space for both Duchene and upcoming restricted free agent Point. I don’t expect it to happen at all, but what a piece to bring in.

 

Ryan Dzingal, Columbus Blue Jackets

Now this is something that could happen.

Dzingel has taken steps to become a picture-perfect middle-six forward, and he may not cost much more than $4.5M on a contract. If they move Palat, Johnson or Killorn and buyout Callahan, they could re-sign Point and bring in Dzingel. He could play a role similar to that of Miller, fluctuating between the first, second, and third lines, and be able to produce in all of those spots. Could strengthen an already solid power play unit.

 

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs

This is realistic in a sense that he will likely be available. He is also a leader on and off the ice, and defense is a growing need in Tampa with the likes of Anton Stralman, Girardi and Coburn likely out-of-town come the summer.

But the Lightning already have a punishing top-four defense, with Hedman, McDonagh, Sergachev and Cernak there. Adding Gardiner isn’t necessary, but it would add incredible depth for the Bolts on the backend. It is highly unlikely, however.

 

Warren Foegele, Carolina Hurricanes

This was an interesting suggestion. The recently turned 23-year-old Foegele is coming of his first season of NHL play. In 77 games, he only racked up 15 points (10 goals, five assists), but his possession statistics is where he really showed his value.

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He had a 53.8 Corsi For %, which is outstanding, and a positive takeaway to giveaway ratio of 37-31. But he has been incredible in the playoffs, with 8 points in 10 games and helping pave the way for the Hurricanes success. He’s also racked up 21 hits in the postseason, showing he can play physical if need be.

He’s a bottom-six forward, with middle-to-top-six potential. Because of his potential and his current status as a bottom-six guy, he may not be too expensive either. With big contracts on the horizon, the Hurricanes wouldn’t be dumb enough to take a contract like Killorn’s one for one, so it’d have to be more appealing in some way. Maybe salary retainment or additional picks can do the trick, but who knows if the Hurricanes would send him packing, especially with how well he’s done in the postseason. So that makes a move to Tampa very unlikely for Foegele. But this is something I would love to happen, given his early career postseason success.

 

All stats via hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Tampa Bay Lightning: Hello, Are You There?

After Game 2, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a 2-0 series lead over a shell of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Game Summary

1st Period

You know how it goes, the Tampa Bay Lightning set the tone early like they have all season. Wait, what’s that? My mistake, just received word that they sucked from start to finish in the first period of their game Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in their first round match-up. The effort? Minimal as can be.

They were outshot 10-8 in the first frame, and didn’t show up in general. Five minutes into this one, Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson redirected a shot towards the net, and it got through Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s one that shouldn’t get past Vasilevskiy, in any scenario, against any team. Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski followed that up with another goal about five minutes later on the power play. Right off the draw in the offensive zone, he sent a shot on goal through a small lane. Yet again, a shot Vasilevskiy should have stopped. Needless to say, awful first for the defense, awful first for the offense, awful first for Vasilevskiy. 

2nd Period

The Lightning are good at bouncing back, so they’re bound for better things in the second period, right? I mean, they have to be… right? Wrong! Lightning head coach Jon Cooper decides to adjust nothing, even though Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella’s group continues to throw the 1-2-2 forecheck at them. Is Cooper awake? Asking for a friend. Because this isn’t a hard forecheck (especially for the 62-win team that is the Lightning) to adjust to and beat. But just like in the first game, Cooper sits on his hands and does absolutely nothing to change their game. So that’s great.

Columbus scored by the way, Matt Duchene on the power play. The initial shot was basically blocked, Vasilevskiy completely overcommitted and was 20 feet out of position. He then began flopping around like a fish out of water, and the puck was easily pushed underneath the rattled Vasilevskiy. 3-0 Columbus. 

3rd Period

Same forecheck, same results. Columbus again with the 1-2-2. Tampa Bay forces a pass, it’s blocked and leads to a Blue Jackets offensive possession. Cooper staring off into space. However, once Tampa got it into the offensive zone, they got quality opportunities.

But thanks to the left post, crossbar, Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s pad, Bobrovsky’s glove and the hockey gods, Tampa Bay  couldn’t put one through. That is, until Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev broke the pattern and potted one. Amalie Arena went nuts.

Then seconds later, a power play opportunity for the league’s best unit with the man advantage. Amalie even louder now. At this point, I thought to myself, this is it, right here. Crowd is in it, the players are skating harder, things are looking up. But that’s exactly when the Bolts decided to go back to their first 40-minute ways. They couldn’t do ANYTHING on that power play. That’s when Columbus put it away with goals four and five for the day, from Riley Nash and Artemi Panarin.

 

My Team Hero

The only heroes I saw were the fans that stayed until the end. I mean, the fans were the only ones that showed up! For the thousands that wasted their money, this is a salute to you! But if you’re looking for a player here, Mathieu Joseph showed a playoff intensity. That’s about it, because he didn’t really do anything but hit a few people hard.

 

My Team Villain

This is going to be a doozie. Where do I start? Jon Cooper. What the hell were you doing Coop? Did you check out when the regular season concluded? I mean, come on, the Jackets literally used the same, generic forecheck all game long, and you’re telling me that you couldn’t make a simple adjustment to beat it?

That’s not all. Not only did you sit on your hands the entire game Coop, but you had the audacity to say, and yes, this is a real quote from after this game, “I thought our guys turned a page pretty well. It was one of those nights where the harder you try, it just doesn’t go your way.” What? Unless you mean the Lightning turned the page backwards, you’re blind.

Who’s next… *checks notes*… Nikita Kucherov, again. Still hasn’t shown up all series, are you sure this is the same guy that had 128 points in the regular season? Because if so, yikes. Then to top it all off, with the game already lost, he decides to drive Blue Jackets defenceman Markus Nutivaara’s head straight into the boards with all his body weight, and gets a game misconduct. I am not surprised Kucherov was suspended for that hit. Boneheaded play, and all he’s doing is sending the Lightning to the golf course way sooner than 48% of the entire hockey world anticipated.

Potential For Next Game

Well, let’s see. Cooper will still be the bench boss, Tortorella still there for Columbus. So right off the bat, you know the Blue Jackets are more prepared than Tampa. On top of that, Kucherov will not be playing, because, you know, that stupid hit in the third period of this game. Not that Kucherov being on the ice is much of a difference.

Tampa Bay defenceman Anton Stralman could be back, but that shouldn’t change this team positively enough to bring any sort of winning result.

In Columbus, Ohio as well for game 3… this is ugly. Soon enough, my bet will come back to haunt me, and I will have a Blue Jackets tattoo on my arm.

Stats provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Potential First Round Match-Up Vs. Philadelphia

The Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy, giving them the number one seed in the East. The question is, who will they play in round one?

 

Hello, you have reached part two of “Who will get the honor of taking on one of the best teams in NHL history in the very first round.” Last time, I looked at a Columbus series against the Lightning. This time, I will look at a Flyers team that has risen from the grave that was selling at the trade deadline to now somehow catching up to the team that made NHL 19 Franchise Mode moves at that same deadline, in Columbus. Yes, the Flyers are in the playoff hunt, and yes they very well could make it. So here is what that series would look like.

 

Tampa Bay Versus Philadelphia

Let’s take a line by line look at these teams, using DailyFaceoff.com and their grading system.

First line comparison

Tampa: 77.15 rating, 19th ranked first line

Ondrej Palat (74.7 rating), Steven Stamkos (83.1 rating), J.T. Miller (73.6 rating)

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Philadelphia: 78.60 rating, 13th rated first line

Oskar Lindblom (72.9), Sean Couturier (81.8), Claude Giroux (81.1)

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Second line comparison

Tampa: 83.01 rating, 1st ranked second line

Tyler Johnson (74.6), Brayden Point (82.4), Nikita Kucherov (92)

Philadelphia: 75.98 rating, 10th ranked second line

James Van Riemsdyk (78.4), Nolan Patrick (72.5), Jakub Voracek (77.1)

As I touched on in the Columbus vs Tampa article, the Flyers have the advantage for first line. However, this time, the Flyers are better than the Jackets, as they not only have momentum, but they’re just straight up more talented. Not to mention, the Flyers second line is much better than Columbus, and isn’t too far behind from Tampa, either. But, again, Tyler Johnson has been rocking with that second line of late, and he has been a solid playoff performer too. It’s closer than a lot of people think here.

Top 6 Advantage: Tampa Bay

Third line comparison

Tampa: 74.09 rating, 6th ranked third line

Alex Killorn (74.9), Anthony Cirelli (75), Mathieu Joseph (72.3)

Philadelphia: 72.71 rating, 15th ranked third line

Ryan Hartman (72.2), Scott Laughton (71.3), Travis Konecny (74.7)

Fourth line comparison

Tampa: 72.29 rating, 4th ranked fourth line

Yanni Gourde (75.4), Cedric Paquette (70.6), Adam Erne (70.8)

Philadelphia: 71.16 rating, 13th ranked fourth line

Michael Raffl (70.7), Corban Knight (72.5), Justin Bailey (70.3)

Yet again, Tampa’s bottom six is just hard to match up against. However, the Flyers do pose a much higher threat than the Jackets do, up and down the forward lines.

Bottom 6 Advantage: Tampa Bay

First line defense

Tampa: 77.98 rating, 9th ranked first pair

Victor Hedman (81.6), Mikhail Sergachev (74.4)

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Philadelphia: 73.22 rating, 26th ranked first pair

Ivan Provorov (73.7), Travis Sanheim (72.8)

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Tampa very clearly beats out Philadelphia’s first pair. Columbus also has a much better top pair than Philly.

Top 2 D Pair Advantage: Tampa Bay

Second line defense

Tampa: 76.34 rating, 4th ranked second pair

Ryan McDonagh (78.4), Erik Cernak (74.3)

Columbus:77.61 rating, 2nd ranked second pair

Shayne Gostisbehere (77.6), Philippe Myers (unrated)

Yes, Gostisbehere is a great addition to that second pair, but Philippe Myers being unrated doesn’t add or subtract from the total rating of that second d pair. However, here are Myers stats: 14 games played, 1 goal, 1 assist, 47.6 Corsi-For %, 44.8 Fenwick-For %, 8 giveaways, 5 takeaways. Easy to say that the lack of experience to go with the not so great statistics, it brings down the overall standing of that second pair. Again, Cernak has been instrumental in the Lightning’s success, and he has grown a great chemistry with Ryan McDonagh, which helps greatly.

Middle 2 D Pair Advantage: Tampa Bay

Third line defense

Tampa: 71.91 rating, 17th ranked third pair

Braydon Coburn (71.9), Jan Rutta (71.9)

Philadelphia: 70.80 rating, 23rd ranked third pair

Robert Hagg (69.8), Radko Gudas (71.8)

As touched on in my earlier article, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman being injured affects the Lightning’s depth on the blueline. Coburn has been the Lightning’s 7th defenseman while Rutta has been their 8th, and both of Stralman and Girardi being healthy in the playoffs, as was the case with Columbus, blow the Flyers bottom pair out of the water.

Bottom 2 D Pair Advantage: Tampa

Goaltender comparison

Tampa: Andrei Vasilevskiy (80.1), 3rd ranked goalie

Philadelphia: Carter Hart (71.4), 40th ranked goalie

Okay, I get it. Hart should definitely get a higher ranking. To me, he has been the biggest difference for the Flyers being a lottery pick from a playoff team. However, he is a rookie goalie, and there’s no way of knowing how he will play in the postseason. He could be unbelievable, or  he could be awful. Maybe somewhere in between, which will be crucial for the Flyers if they do make it. Because, outside of the defensive zone, the Flyers stay pretty tight to the Lightning, and if Carter Hart can keep doing what he’s been doing, the Flyers could shock the world. But again, Vasilevskiy is the safer option, as he has led the Lightning to a seven game series in the Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual cup champs.

Goaltending Advantage: Tampa Bay

 

In Conclusion

If Tampa is fully healthy on the backend, there’s no doubt they’ll overtake Philadelphia on the defensive side of things. Add a more established goaltender in Vasilevskiy rather than a rookie in Carter Hart, and that tells me the Flyers will have a tough time scoring. However, stats don’t lie, that forward core isn’t too far behind that of Tampa Bay, and they would certainly make a more exciting series than what Columbus could potentially give. Tampa in 6, though.

 

All stats via hockey-reference