TAMPA – The captain is a handful of shots away from setting a franchise scoring record.
The goaltender just tied the team record for career shutouts, and the MVP candidate is on his way to setting the franchise single season mark for points.
And you want to know what’s really important?
The guys not wearing Stamkos, Vasilevskiy and Kucherov jerseys. Or Hedman, Point or Johnson jerseys, for that matter. The guys in no danger of winning postseason awards or drawing a crowd at Starbucks.
You want to know what’s really impressive?
The vastness of this Tampa Bay roster.
Look, you do not get to be the best team in the NHL without command performances from your stars. And Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov are killing it night after night.
But the Lightning once got more than 100 goals combined from Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis and still only won 34 games while missing the playoffs in 2010.
That’s what makes this Lightning roster so intriguing as the postseason appears on the horizon. There are no glaring deficiencies, no weak links, no obvious points of concern.
Think of it this way:
Including Saturday night’s 3-0 win against Montreal, the Lightning has played five games in the past eight days. It won all five, which is impressive enough. It outscored the opposition 25-9, which is almost rubbing it in. But it also got goals from 12 different players, which just seems nutty.
“That’s what’s more impressive to me,’’ said forward Ryan Callahan, who was among the goal scorers. “We already know this team can put the puck in the net, but when you have that many players contributing like that, you know you’re causing problems for the other guys.
“It’s a question of matchup issues. You try to shut down a team’s best players, so you’re putting your top defensive pair against another team’s top lines, but when you have so many threats who do you put them out there against? I know I’ve played against teams like that and it’s very hard to defend.’’
How, precisely, do you measure offensive depth? There is no definitive answer, but one way is to divide a team between its top scorers and everyone else.
Some teams, such as Boston, get a ton of goals from their top five scorers but much less from the rest of the lineup. For other teams, such as Nashville, the guys on the far end of the bench contribute a lot.
Tampa Bay manages to do both.
The Lightning’s top five scorers going into Saturday night’s game (Stamkos, Kucherov, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde) had accounted for 126 goals, which made them the most prolific group in the league.
And yet all the other Lightning players had contributed 99 goals, which was also the best in the NHL for the bottom portion of a roster.
That seems like a pretty accurate definition of depth.
“Other teams try to match lines but it’s pretty tough to match all four lines for our team,’’ Johnson said. “Every shift we’ve got something going on so other teams can’t afford to take shifts off.
“That’s going to be important in the playoffs because there’s no one guy who feels like he has all the pressure on him. We’ve got 20 guys who have been contributing all season.’’
You want to know what’s impressive?
Mathieu Joseph is averaging an evenhanded goal every 43.4 minutes of ice time, which is the best on the team. Gourde has five game-winning goals, which is tied for second on the team. Anthony Cirelli has four shorthanded goals, which is tied for the league lead.
Nearly everywhere you look there are contributions being made, which is why healthy scratches are not necessarily automatic.
“We don’t like to say guys are a healthy scratch; they’re resting. It’s not their night to play,’’ coach Jon Cooper said. “I’m not sitting here saying guys like it. Everybody wants to play but, looking at the bigger picture, if a player plays 72 (games) instead of 82 does that make him a little more fresh come the spring? Because we need everybody.
“It’s not one of those situations where you have a 23-man roster and that’s your roster. You need 30 guys in your organization, and that’s what the guys have bought into.’’