Tampa Bay Lightning midseason report: The good, the bad, the potential

Coach Rick Tocchet said the best way to describe the first 41 games of the Lightning's 82-game season is "a tease." There was a stretch of one victory in 11 games and the current stretch of five wins in seven, though the team has yet to win three straight.

Goaltending from Mike Smith and Antero Niittymaki generally was good. But other than Steven Stamkos' team-best 21 goals and Ryan Malone's 19, offense has been tough to come by as Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Alex Tanguay combined for just 24.

A 1-6 shootout record is embarrassing, and 102 goals are third worst in the league.

Still, Tampa Bay is just one point out of the playoffs.

"We can say it's a learning process, and we can learn from it in the first half. But there's going to be a time where actions come into play," Tocchet said. "We need consistency. We need composure. We need to back up what we're saying."

Here's who backed it up and who didn't in the season's first half:

MVP

Ryan Malone: The left wing's 19 goals are second on the team and entered Saturday tied for 10th in the league. His seven winners are a league best. Malone, 30, who will play for the U.S. Olympic team, is a reliable presence in front of the net. The Pittsburgh native has found a comfort zone in the locker room and helps keep things loose.

Most disappointing

Andrej Meszaros: The defenseman makes too many position errors that lead to goals. His minus-13 is a team worst and was tied for 11th worst in the league entering Saturday. His three goals give him just five in two seasons with Tampa Bay after scoring 26 in three seasons with the Senators.

Most underrated

Mattias Ohlund: The defenseman, with zero goals and 10 assists, is the first to say he needs to contribute more offensively. But Ohlund is a calming influence on the blue line, and he was an early season anchor and mentor for rookie Victor Hedman. Ohlund is minus-3, but his team-high 23:57 of average ice time was almost all against opponents' top players.

Nicest surprise

Kurtis Foster: The defenseman played just 10 games last season after recovering from a broken leg sustained during the 2007-08 season and has improved as the season progressed. With a shot clocked at 101.5 mph, Foster is a key on the power-play point. And his six goals, three on the power play, are just two fewer than the rest of Tampa Bay's defensemen combined.

A game to remember

Lightning 3, Penguins 1: Tampa Bay on Saturday got a goal 1:03 into the game from Marty St. Louis, had 20 second-period shots and outshot the defending Stanley Cup champs 37-26. Zenon Konopka scored the winner on his 29th birthday, and Steve Downie's third-period goal made it 3-1 soon after Vinny Lecavalier missed a penalty shot. Goalie Mike Smith won for the fourth time in six games.

A game to forget

Flyers 5, Lightning 2: Fresh off two straight wins to end a six-game road trip, the Lightning on Dec. 23 had a chance to kick-start a five-game homestand. But the team showed little energy and was lucky to be tied 2-2 after two periods. Three Philly goals in a third period in which Tampa Bay was outshot 16-10 ended the charade.

Best goal

Steven Stamkos: The second-year center fell as he shot at Jonas Hiller in a Nov. 19 game at Anaheim. Hiller made the save. But the puck popped up in the air, and Stamkos, from his back, swatted it past Hiller. Stamkos said it was "luck."

Most ridiculous stat

2-22 In other words, Lightning shooters have converted just 2 of 22 shootout chances. Is it any wonder the team is 1-6 in shootouts and 3-10 in games that went past regulation time?

Best stat

16-14-7 The Lightning's record on Jan. 3, 2004, the season it won the Stanley Cup. Not much different than its 16-15-10 record today.

Quote to note

"It's unacceptable. It's painful. It's frustrating to have that much talent in our room and not come out. The intensity has to raise. The passion has to raise. It's just the truth. It's not intense enough. It's not passionate enough. It's not good enough. It's not good enough at all."

Center Zenon Konopka after a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Dec. 23; the Lightning is 3-0-1 since

Tampa Bay Lightning midseason report: The good, the bad, the potential 01/02/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:38pm]

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