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When it comes to Lightning foes, these ‘killers’ top the list

Some players score a lot against everyone. Others seem to specialize against a certain opponent.
Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau is one of the players who amps up his performance against the Lightning. He and his Florida teammates take on the Lightning tonight.
Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau is one of the players who amps up his performance against the Lightning. He and his Florida teammates take on the Lightning tonight. [ JOEL AUERBACH | AP ]
Published Oct. 3, 2019

TAMPA — Certain players make you cringe when you see them coming up on the schedule — some because they’re tough (Tom Wilson), some because they’re pests (Brad Marchand) and some because they’re just good.

And some players just have a team’s number.

Take the Lightning’s Ondrej Palat, who averages about 0.7 points per game for his career. Against the Stars, he averages 1.3.

So who are the Lightning killers?

The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin has the most total points against Tampa Bay, but he has a lot of points against everybody. Fellow Capital T.J. Oshie elevates his game for the Lightning, especially.

Oshie matches Ovechkin for most goals against the Lightning in the past five years, 12. Where he distinguishes himself is in effectiveness. Oshie tops the career productivity list when sorted by points per game against them; Oshie has 28 points in 20 games.

Oshie is something of a surprise on this list.

Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) [ JEFF ROBERSON | AP ]

Unlike others, his career numbers are good but not stellar. He averages 47 points and 19 goals per season for his 11-year NHL career, good numbers but not special. If his numbers against the Lightning were extended to a full season, he’d have 115 points and 61 goals. That would lead the league almost any year.

Regular season

Unsurprisingly, the top three active players are among those who have played the most games against Tampa Bay.

3. Ilya Kovalchuk

Even though he spent 2013-18 in the KHL, Kovalchuk’s seven-plus seasons with the Flames and three-plus with the Devils have made him one of the most prolific Lightning opponents. In 1,331 minutes over 61 games, Kovalchuk, now with the Kings, has 65 points against Tampa Bay.

2. Eric Staal

Staal has been in the Western Conference with the Wild for the past three years, but he saw a lot of the Lightning in his 11-plus years with the Hurricanes. And he was a thorn in Tampa Bay’s side for all of them. In 1,439 minutes over 73 games, Staal has 73 points (33 goals) against the Lightning.

1. Alex Ovechkin

The league’s best goal scorer, who has spent his entire 14-year career with the Capitals, has played the second-most minutes against the Lightning, and he has the most points against them: 90 (47 goals) in 1,480 minutes over 69 games. He was most potent earlier in his career, which mirrors Ovechkin’s overall points trend. In the past five years, Ovechkin drops to sixth on the list against the Lightning with 19 points in 15 games.

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Playoffs

Only one player overlaps from the top five in the regular season and the playoffs. We’ll give you one guess who.

3. Alex Ovechkin

He has faced the Lightning in only two series, but that whole league’s-best-scorer thing hurts. In 11 games against Tampa Bay, Ovechkin has 11 points (six goals).

2. Patrice Bergeron

From two brutal series against the Lightning eight years apart, the Bruins forward has the most playoff goals against them of any active player, seven. He had two goals in a game twice in the hard-fought second-round matchup of 2018. In 10 games total, Bergeron has 11 points.

1. Lars Eller

The Capitals forward continues the trend of players with the most games against the Lightning leading the way, but half his points against Tampa Bay were in one series. Starting his career with the Canadiens pitted Eller against the Lightning a few times, but it was in the 2018 Eastern Conference final with the Capitals that he made his mark. Eller recorded seven points (two goals) in those seven games. In total, he has 13 points (four goals) in 17 games against Tampa Bay.

Past five years

The list changes when narrowed to a recent time frame (Ovechkin drops to sixth).

3. Mark Stone

The wing spent seven-plus seasons with the Senators, against whom Tampa Bay has been successful (13-5-2 overall), before being traded to the Golden Knights in the Western Conference at last season’s trade deadline. In 16 games, Stone has 20 points (nine goals) against the Lightning.

2. Jonathan Huberdeau

The Panthers center has been one of the most impactful players against the Lightning, though they have largely had their way with Florida over the past five years (13-6-2). Huberdeau, entering his eighth year with the Panthers, missed half of the 2016-17 season with an injury and yet is still second on this list. In 18 games, Huberdeau has 22 points (seven goals) against the Lightning.

1. Nicklas Backstrom

No. 4 on the overall list, the Capitals center has 23 points (seven goals) in 15 games (298 minutes) against the Lightning over the past five years.

Also of note

A few trends popped up on this dive into the Lightning’s most challenging opponents:

It comes back to the Capitals

The Caps are all over this list. That’s not surprising given how often the teams face each other and Tampa Bay’s 4-9-0 record against Washington in the past five years.

Big names missing

The Oilers’ Connor McDavid plays the Lightning only twice a year. In his six games against them, he has the same average of 1.3 points per game as he has for his overall NHL career.

The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin also average about 1.3 points per game against the Lightning (they are ninth and 10th on the Lightning killers list). For Crosby, that holds to his career average. Malkin’s is 1.2.

On the other side

The Oilers’ Connor McDavid has the best scoring rate against the Lightning in the Western Conference. Who else stands out? Joe Thornton spent seven-plus years in the East with the Bruins, but he has 13-plus with the Sharks. In 44 games against the Lightning, he has 44 points.

Blake Wheeler was in the East for three seasons before the Flames moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets in 2011. In 33 games, he has 31 points against the Lightning.

What about former players?

Even including inactive players, Alex Ovechkin tops the list of career points against the Lightning. Second is Jaromir Jagr, now playing in the Czech Republic, with 83 points in 80 games. In terms of points per game, Mario Lemieux runs away with the lead at 2.2. Interestingly, in second place, with 1.7 points per game, is Steve Yzerman.

Source: hockey-reference.com

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