Sitting atop the NHL hierarchy with 85 points this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup fold after falling short last season. Led by Nikita Kucherov (NHL leader in points with 80 and third in goals with 32) and a hot goaltending hand of Andrei Vasilevskiy (NHL leader in wins with 35 and fourth in save percentage with .928), the Lightning appear to be the unstoppable force that general manager Steve Yzerman hoped it would become.
The key for Tampa Bay's success has been special teams, namely the power play. The Lightning rank second in the NHL in power play percentage behind only Pittsburgh with a percentage of 24.4. Steven Stamkos is second in the NHL in power play goals with 14 (Stamkos has 24 goals and 45 assists on the season).
Another big component for Tampa Bay's re-emergence aside from Stamko's return from injury has been goal scoring from everywhere else. Left winger Yanni Gourde (22 goals, 26 assists, +26 plus/minus rating) and center Brayden Point (24 goals, 29 assists, +18 plus/minus rating) have contributed nicely to Tampa's lines and have worked well with their fellow line mates. Other key contributors include centers Vladislav Namestnikov (20 goals, 24 assists, eight power play goals) and Tyler Johnson (17 goals, 26 assists).
In spite of Tampa Bay's dominant play, they still can't seem to shake their division rival, the Boston Bruins, who are three points behind them in the Atlantic Division. Also in the mix is Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are four points back of the Lightning. The race for the top of the Atlantic Division is essentially the race to the top of the Eastern Conference. Can Tampa overcome a surging Bruins team with Brad Marchand and a young, hungry Leafs team? The race to the top may require catching lightning in a bottle.
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