The season has come to end for the Lightning. I think the most disappointing season in the history of the franchise. Expectations so high at the beginning of the season and then then the crash and burn mid-season, Played well the last months of the season but came up short of their ultimate goal which was to play for the Stanley Cup. The Lightning finished with 94 Points one point out of a playoff spot.
A lot of positives in this disappointing season. Let’s start with my MVP Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov was a beast all season especially down the stretch as he had his best season ever in the NHL. He led the team in goals with a career high of 40 and points with 85. Victor Hedman is my choice for runner up MVP as he had his best season as a pro as well.
Hedman was second on the team in scoring with 16 goals 56 assists and 72 points. Hedman was also rock solid defensively most of the year and at times was paired with rookie Jake Dotchin who played very well once he adjusted to the NHL game. Hedman should get Norris Trophy consideration, but realistically Bret Burns in San Jose, or Erik Karlson in Ottawa will win the award.
Andrei Vasilevskiy established himself as a No. 1 goalie. I had some doubts about that mid-season. Bishop was hurt in December and Vasilevskiy filled in and was just sos-so. Not very sharp. At one point he allowed 5 goals a game 3-4 games in a row. Not all his fault, but you’re paid to stop the puck and make the saves. After the Bishop trade in February it was Vasilevskiy’s time to shine and he did. He was outstanding down the stretch when the Lightning were on their 18-6-1 tear. He will come to camp next season as the No. 1 goalie.
I thought Peter Budaj acquired in the Bishop trade from LA did a good job. he defeinately won a few games for the Lightning on his own.
The young guns from Syracuse that were shuffled back and forth from Tampa on a daily basis played really well and were instrumental in the Ligtning surge at the end of the season. Braydon Point is my Rookie of the year for the Lightning. He finished 6th on the team in scoring with 18 goals, 22 assists for a total of 40 points. Point made the team out of training camp and played in 68 games. I will look for bigger and better things from Point next season.
D Jake Dotchin is my runner-up for rookie of the year. He came in mid-season and contributed right away. Defense is the hardest position to learn to play effectively in the NHL and Dotchin came in and adjusted well to the NHL game. Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne and Gabriel Dumont were some rookies who also contributed and had some signifiacant minutes.
The big thing missing all season was the lack of urgency, and focus. Just resting on their laurel at times. Thinking they could just show up and win the game you cant do that against even the worst teams in the league The Lightning were 1-5 against Arizona, Colorado and Vancouver. Win just one of those games and the Lightning would be in the Playoffs.
The boys will be back in September and ready for another run. Hopefully Stamkos will stay healthy the whole season and Callahan will be back and healthy. Most of the pieces are in place for a playoff run. Another top defensemen would be nice but those are very difficult to acquire. Hopefeully Jake Dotchin will continue to develop and will become that defensemen the Lightning are looking for.