The Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up December with a 10-3 record and looked to be hitting their stride. The Lightning improved in all phases of the game in December and want to keep that Momentum going in January.
After a 4-1 win in Chicago Tuesday night, the Lightning flew to Minnesota, where they completed the second game of their first back-to-back of the New year and dropped a 5-1 decision to the Minnesota Wild.
The Lightning played well in the first period despite trailing 1-0 after the first period. However, in the first ten minutes of the second period, the Lightning had a lot of good looks but couldn’t cash in, and the Wild ultimately made them pay.
The Wild scored on two power-play goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead before adding two more in the third period to make the final 5-1. The Lightning is now 24-12-1 on the season and trails Toronto by four points for second place in the division.
The Lightning has another challenging game on Friday Night in Winnipeg against the first place. The Jets are currently in second place in the Central Division, trailing Dallas by three points.
A December To Remember
In December, the Lightning improved in almost every phase of their game. They improved their face-off percentage and improved on special teams, both the power play and the penalty kill.
The penalty kill was 95 percent in December, which improved their overall percentage to 82.2 percent on the season, which ranks seventh in the NHL.
The Kucherov line, led by Nikita Kucherov, with Brandon Hagel, and Braydon Point, continue to be one of the best lines in hockey.
The return of Anthony Cirelli was also an added boost to the Lightning lineup. Cirelli had a point in six straight games upon his return to the lineup.
Andrei Vasileviskiy has settled into mid-season form and is starting to play as he did three seasons ago when he won the Vezina Trophy.
Vasileviskiy had a great December going 8-2 with a .946 save percentage and a 1.69 goals-against average.
Brian Elliott has done a great job as the backup to Vasileviskiy. The stats and goals against average may not show it, but it has been a key part of the Lightning’s success this season.
The Lightning will need to keep that momentum rolling into the New year, with only five games at home and thirteen games on the road in January.
It’s hard to complain about the Lightning’s record. Most teams in the NHL would love to be in the position the Lightning are in.
Lightning Must Be Better Against High Quality Opponents
But of the twelve losses this season, eight have been to teams that would be in the playoffs if the season were to end today. The Lightning is 7-8 against playoff teams this season. They struggle against better-quality opponents every year while beating up on the lesser ones.
Points for the playoffs are accumulated in those early season matchups against lesser-quality opponents.
It would be nice if they could win a few more games against higher-quality opponents.
Lightning Extend Nick Perbix
–Earlier this week, the Lightning signed defensemen Nick Perbix to a two-year contract worth 1.125 million annually. Perbix, drafted in 2017, has improved each game and has three goals and five assists on the season.
Perbix talked about the extension and what it means to him.
“Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it a little bit. I mean, a lot has happened in the last 12 months for me, but I’m just really grateful. And it’s about getting better every day because the goal is to earn another deal after this and not stop here. I can’t rest on my laurels, but it’s definitely a good feeling right now.”
Jon Cooper talked about the Perbix extension and is impressed with what the 24-year-old rookie has done so far. He’s done a heck of a job for us, and one thing about him is he will just continue to work and not rest on this, saying he’s made it or anything. And that’s what we like about him. He’s come in and contributed for us in a positive way. So it’s a win-win for everybody.”
The signing guarantees that Perbix will remain with the Lightning through the 2024-25 season.