How Did the Lightning Become the NHL’s Best Team?:

Prior to the start of the season, many fans probably thought the Tampa Bay Lightning would be a good team. Certainly a team that could qualify for the playoffs, which they failed to do the season prior. But they probably did not expect the Bolts to be the best team in the NHL.

Tampa Bay goes into the middle of December with a record of 23-6-2 and 48 points to not only lead the Atlantic Division, but stand atop the entire League. St. Louis and Nashville are right behind the Lightning in terms of points, with 44.

How have the Lightning reached this plateau? Obviously scoring has a lot to do with it. Tampa Bay has put together a balanced scoring attack, with Steven Stamkos again at the center of it. Some fans probably worried about bringing him back when his offense slipped last season to 64 points, after racking up 90-plus points in the previous three seasons. But in his first 31 games of 2017-2018, Stamkos has garnered 43 points (12 goals and 31 assists). Your text to link…Doing even better is Nikita Kucherov, who has 44 points. Of his 22 goals, 18 are even strength. All the other lines have proven to be offensive threats as well. Brayden Point has 30 points playing on the second line, while Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn have combined for 40 points on the third line. Veterans like Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz give the fourth line a decent punch.

All that offense, however, means nothing if you can’t keep the other team from scoring. The Lightning are blessed with two great defensemen in Victor Hedman, who finished third in last year’s Norris Trophy voting, and Anton Stralman. The addition of 19-year-old Mikhail Sergachev has only added to the strength of a solid defense, as he usually gets the tough assignments. Then, of course, there’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has a .934 save percentage. All of that is the reason the Lightning have given up 75 goals so far this season, the lowest total of any team. It’s also why you can expect Tampa Bay to not fade in the season’s second half.

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