Tampa Bay Offensive GVT: 40.6
Tampa Bay Defensive GVT: 12.8
Tampa Bay Goalie GVT: -2.9
Tampa Bay Total GVT: 51.0
Detroit Offensive GVT: 12.6
Detroit Defensive GVT: 8.5
Detroit Goalie GVT: 0.0
Detroit Total GVT: 14.0
Tampa Bay Strengths
For starters, Tampa is a great possession team. The Floridian squad ended the season second overall with a score adjusted Corsi for percentage of 53.9%, behind only the Los Angeles Kings. They haven’t been as effective recently, as they’re 35-game rolling average (which is a bit better than 20 game rolling average in predicting future goals for percentage) currently sits at 52.4%, but they still stand at 9th in the league in that timeframe.
Their “triplets” line of Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov is particularly adept at possessing the puck, as all three are top 50 in the league in terms of sc-adj CF%, among players who have played at least 750 minutes. Tampa’s depth is also impressive, as they have three lines they can use to create offense, and a fourth line consisting of Brenden Morrow-Brian Boyle-J.T. Brown that can shut the opposition down. All of this is bolstered by their defense, which has Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, two players with impressive possession numbers.
As another strength, this Tampa team is bound to have a higher than average shooting percentage, as captain Steven Stamkos is consistently among the league leaders in that category. The triplets are also all top five in the league in scoring chances for per 60 minutes, meaning that they create lots of high quality shots.
Tampa Bay Weaknesses
5 on 5? Tampa is one of the best teams in the league. Special teams, however, are an entirely different story. Just looking at raw percentages, the team is 14th in the league, scoring on 18.8% of its power plays, and tied for 7th in the league, killing off 83.7% of their penalties. While those numbers are respectable, the underlying numbers tell a different story.
Their power play relies heavily on percentages, and is an astounding 30th place in the league at Fenwick For per 60, despite the team having Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, and many other star players on their team who should be more than capable of running a power play that can generate shots at a rate that is at least around the league average. The penalty kill isn’t much better, with the team coming in 21st in terms of Fenwick Against per 60. Again, the success here is mostly percentage driven, and if the bounces start to go in the opposite direction, Tampa could be looking at a nightmare every time a player on either team heads to the penalty box.
Also, though Ben Bishop may have had a Vezina caliber season in 2013-2014, this year was a little different. His overall save percentage dropped from .924 to .916, and his even strength save percentage really dropped, going from .932 to .920. He’s still proven himself a capable starter, but it’ll be surprising if he steals more than a couple of games for Tampa based on his numbers this season.
Detroit is also a great possession team, matching Tampa blow for blow when it comes to possession statistics; on the season, Detroit is tied with Tampa for 2nd in the league, posting a 53.9% sc-adj CF%, and in the past 35 games, Detroit has posted a 52.4% sc-adj CF%, tied with Tampa for 9th in the league.
Most of Detroit’s possession talent comes from their forwards, as ageless wonder Pavel Datsyuk leads the league in sc-adj CF%, and Tomas Tatar, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Riley Sheahan are all in the top 50 of players who have played 750 minutes, league wide.
They also have the league’s second best power play, converting on 23.8% of their opportunities so far this season. Some of that may be percentage driven, as they have the league’s 8th highest FF/60 on the power play, but overall, it’s still an advantage over the Lightning, especially when we take into account how weak Tampa’s special teams are.
The defense of this team isn’t exactly high end, as Marek Zidlicky leads the team’s corps in relative Fenwick and Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson each had relative Fenwick numbers below -5%. Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, and Danny DeKeyser aren’t bad options, but none of them necessarily stand out as defenseman.
In contrast with the power play, Detroit’s penalty kill could be considered a team weakness. In terms of raw conversion rates, they’re 17th in the league, and they get a tad bit worse when we look at shot rates, sliding to 21st in the league at FA/60 on the PK. Though Tampa’s power play isn’t impressive outside of their high shooting percentage, Detroit’s penalty kill doesn’t look like it’s going to be able to completely shut it down.
Detroit also has a goaltending controversy, as the usually above average Jimmy Howard has a .910 save percentage on the season, and has been in a slump since January 1st.
(Unadjusted save percentage in all situations, 20 game rolling average)
This has led to Petr Mrazek getting starts down the stretch, and could result in Mrazek getting the nod over Howard in the playoffs. The problem with this, however, is that Mrazek is similar to Bishop, having posted a .918 SV% in all situations this year. He’s a capable starter, but it’ll be surprising if he steals more than a couple of games for Detroit.
This series is incredibly close, with the two teams posting identical possession numbers and neither goaltender really standing out over the other. Both teams also have iffy special teams, though Detroit’s power play has a clear advantage over Tampa’s.
The biggest X Factor in this series is going to be the coaching matchup. Both Jon Cooper and Mike Babcock have shown that they can get the most out of their teams, and each can make the necessary adjustments at 5 on 5 and special teams to help their team pick up an extra win or two.
In the end, I’m going to have to pick Tampa over Detroit in 7, simply because Tampa Bay is a team that is likely to have a higher shooting percentage. Detroit has been having goaltending issues lately, and in a series where the two teams are going to be evenly matched, Steven Stamkos picking up 3-5 goals in less than 35 total shots could be the difference.