NHL Slap Shots: Lightning flash to the top

By Joseph Fazio

Sports Blogger

@JosephDFazio

 

Lightning reach the top thanks to Stamkos and Kucherov

(Spencer Lee, Flickr)

Center Steven Stamkos and right wing Nikita Kucherov are lighting up the NHL this season, leading their team to the top. Stamkos leads the NHL with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists). Kucherov has blown past fellow national teammate Alex Ovechkin in the goal tallies with 12 goals through 12 games.

Tampa Bay can also thank its success from the play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy ranks seventh among goaltenders in goals allowed average with 2.20 goals allowed per game, plus he ranks sixth with a .936 save percentage. Tampa Bay recently suffered a tough loss against the Anaheim Ducks 4-1. Many people credit the loss to Lightning coach Jon Cooper benching Vasilevskiy for the game. Backup goaltender Peter Budaj allowed four goals on 17 shots from the Ducks, including two goals from center Rickard Rakell.

Its games this week include at the Florida Panthers and two consecutive home games against the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets.

New Jersey Devils Pull a 180 From Last Season

The New Jersey Devils finished fourth to last in the 2016 NHL Season with a record of 38-36-8. Through ten games, the Devils rank second in the Eastern Conference with 16 points, only behind the Lightning, who have played 12 games with 19 points. The Devils rank second in goals per game with 3.8 goals.

Left wing Taylor Hall has especially been the driving force for the Devils with 13 points. Defenseman Will Butcher sits sixth in assists with 11. The key thing the Devils still need work on is not allowing goals. Even with their average of 3.8 goals per game, they are allowing 3.1 goals per game as well.

Cory Schneider suffered a lower body injury Oct. 19 against the Senators. Even after rehab, Schneider is still not in his groove. Backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid has tallied three wins in four games with a 2.62 goals against average. If Schneider shows any lack of play or goes down with another injury, Kinkaid can be a great replacement between the posts.

ozone@ocolly.com

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