In 2013, the Tampa Bay Lightning finished the regular season with an even-strength save percentage of .913. Only six teams were worse, and it was the major reason the Lightning finished better than just two other NHL teams in the standings.
Then came a full season of Ben Bishop. With that upgrade, the Lightning finished last season with an even-strength save percentage of .928 (No. 7 in the NHL). They made the playoffs. They finished with 101 points, despite an injury to Steven Stamkos that was supposed to sink them.
It’s a turnaround that should give New York Islanders fans hope.
This past season, the Islanders' save percentage was .911 at even strength, even worse than the 2013 Lightning. So if you’re wondering why there’s so much optimism surrounding the Islanders heading into 2014-15, look only as far as the addition of Jaroslav Halak in goal and the potential for him to lead a Lightning-type turnaround.
There’s another common thread between these two franchises that provide reason for optimism in both Tampa and New York. They’re loaded with prospects. This week, ESPN.com Insider prospect guru Corey Pronman released his prospect organizational rankings. At the top were the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres, a franchise filling up with talent but not enough to make a playoff scare just yet.
It’s teams two and three that make things interesting in this season’s potential playoff race.