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Are the Lightning the best team of the NHL's analytics era?

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Something very rare happened in the NHL on Thursday night.

Not only did the Tampa Bay Lightning lose, they were shut out by the Minnesota Wild on home ice. The 3-0 defeat marked the Lightning's 13th regulation loss this season, and just the second time all season they had been held scoreless.

With 51 wins in 68 games, Tampa Bay has the most victories by March 8 of any team since the 2004-05 lockout. The 2015-16 Washington Capitals are the next closest contender, with 49 wins by this date.

It isn't easy to put the Lightning's season into historical context. There was no salary cap until the 2005-06 season, and ties still existed before the 2004-05 lockout. We also don't have access to statistics that can give us a more accurate depiction of a team's dominance. The stats like scoring rates, shot attempts and shot locations we use today didn't come into prominence for the public until 2007-08.

So as we head down the final stretch of the regular season, we can compare the Lightning to teams of the last decade-plus. Are they truly the best team in the analytics era? Or have things just bounced their way? And what are the odds the Lightning finally get over the hump and take home their first Stanley Cup since 2003-04?