With a 20-9-1 record and 41 points, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to be on their way to another playoff spot. Looks can be deceiving, though.
While it’s true, they have played better defensively and gotten timely scoring when needed, they haven’t gotten much of the secondary scoring elite teams need to enjoy sustained success.
Yes, it’s true that the third and fourth lines contributed a goal during the recent 5-1 homestand. That’s a great sign, but can they continue finding the back of the net? I’m not talking about every game, but when the team needs a goal and the top line’s been shut down, players like Ross Colton, Vladislav Namestnikov, and other bottom six grinders should be able to come through in the clutch.
There may be reasons the Lightning’s bottom six has struggled to score, however. It could be the constant tinkering with the lines head coach Jon Cooper loves doing at the first sign of trouble. It could also be players joining the team late due to offseason surgery, a la Anthony Cirelli.
No matter what it might be, the Lightning need more than five goals out of Corey Perry and one each out of Namestnikov, Maroon, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare two months into the 2022-23 season. Cirelli tallied his first goal of the season in Montreal Saturday night, a good sign that he may have found his groove seven games into his season.
Colton has seven goals in 29 games played thus far but is behind the pace he set through 30 games in his rookie season in 2020-21’. The frustration is evident, too, as he’s trying so hard to score that his two-way game is suffering. A career worst minus-5 rating proves that much.
There are signs the bottom six might be breaking out, with Maroon, Bellemare, and Namestnikov all recording their first goal within the last two weeks. In saying that, the Lightning need that trio to achieve more sustained success in the goal scoring department.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have your top line score multiple times a game, with Brayden Point and Brandon Hagel leading the way. It’s also great to have a second line consisting of Steven Stamkos, Nick Paul, and Alex Killorn generating chances and getting in front of the opposing goaltender looking for tips or redirections. Even the defense is contributing, as Erik Cernak and Ian Cole have scored in recent games.
All the Lightning needs now are for the bottom six to bury the chances they create. If that happens, watch out! This Bolts team will be a force to reckon with in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.