Quick Strikes: Top Line Shines, Defensive Miscues Galore & Offense Goes Cold

Photo Credit: Jason Behnken/Associated Press

Fresh off of a 2-2 road trip that ended with a big shootout win over the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoped to keep momentum going during a four-game home stand.

Unfortunately, after a great start, the Lightning uncharacteristically dropped three straight inside the normally friendly confines of Amalie Arena. Two of those losses came to rebuilding teams that they should have received one, if not both, points against. Getting none put them in a precarious position, needing to win more than half of their final 23 games to make the playoffs.

The homestand began with a clash of the NHL’s top two scorers, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. Neither player disappointed, as MacKinnon notched two assists to bring his point total to 89, while Kucherov tallied two goals and an assist for 93 points. The Lightning came back in the final period to grab a 6-3 win.

A couple of nights later, the Lightning found themselves up 1-0 less than 30 seconds in, but that didn’t last long. A goal from Brandon Montour started an onslaught by the Florida Panthers. It was 4-1 after 20 minutes and 6-1 after the first few minutes of the second. Head coach Jon Cooper pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy, replacing him with Jonas Johansson, to start the third. Johansson received a rude greeting as the Panthers scored on the first three shots he faced. Brayden Point added a goal in the final 10 minutes, but the damage had been done in a 9-2 drubbing that should have opened the team’s eyes.

It didn’t, however. The Lightning allowed too many odd-man rushes, with former Bolt Mathieu Joseph burning them twice in a 4-2 defeat to the Ottawa Senators on President’s Day.

With two days between the Senators game and the Washington Capitals coming to town, Cooper tweaked the lines, hoping to jumpstart his team.

Sadly, that didn’t work too well. An early 2-0 hole put the team behind the eight-ball. They rallied early in the final frame to tie things at three, but Vasilevskiy couldn’t stop Rasmus Sandin’s shot from the point in a 5-3 loss.

Offensively, outside of a couple of goals from Point and an 11-game point streak from Brandon Hagel, the Lightning’s leadership group was missing in action to end the team’s recent home stand. Kucherov and Point had six and five points, respectively, not bad numbers, but both were minuses when it came to preventing goals by the opponent. That’s not horrible, though their defensive game needs work. Captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman must be better going forward though, as they notched only two points and were a minus-2 and minus-3 in the past three setbacks.

Defensively, the Lightning allowed way too many uncontested shots and odd-man rushes. That’s a recipe for disaster, no matter what team you’re facing. It puts the goaltender under extra pressure as well, which is difficult for even the best to handle over 82 games.

Can the Lightning right the ship in enough time to grab their 10th postseason berth in the last 11 seasons? While unknown, they must win over half of their remaining games to keep their playoff streak and hopes of another championship alive.

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Christian Humphreys, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

2024 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Christian Humphreys

Christian Humphreys has shown consistent performance as a two-way forward. Standing at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, he is a promising prospect who has the potential to exceed expectations and become a steal in the draft.

Read More

Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 Recap: New York Rangers vs. Florida Panthers

It’s only one game, but the New York Rangers will need to be better if they want to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. The President-trophy winners 3-0 loss to the reigning league runner-ups, Florida Panthers, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden wasn’t as bad as the score indicated, […]

Read More

Three Takeaways From Florida Panthers Shutout Victory

“At the end of the day, we’re here for wins. That’s it.” Matthew Tkachuk means business. Even after a dominant display during game one, he knows the Panthers have a long way to go. But it is hard not to laud the performance just put forth. Paul Maurice’s men came into Wednesday playing their first […]

Read More