The Lightning completely established their dominance once again in 2021, as they won their second consecutive Stanley Cup. This time, there was a ton of controversy, as they were excessively over the salary cap. They couldn’t stay in that position forever, and the impact is showing. Their entire third line is gone. The bottom-six is much, much weaker. Can the Lightning still hold up enough to win a third Cup?
Offseason additions: F Corey Perry, G Brian Elliott, D Zach Bogosian, F Pierre-Edouard Bellmare.
Offseason subtractions: F Yanni Gourde, F Blake Coleman, D David Savard, F Barclay Goodrow, F Tyler Johnson, D Luke Schenn, F Mitchell Stephens, G Curtis McElhinney.
Tampa has their new franchise center locked up, as Brayden Point’s eight year extension kicks off after this upcoming season. Point scored 23 goals with 48 points in 56 games. While that is a worse pace than his previous two seasons, Point still led the team in both categories. Point led the postseason in goals for the second consecutive season, scoring 14 times with nine assists in 23 games. Half of those goals came on the power play. Nikita Kucherov was electric in the regulll oh right he missed all of it. Kucherov did not lose a step when he returned in the playoffs, scoring eight times with 24 assists. For the second year in a row, Point was the goal scorer, while Kucherov was the playoff point leader. This season, he had 32. The most obvious third wheel in history is Ondrej Palat, who is a decent player but can not compare to the other first line members. Palat actually had one of his best NHL seasons with Kucherov out, scoring 15 times with 31 assists in 55 games. In his regular season career, Palat has 18.6 G/82. In the playoffs? 26.4. Because didn’t earn the Cup in 2020, captain Steven Stamkos just won another. Injuries are starting to real his career, but Stamkos is still an elite scorer as he passes age 30. He played in 38 games in the regular season, scoring 17 times with an equal amount of assists. He had 18 points, eight of them goals, in the postseason. For the most part, he has moved closer to the wing than center, thanks to the continued emergence of Anthony Cirelli. A very good two-way player, his numbers were disappointing last year. He scored just nine goals with 13 assists in 50 games. He got lost in the mix as well in the playoffs, scoring five times in 23 games. Cirelli actually had more hits in the playoffs than in more than double of the amount of games in the regular season. Gritty Alex Killorn had a career season at age 30 in 2019-20, but fell back to his normal numbers after leading the league in shooting percentage. Killorn scored 15 times with 33 points in 56 games, which is around his average rate. Former fourth rounder Ross Colton came out of nowhere to be the team’s fourth line center, scoring nine times in 30 games. He supplemented that with 46 hits and a Cup-clinching goal in the playoffs. Mathieu Joseph played in every single regular season game, then appeared in just six during the postseason run. He was a good player in limited ice-time, with 12 goals and 82 hits. Although he did have a shooting percentage of 20.3 percent, Joseph is still a good scorer. After years of dominating in the AHL, Alex Barre-Boulet finally got his crack at the NHL, scoring three times in 15 contests. In the 10 games that he did play for the Syracuse Crunch, he scored a ridiculous ten times with four assists. This should be the season where he breaks through. Looking to make it four Cups in a row is Pat Maroon. His 60 penalty minutes led the team in the regular season, while he also had 18 points and 75 hits. He did not exactly play a key role in the postseason, but Maroon still appeared in every game and racked up 37 penalty minutes. According to Corey Perry, If you can’t beat ’em, go somewhere else. If you can’t beat ’em then, join ’em. After falling to Tampa Bay as a member of the Stars and the Canadiens in back to back seasons, Perry is now a bolt. The former Hart winner is now reduced to a scrappy winger, although his nine goals and 21 points in 49 games last year were productive. He added ten more points in the playoffs. Penalty killing specialist Pierre-Edouard Bellmare is here to help the Lightning defensively. He spent the last two seasons with the Avalanche, scoring nine goals in each year, setting a new career high. Bellmare won 60.7 percent of his draws in 2020-21. Gemel Smith had three assists in five NHL games last year. In three AHL games, the former Star averaged a goal and an assist a game. Former Canadien Charles Hudon was often blocked in Montreal, but he can earn a spot in Tampa Bay. He played in Switzerland last season, scoring 15 goals with 17 assists for 32 points in 33 games.
Victor Hedman was clearly hurt all season, and despite not totally earning it, he finished third in Norris voting for the third consecutive year. Hedman passed the points test, with 45 in 54 games. However, he was just average compared to his teammates, with a 51.3 xGF% and a 50 GF%. Former Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh survived the expansion draft after arrangements were made to protect him. McDonagh blocked 96 shots in 50 regular season games, then added 46 more in the postseason. Erik Cernak’s 56.2 xGF% led returning Tampa Bay defensemen last year, with only Luke Schenn beating him. The big right-hander had 18 points with 98 hits in 46 games. In 171 career games, Cernak has amassed 468 hits, or about 2.7 a game. Mikhail Sergachev’s 2.4 xGF/60 was the highest among Tampa Bay defenders. He played in all 56 games, with eight of his 30 points coming on the man advantage. The smoove defender defeated his old team in the finals. Jan Rutta secured the pretty good job of becoming Hedman’s partner. He didn’t miss a playoff game, although sat out 21 in the regular season. The Czech native had eight assists in 35 games in his third season with the franchise. Zach Bogosian won the Cup with the Lightning in 2020, joined the Leafs last year, and is now back with Tampa Bay. He played in 45 games for Toronto last year, with 31 blocked shots and 67 hits. He had 44 hits in 20 games for the Lightning in the playoffs two seasons ago. Cal Foote played in 35 games in his rookie season, with three points and 29 penalty minutes. Tampa Bay would not let the 22-year-old Denver native average over 13 minutes a night, and he was not a postseason factor at all.
Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t even need a backup last year. With Curtis McElhinney struggling in his few games played, Vasilevskiy finished second in Vezina voting, and won the Conn Smythe. He has been a Vezina finalist in four consecutive seasons, leading the league in wins in each of them. His .925 save percentage tied a career high last year, while his 2.21 GAA was the best of his seven years in the league. The veteran netminder who will assist Vasilevskiy this year is Brian Elliott, who joins his sixth team. Elliott appeared in 30 games for the Flyers last year, and was not good at all. He had a percentage of .889 with a 3.06 GAA, plus a -14.0 GSAA. The Lightning will need better results, although Elliott will play a lot less than he did a season ago.
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos
Alex Barre-Boulet – Ross Colton – Mathieu Joseph
Pat Maroon – Pierre-Edouard Bellmare – Corey Perry
Extras: Gemel Smith, Charles Hudon
Victor Hedman – Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Zach Bogosian
Extras: Cal Foote
Hmmmm…. should the back-to-back champions make the playoffs. While their bottom-six was depleted last year, they still have their solid core. The Lightning are stacked. It’s fair to say that anything less than a division title would be disappointing. Then again, they only got third place last year, and look how that