Everyone knows about the "Triplets" line (or, TKO Trio, as some folks around here still stubbornly call them).
Everyone knows about Steven Stamkos, and whoever is flanking him on the Tampa Bay Lightning's 'other' top line.
But part of Tampa Bay's success all season long was that their talented and deep forward group was getting contributions from throughout the lineup; they had 12 skaters during the regular season that reached at least 9 goals and only Andrej Sustr played more than 20 regular season games without recording at least a single tally.
Now we're in the playoffs, however, and your tanking teams aren't there any more. Everyone has good quality checking forwards, everyone has a deep defense corps, and everyone has a good goaltender. That's especially true for the Lightning, who've faced in succession a red-hot Petr Mrazek, the presumptive Vezina and Hart favorite in Carey Price, and now Henrik Lundqvist.
Still, the Lightning can't hope to advance without some help from the lower lines. It doesn't matter who is in net. The bottom line forwards need to score some goals.
Here's a chart of Tampa Bay's most commonly used bottom line forwards, their regular season goal output, career shooting percentage, and consecutive shots on goal in these playoffs without scoring. I've included Ryan Callahan for reasons that will quickly become obvious:
|Player||Reg Season Goals||Career SH%||SOG w/o a Goal|
From this, we see two problems. First, the veterans added via trade and free agency simply aren't getting it done in the playoffs in terms of converting on their shots. This could be just a cold streak, of course; 20-25 shots is a fairly small sample for guys like Boyle and Callahan. Brenden Morrow is an odd case, because his career shooting percentage is very high but its clear his hands just aren't what they used to be. Boyle and Callahan, though, should be expected to snap out of the slump eventually if they continue to put pucks on net. Jon Cooper tends to agree:
Here's the Cooper quote on Callahan, per the transcript. He hedged, but still see no benefit to saying this. pic.twitter.com/WV7gqWftX2— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) May 24, 2015
Putting a ton of pressure on a guy who has struggled to offense might not be the greatest idea in the world; it's not like Callahan needs more motivation. He's a proud hockey player who wants to help this team win. The numbers say he's owed one here eventually, but goal scoring in the NHL is hard (and random) enough as it is. Maybe it comes tonight, maybe it doesn't.
The second problem, and this one might be more dire, is that the kids on the bottom forward lines can't seem to even get themselves into the offensive zone to take a shot on goal. Namestnikov has more penalty minutes (4) than shots on goal (2) in 86:55 of playoff time on ice. That's abysmal production. Cedric Paquette isn't doing much better; just 3 total shots on goal since his only goal of the playoffs which game in Game 6 at the Detroit Red Wings. He has just 8 total shots the entire postseason in 16 games.
Paquette (36.98% Corsi For) and Namestnikov (36.21% CF) are the worst two possession players on the Lightning in the playoffs. Simply put, they're getting hemmed into their own end on most shifts and bleeding shots and chances for the opposition. More often than not, their shifts are "defend, defend, chip out, dump, change". All six guys in the above table are negative possession players; south of 50% Corsi For overall and negatively impacting the team's possession results.
Tampa Bay has a major split between top-6 and bottom-6 right now. The question is, will the bottom lines start carrying their weight or will Steven Stamkos and co. be enough?