Watching the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season, a lot of hockey fans came to realize how important it is to spread the wealth of offense across all four lines. Especially when a team gets into the playoffs, the top two lines of each team typically cancel each other out, and the bottom six are what make the difference.
In 2014-15, the Lightning saw this in the Stanley Cup Finals as the Triplets were neutralized by Tyler Johnson’s broken wrist. The bottom six couldn’t get the job done and the Lightning fell in six games. In the 2015-16 playoffs, the Penguins had at least one star on each of their top three lines and also added scoring from Matt Cullen’s fourth line — not even factoring in the scoring that came from the blue line.
The Lightning are off to a 5-1-0 start, and have scored 23 goals so far for a 3.83 goal per game average. Goals from getting shut out by the Colorado Avalanche and then blowing out the Toronto Maple Leafs essentially canceled each other out.
Eleven of the Lightning’s eighteen skaters have scored a goal. Fifteen have recorded an assist, sixteen in total have recorded a point. Only Nikita Nesterov and J.T. Brown have failed to get on the scoresheet, and Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr got on the board for the first time last night against the Maple Leafs.
Here’s a breakdown of scoring by line using the most recent lineup.
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Kucherov has finally scored a goal! He has contributed six assists, with two of them coming on the power play.
Stamkos has five goals and four assists with one goal and one assist coming on the power play after his four-point night against the Maple Leafs. With those two goals against the Maple Leafs, he now shares the goal scoring lead for the team. He’s also tied for second in points in the NHL.
Namestnikov started out on the third line, but shifted up to the top line for the Ottawa game and has made the most of it. He had a goal and an assist against Ottawa, both coming on the power play. Then he added another goal on the power play and an even-strength assist in Toronto. This line has a lot of talent and has started to go off on this road trip.
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Jonathan Drouin
Palat and Drouin started out the year as wingers for Steven Stamkos, but were swapped around to play with Johnson. Palat has a goal and three assists, with two assists coming on the power play. Johnson has a goal and two assists with his goal coming on the power play. Drouin has had a nice start to the year with two goals and three assists. Both goals and an assist came on the power play.
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Brayden Point
It seems like Killorn came into the season on fire as he co-leads the team with five goals and an assist. One goal and one assist came on the power play, making his goal production even more impressive. Filppula seems to have won some confidence during the World Cup and already has three goals, though one was an empty netter, and two assists. Filppula’s point production is even more impressive as he has not been apart of the power play this season.
Point has shown his speed and tenacity to go with offensive smarts in the beginning of the season. He has three assists to show for it but is tied for third on the team with 14 shots on goal and he is averaging 15:35 TOI. Point is making it as hard as possible for Steve Yzerman to send him to Syracuse when Ryan Callahan is back from injury. It’s also only a matter of time before he finds the back of the net with how many chances he is getting.
Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown
Paquette has had a nice start to the year, finally showing he is fully healthy after dealing with a nagging foot injury last season. He has a goal and an assist while averaging 9:14 TOI. Boyle has only put up one goal, but his offense is often underrated as he’s viewed as a defensive grinding center. Brown has yet to find the score sheet, but it’s only a matter of time. Brown is averaging just over one shot on goal per game, which isn’t bad with his 10:00 average TOI.
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Hedman and Stralman have been getting a lot of ice time in all situations. Hedman has one goal and three assists, with two assists coming on the power play. He is averaging 24:12 TOI. Stralman has picked up two assists, and his first was the 150th of his NHL career. Both of Stralman’s assists came on the power play. Stralman is getting just over 23 minutes on the ice every game. With Hedman and Stralman both manning the point on separate power plays, and with more even-strength points likely coming in their future, they’re both set to have good offensive years.
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Garrison was slowed down last season by injuries and it showed through much of the year. This year, he looks faster, stronger, and more confident in his game and it has translated into two assists. Last season, he had two goals and an assist through the first few games but didn’t score again until December. Sustr finally found the scoresheet with a two-assist game against the Maple Leafs. The first came off a turnover he created and the second came as he found Stamkos open in the slot for a one timer. Sustr’s confidence has steadily grown and the World Cup of Hockey likely only heightened that confidence. He’s less afraid to pinch and take chances or to shoot the puck and he’s doing it smartly. He’s averaging right around one shot on goal per game.
Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn
This pairs possession stats have been very nice to start the year. Nesterov has eight shots on goal and Coburn has nine shots on goal. Nesterov has gotten a lot of flack for some bad turnovers early this season, but the advanced stats have smiled upon him. He looks more confident and less panicked in his own end for the most part. It’s fair to wonder if this is a mirage, or if he really has turned the corner as an NHL defenseman. For now, he’s won the sixth defenseman spot with his play and forced Slater Koekkoek, who had passed Nesterov on the depth chart during the playoffs, back to the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.
Braydon Coburn found the scoresheet for his first assist of the year when he used his powerful point shot to trickle a puck through Freddy Andersen that Killorn was able to tap in. Coburn won’t wow you with his offense, but he’s also been more active in games, activating and going down low to use his size while a forward takes his spot at the point. If he consistently does that smartly, he’s got the size to create some greasy goal opportunities.
The Lightning will look to continue to build on their hot start as they continue on this six-game road trip after taking the first two games against Ottawa and Toronto. A balanced scoring attack will serve them well through the season and hopefully into the playoffs. The more they can develop and incorporate every player on the roster into the scoring mix, the better this team will be, and the better their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.