The Tampa Bay Lightning have come back to earth a little following a scorching hot start, going 2-1-1 in the last four. That included consecutive home ice losses (to be fair, one was in overtime) for the first time since March 2017. A week that began with a stinker ended with a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory on the night in which the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team was honored.
Even during a subpar week, the Lightning have had plenty of players who made a difference on the ice. Obviously, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have continued their hot starts, but championship caliber teams receive scoring from nearly everybody. That’s where this team found themselves in the past week, as opponents started keying in on slowing the top line.
Knowing this, the Lightning had three lesser known players step up and lead the way. For that reason, I’ve awarded them Raw Charge’s stars of the week.
Let’s get started, why don’t we?
1st star: Brayden Point
Not the biggest or strongest player on the ice, Point has a nose for the net. He’s more than willing to go into the dirty areas and get knocked around, hoping to get rewarded by a point shot deflecting off of his stick or body and into the opponents net. After a strong first few games, he’d gone quiet until this past week. The hard work put in during practice began to pay off again, and his point totals picked up. With head coach Jon Cooper going 11 forwards and 7 defenseman in three of the four contests, he also got more ice time as a reward for all of the productive shifts he put in.
Here is a breakdown of Point’s week, beginning October 28th:
- vs. Anaheim Ducks: 3 shots, 0 points, even rating, 63.6 faceoff winning percentage
- @ Florida Panthers: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, plus-2 rating
- vs. New York Rangers: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, even rating
- vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: 1 goal, no assists, 1 point, plus-2 rating
Four points. While that may not seem like much, Point was always engaged in games. His line was more often than not the best on the ice, a point Cooper has made a few times during the past week. Yes, it’s true he and Gourde were the ones beaten on J.T. Miller’s overtime goal Thursday night, but in all honesty the Lightning were lucky to make it to extra time then.
Point more than made up for it against the Blue Jackets, scoring quickly in response to their opening score on a fluky play. Not bad for a guy who gets little attention league-wide while serving as a second wheel behind one of the NHL’s best snipers in Stamkos.
2nd star: Yanni Gourde
Impressive as a late call up last year, Gourde is thriving in his first full NHL season. He’s established himself as a workhorse, both on the second line and as a key penalty killer. With his speed, he serves as the guy who can take the puck from a teammate and score shorthanded, something that injects life into a bench. He is also full of energy and not afraid to make a mistake, knowing it will serve as a learning moment if he does.
Gourde’s weekly breakdown looks like this:
- vs. Ducks: 4 shots, no points, minus-1 rating, 60% on faceoffs
- @ Panthers: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, plus-2 rating
- vs. Rangers: 1 goal, no assists, 1 point even rating
- vs. Blue Jackets: 1 goal, no assists, 1 point, plus-1 rating
Four points. While Gourde struggled to begin the week, he has made improvements practically every game since then. Whether through better decision making, hard work, or both, there’s no doubt he has grown as an NHL player throughout the past week. Take his shorthanded tally Thursday night against the Rangers: New York had the power play, up one on the road. Gourde read the pass, stole the puck and was off to the races, beating Henrik Lundqvist to tie things up.
That goal enabled the Lightning to get one point instead of walking away empty handed, and believe me that point could be the difference between playoffs or no playoffs. Pretty nice for a player who is considered to be a rookie for all intents and purposes.
3rd star: Victor Hedman
This was a difficult decision. Andrei Vasilevskiy was a big reason the Lightning went 2-0-1 in the games he started. Alex Killorn played fairly well too, one goal wiped away thanks to a phantom goaltender interference call that we discussed over here. I chose Hedman because of his offensive prowess, with points in eight straight games. That came after a slow start, and helped drive the two wins.
Here is Hedman’s breakdown. Note that this doesn’t include the amount of ice time he receives, a total that almost always exceeds that of his teammates.
- vs. Ducks: 2 shots, 2 blocks, no points, minus-1 rating
- @ Panthers: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, even rating
- vs. Rangers: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, plus-1 rating
- vs. Blue Jackets: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, minus-2 rating
While it looks as though Hedman struggled in the Blue Jackets game, one of the goals against that happened when he was on the ice was the result of a bad bounce. He went to clear the puck away from trouble, but it ended up hitting his stick, bouncing up in the air and behind Vasilevskiy for the game-opening goal. He made up for it though, tallying two points in the game.
For the week, Hedman ended up with five points. He also played on the power play and was a big penalty killer, all while averaging close to 27 minutes of ice time over four games.
Now that I’ve given you my three stars for this past week, why don’t you give me yours? Did you choose Vasilevskiy? Was it Killorn? Or did you go with the dynamic duo for a second straight week? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. Tune in next week when I choose three stars from the upcoming West Coast road trip.