In 2014-15, the Triplets line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov took the NHL by storm. They were arguably the best even strength line in the entire NHL. They were young, hungry players that sought to make a name for themselves. Their 2014-15 season was legendary and they each did become stars for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 2015-16 season though saw them take a step back. Johnson was still recovering from a broken wrist suffered in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals. It was eventually reported that he couldn’t even do a push up until December of the 2015-16 season. Palat also dealt with injuries during the season, including an ankle sprain. Palat only played 62 games, while Johnson played in 69 games. Kucherov fared better, but still had some injuries that kept him to 77 games played.
Advanced stats below are courtesy of Corsica Hockey. Stats are score and venue adjusted and 5v5 unless specified otherwise.
During the 2014-15 season, the Triplets spent just shy of 668 minutes together. As a unit, they posted an impressive 57.6% Corsi For percentage with a 5.97% Relative CF Percentage. They dominated offensively and were quite effective defensively due to the amount of time that they spent in the offensive zone. They put up a 67.61% Goals For Percentage. They outperformed their expected goals for percentage, and even that was an impressive 60.14%. Without a doubt, they were spectacular.
Since then though, their performance together has not lived up to that stellar season. In 2015-16, they spent 341 minutes together with a 51.98% CF percentage. The goals for percentage was still impressive at 65.22%, but they well exceeded their expected goals for percentage of 51.11%, showing a certain amount of luck in their game. 2016-17 was a little better in some respects as they spent 262 minutes together with a 55.4% CF percentage, 58.33% goals for percentage and a 56.09% expected goals for percentage. In 2017-18, they spent less than 50 minutes together so the sample size is too small to draw much from.
At various times over the past three seasons, parts of the Triplets have been reunited. Kucherov and Johnson played over 250 minutes with Alex Killorn on their wing in 2015-16. Kucherov and Palat played over 200 minutes together in 2016-17 with Brayden Point as their pivot. Kucherov and Palat also spent over 100 minutes with Vladislav Namestnikov playing center in 2016-17 and did the same for around 100 minutes in 2017-18. Johnson and Palat spent 200 minutes with Brayden Point during 2017-18 as well. But Kucherov was rarely paired with either of his old partners in 2017-18 other than the 100 minutes with Palat and Point.
As the numbers bear out, the Triplets have not been able to recapture the magic that they created in 2014-15. With Kucherov struggling in the first two games of the season, it seems that Jon Cooper has decided to give the Triplets another chance. It also gives Steven Stamkos a fresh look with Point and Yanni Gourde at his side.
Cooper has to be hoping that the Triplets can recapture the magic. If they can, and can be the dominating force that they were, especially with all three enjoying good health, that bodes well for the Lightning. If the Point, Stamkos, Gourde line can also find success together, that would create one of the best 1-2 punches in the NHL.
The schedule has not been kind to the Lightning so far with two big breaks between pre-season and the opener and before their second game. Now they can get into a rhythm as they play 15 games over the next 29 days. This is only one game for the Triplets, but seeing some life out of them as well as the first line would give fans some optimism that they can build on it going forward and get this team chugging along as everyone in the hockey world has expected they would.