Today’s featured player is one of the newest members of the organization - Blake Coleman. He’s also the second one in a row that scored his first NHL goal in a non-Lightning uniform. Of the twenty-three players lined up for this project, nine of them feature players scoring their maidan NHL goal in a different sweater.
However, the way Coleman scored is one of the primary reasons Tampa Bay traded for him. The 28-year-old forward blends defensive prowess with a nifty little scoring touch (20+ goals in each of the the last two seasons) and is the perfect complimentary player for the Lightning’s high-powered offense.
Instead the Lightning sacrificed a first round pick and Nolan Foote at the trade deadline to strengthen their forecheck and penalty kill. In nine games so far with the Bolts Coleman has tallied just one assist, but was clicking with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli right before The Pause. Even if he finds himself in the bottom six, he could still find himself playing a pivotal role in the post season.
Lightning fans might remember that in his only previous playoff appearance he recorded two goals in five games against the Lightning in 2017-18. One of those goals was a long distance, empty net, short handed goal that sealed the Devils only win in the series.
It was the prior year that Coleman tallied his first NHL goal. With the Devils in a free fall (they won 3 of their final 14 games that season) that would culminate in them obtaining the first overall pick in the draft that summer, Coleman was part of an influx of young players that were seeing ice time. Recalled from Albany at the end of February due to an injury to Pavel Zacha, Coleman was seeing about 15 minutes a game, mostly as a third line center.
It would take him almost a month to score his first NHL goal. On March 26th, he opened the scoring against the Dallas Stars by making a nice play in the offensive zone and then finishing with a quick shot past a veteran goaltender.
The play starts with Taylor Hall losing control of the puck at center ice. He sticks with the play and manages to poke it into the Dallas zone before heading off on a line change. Coleman heads in to disrupt the Stars’ breakout and does a darn fine job.
John Klingberg tries to fire a quick pass across the ice, but Coleman has his stick in the perfect position to deflect it. Since the Dallas defenseman is flat-footed after his failed pass attempt, Coleman is able to slip by him unencumbered. Klingberg does manage to get a stick around Coleman’s hands (the upcoming penalty the announcers mention), but it doesn’t impede Coleman.
Klingberg’s defensive partner, Esa Lindell, is split wide left there leaving no one between Coleman and the net. So he corrals the puck at the right fact off dot and drives toward Kari Lehtonen.
Lehtonen is deep in his crease and caught in a bit of a half-crouch. He doesn’t seem quite sure what Coleman is going to do and hesitates a little. His stick is down to take away the lower part of the ice, but he doesn’t go down into the full butterfly. That gives Coleman a bit of room over the goaltenders arm. It’s a tight window, but the rookie forward is able to thread it through.
It’s a pretty straight forward goal, not a lot of fancy passes or slick moves, but it does showcase what the Lightning expect out of Coleman - solid instincts, the ability to make a strong defensive play, and then the quick transition to offense.
Plays like this are nice in the regular season, but can be game changers in the playoffs. Hopefully, we get to see Coleman duplicate his effort sometime next month.
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