A lot of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s bottom six entering this season was hinging on who out of Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk would establish themselves as legitimate NHLers that were ready to contribute. In pre-season, none of the three really dazzled with their performances. Ultimately, Barre-Boulet ended up losing out to the other two and was placed on waivers where he was claimed by the Seattle Kraken. He didn’t work out with the Kraken and is back with the Tampa Bay Lightning, in part because of Nikita Kucherov’s long-term injury. Kucherov’s injury also allowed Raddysh and Katchouk the opportunity to play every day instead of trading spots with each other on the fourth line and in the press box.
Possession stats from NaturalStatTrick.com and are 5v5 unless noted otherwise.
Things started out a bit rough for Raddysh and Katchouk. Raddysh got the first nod from the coaching staff playing in the first two games of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. Raddysh then sat out and Katchouk made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals. Kucherov got hurt, and both were in the line-up for the past three games.
In his first two games, Raddysh posted a 25% and 33.33% share of shot attempts. His Expected Goals (xG) share was even worse at 18.15% and 25.06%. The shots that were given up over those two games were around average to above average in Shot Danger. [Shot Danger is xG divided by Fenwick, for or against, and then multiplied by 100 to make it more readable. The NHL average for Shot Danger is around 5.5. This isn’t a commonly used stat in the community, but I like it for getting a gauge of how dangerous the shots taken are and gives more context to the performance of the team when the player is on the ice.] The first game against Pittsburgh wasn’t too bad at 5.11, but was worse against the Red Wings at 6.33 against. He wasn’t able to balance that with offense either as the Shot Danger For was just 3.33 and 4.33 in those two games.
For Katchouk, he was able to start out a bit better than Raddysh had in his first game. The Lightning controlled 63.64% of the shot share, but five of seven shot attempts were blocked and the other two missed the net. This led to a 48.66% share of the Expected Goals. The positive side of it though was the 2.75 Shot Danger Against.
The last three games, Katchouk and Raddysh have been on a line together with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare centering them. Katchouk and Raddysh played a lot together last season in Syracuse, and maybe being together was what the two needed to spark them to play at a higher level. The Lightning have controlled around two-thirds of the shot share with them on the ice these past three games, but their xG share has been in the high 80% range.
Last night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres is the first of the three games where they’ve been truly dangerous in their chances. Against Florida and Colorado, their Shot Danger For was still below average, but they were over 6.0 against the Sabres. The truly impressive part though is their Shot Danger Against over these three games. For Raddysh, he comes in at 0.13 xGA on 8 FA for a Shot Danger Against of 1.63. For Katchouk, he comes in at 0.16 xGA on 9 FA for a Shot Danger Against of 1.78.
To put that into context, most NHL defensemen are around the 3.0 Individual Shot Danger mark because most of their shots come from the point, the tops of the circles, and along the walls. That puts it into context of how non-dangerous the Panthers, Avalanche, and Sabres were the few times they had the puck when Raddysh and Katchouk were on the ice.
The ultimate ask you can make of your fourth line is to not get scored against, and contribute the occasional goal. Raddysh was scored against twice against Pittsburgh, but neither have been scored against since then at even strength. With the kind of Shot Danger Against and puck possession numbers they’re putting up, they’re doing exactly what you want your fourth line to do.
And it feels like it’s only a matter of time before these two both get their first NHL goals, assists, and points.