You kind of have to hand it to the Tampa Bay Lightning. At this point they are going out of their way to introduce a little adversity into their recent seasons. In 2019-20 it was overcoming the humiliation of getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the previous year’s playoffs and dealing with The Bubble. In 2020-21 it was a shortened season, COVID-19 protocols, and a regular season without Nikita Kucherov. This year it’s injuries. Not only is Kucherov out, but also defensive stalwart Erik Cernak. Depth defenseman Zach Bogosian also missed a large chunk of the season with an injury. Now we can add number one center Brayden Point to the list of injured players.
Point was hurt in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils as he was tripped up by Ryan Graves and skidded into the boards after breaking in on on goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.
A scary moment, but Brayden Point gets up! #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/rE82ytkCTl— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) November 20, 2021
As you can see Point was in obvious discomfort after using his upper body to try and brace the impact with end boards. While he did take the penalty shot and finished the game (he took four shifts in the final half of the third period and overtime following the play) he was held out of the game on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.
Prior to the game, Alex Barre-Boulet was recalled from his brief reassignment to the Syracuse Crunch and started the game against the Wild. Before the puck was dropped for the early evening contest, the team announced that Point would be out “indefinitely with an upper body injury”.
Injury Update: Forward Brayden Point is out indefinitely with an upper body injury.— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) November 21, 2021
For a team that was already missing an elite top-six forward in Nikita Kucherov, losing Point, who has 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in 16 games is a huge blow. Not only are they going to miss his offensive prowess, they’re going to have to find a way to fill the 20 minutes of quality ice time he provides on a night-in and night-out basis. The team’s depth was stripped away in the off-season due to expansion and salary cap issues and despite being in the upper part of the league scoring (11th out of 32 teams with a 3.12 goals per game), the bulk of their offense has come from the stars on the team, including Point.
They aren’t getting much production out of the bottom-six at this time and they will desperately need that to change while Point is out of the line-up. Anthony Cirelli will see some time as the top-line center and it will be important that he continues to put the puck in the back of the net. A two-goal performance (including one on the power play) on Sunday is a good start, but they will need him to keep that going.
The same can be said for Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat. The pressure will be on them to drive the offense while other players such as Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk get looks on the Stamkos line. We may even see Corey Perry - top-six forward - make another appearance as Coach Cooper tries to figure out how to navigate this latest speed bump in the season.
Hopefully, “indefinitely” ends up being a short term issue and we see both Point and Kucherov, who according to Joe Smith at The Athletic is still on track for his 8-10 week recovery, back before Christmas. Despite it sometimes being as much fun as a trip to dentist, the Lightning have managed to keep pace in the Atlantic during Kucherov’s absence. Doing so without the multi-skilled Point in the line-up will be even tougher.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning win 5-4 in a shootout [Raw Charge]
Sure, it was a win, but it kind of left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Giving up two goals in the final minutes of the game is very un-Lightning-like.
Three Things we learned from the win [Tampa Bay Lightning]
Coach Cooper tried to take a silver lining approach to the game.
“But, let’s give the team credit for having the leads and getting the lead and extending it in the third. That’s what you need to do, in case something like this happens and it happened but we were able to pull it out.”
Lightning have dodged COVID, but league hasn’t [Tampa Bay Times]
While the bulk of the article deals with league and how COVID is still managing to disrupt things, there is a note on how Anthony Cirelli is emerging as a dark horse candidate for Team Canada, if and when there is an Olympic tournament. If Brayden Point’s injury lingers into January or another Canadian forward suffer an injury, could Cirelli sneak onto the team? He wins wherever he does so it might not be a bad idea.
Losing streak takes a mental toll on Seattle Kraken [Seattle Times]
While the Vegas Golden Knights set an unrealistic expectation for expansion teams, the Kraken were supposed to be a little better than they are. Six straight losses prior to their win on Sunday and a 5-12-1 record overall isn’t helping the frustration levels out in the Pacific Northwest.