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Lightning Round: Alex Barré-Boulet makes his NHL debut

The prolific scorer was solid in his first NHL game

NHL: SEP 17 Preseason - Hurricanes at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It took injuries to Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli, but Monday night Tampa Bay Lightning fans finally were able to witness the NHL debut of one of their more intriguing prospects: Alex Barré-Boulet. Now in his third professional season, the 23-year-old forward was called off of the taxi squad and inserted into the line-up alongside Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn in the Lightning’s 4-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.

While he didn’t record any points in his debut, Barré-Boulet did show well in his time on the ice. He played a total of 12:11, including 3:20 on the power play. He had one takeaway and one giveaway while winning one of the two face-offs he took in the game. While he didn’t have any shots on net, he was credited with two shot attempts and one scoring chance.

His line was extremely solid throughout the game at even strength. They controlled 70% of the shot attempts on ice (14 out of 20), 80% of the scoring chances (4 out of 5), 75% of the high-danger chances (3 out of 4). Along with Gourde and Killorn, Barré-Boulet posted an expected goal percentage of 81.61%. Not too shabby for the rookie.

That’s how the numbers described his debut, but what about the good ol’ fashioned eye test? How did Barré-Boulet look in his first official NHL game? The answer, not bad. He was in on the action almost from the drop of the puck as he was battling in front of the net following the first shot of the game from Alex Killorn less than a minute into play.

He made several nice reads throughout the game and showed his skill at passing the puck with a long, aerial pass to Killorn at the end of the first period. He also hit Ondrej Palat with a slick pass for a slam dunk goal that was disrupted when Brett Pesce wiped Palat out on the way to the net. His passing ability is his most NHL-ready asset and he put it on display against the Hurricanes.

Barré-Boulet isn’t the fastest skater in the league and there were a couple of rushes in both directions where he was noticeably a step behind, but even in this quicker, modern-day NHL, not much of it is played in straight lines. If he works at it, he can get to the point where it’s not a hindrance to his game. From what he’s shown in the AHL, he is a good enough skater to quickly change directions in small spaces, a trait that should carry over into the NHL.

Still, it was a night-and-day difference compared to how he looked in preseason scrimmages prior to the 2019-20 season. After the game, Barré-Boulet credited his strength coach for improving his skating and also said that he felt more comfortable in the defensive zone. His comfort was visible on the ice as there was no point in the night when he seemed to be chasing the game.

“He was responsible with the puck and he wasn’t afraid out there. He took command when he had it..he did a great job.” That’s how Coach Cooper described his night after the game, also noting that debuting against Carolina was quite a test, one that he passed with “flying colors”.

Coach Cooper’s usage of Barré-Boulet was interesting. Instead of putting him down on the fourth line with Pat Maroon and Alex Volkov, he had him with a couple of players in Gourde and Killorn that had offensive ability along with the ability to cover up any mistakes the rookie might make throughout the night.

It was somewhat surprising to see him on the second unit power play. Most coaches make players “earn” their playing time on special teams and rookies rarely see time with the advantage early on. However, it was wise for Coach Cooper to use Barré-Boulet in roles where he would be most effective. After all, you don’t use your Corvette to tow a camper.

His playing time was split pretty evenly throughout the game and the only time he was really skipped over was at the very end of the game when the Lightning were trying to close out the game. Half of the face-offs he was on the ice for were taken in the defensive zone, showing that Coach Cooper wasn’t overly concerned with sheltering him in his first start.

How many more games he gets into is up in the air. Chances are that once Stephens and Cirelli are healthy Barré-Boulet will be back in Syracuse (they could use the offense), but that could be a few weeks away. Gemel Smith has been playing well enough to stay in the lineup as well, so it will be hard to keep him on the sidelines.

No matter how many more games he gets into at this point, based on the game against Carolina, Barré-Boulet has a future in the NHL.

Lightning Links

Lightning find their offense in 4-2 win over Carolina

Steven Stamkos scored a power play goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy made a bunch of saves. Sounds like the Lightning are back!

Canes fall to Lightning in disjointed effort

From the other side of the ice, the Lightning’s effort wasn’t as appreciated. It was a stark contrast to the complete game they played against Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Some other notes compliments of the Lightning:

  • Victor Hedman moved into 5th place all time in franchise points with 490. He tied and passed Brad Richards.
  • Hedman now has seven multi-point games this season while Steven Stamkos has five.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 10th win of the season, he joined Frederik Andersen as the only 10-game winners in the league so far this season.
  • Mikhail Sergachev picked up his 12th assist of the season. He remains 32nd all time in franchise points. #MikhailMilestone

Winless for a second week, what’s going on (in Syracuse)?

It’s been a rough start for the Crunch. With call-ups and injuries piling up in the forward ranks, finding goals could be an issue moving forward.

Lightning’s 2012 Draft Picks: Where are they now?

It wasn’t as epic as the 2011 draft, but the Lightning managed to find a few gems in the 2012 draft, even if some of them are playing for other teams now.

Hockey News

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One of those 2012 draft picks was hit with some bad news. Koekkoek was playing roughly 13 minutes a night for the Oilers prior to his injury.

Injuries piling up for the Maple Leafs

Frederik Andersen was a late scratch for Toronto’s game against Calgary. The goaltender joins Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman, and Joe Thornton on the Maple Leafs sidelines.

Artemiy Panarin Taking leave of absence from New York Rangers

There is a lot to this story that we don’t know, and much of what is floating around social media is nothing but baseless speculation. What we do know is that Panarin has returned to Russia following reports that years ago he assaulted an 18-year-old girl. The basis of those reports come from an interview with his old coach (and former Bolt) Andrei Nazarov, but the validity of news is in question.

Elias Pettersson is hitting more posts and crossbars than anyone in NHL history

Back in 2010-11 Steven Stamkos hit iron 17 times, a stat the NHL started recording in 2009-10. That stands as the record for a single player, but Elias Pettersson is on a mission to destroy that record as he’s already pinged pucks off the crossbar and posts a reported nine times (and that doesn’t count the shots goalies have gotten a piece of before they hit metal).