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Lightning Round: How is Tyler Johnson’s season going?

Better than you might think

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Right after last season’s Stanley Cup final, most experts and Tampa Bay Lightning fans shared the belief that Tyler Johnson’s career with the team would come to an end. The Lightning were in a serious cap crunch and needed to extend contracts with their young and very promising players like Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The team put Johnson on waivers and after he wasn’t claimed tried to agree on a trade with other teams, but no one wasn’t willing to take a 30-year old forward with $5 million salary cap hit whose best years are clearly in the past. Then suddenly Nikita Kucherov was injured and placed on long-term injured reserve, releasing a huge amount of cap space and Tyler Johnson got another chance.

So it's not a surprise that Tyler Johnson, who is still very beloved by the Lightning fanbase, was expected to have some kind of resurgence this season. Nikita Kucherov’s absence should have also allowed him to get more top-line minutes and maybe even more minutes on the top power play unit. But things haven't developed quite like expected. In fact, Tyler Johnson’s TOI has reached the lowest number since his rookie season – this season he averages just around 14 minutes per game. He still receives around minute and a half of power play time per game, but is playing mostly on the second power play unit.

His offensive numbers don’t look that bad if you look at them closely: yes, his actual scoring numbers are still down, as he scored just four goals in 21 games and added just six assists over that timespan. However, his numbers per 60 minutes remains high amongst his teammates – with 1.91 P/60 Johnson trails only to three other regulars (Anthony Cirelli, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point). His shot attempts differential doesn’t look bad either – with 52.47 CF% at 5v5 he ranks sixth among the team. His expected goal share though is just a little bit over a 50-percent mark, comparing to previous seasons this is the lowest number in four years.

While his offensive numbers have dropped over the last season, this season is probably the one of the best in terms of Johnson’s defensive impact. He has been on the ice for only seven goals against at 5-on-5, which is one of lowest number amongst his teammates. His faceoff winning percentage has also increased to 56.1% – a career-high number – reminding us that he received some Selke Trophy votes early in his career.

Jon Cooper has tried Johnson in many combinations over this season, recently he's seen time on the top line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, however his best games of the season occured when he was back at centre-forward position. The game against the Florida Panthers on February 13 as an example – Johnson scored twice while centering the third line of Blake Coleman and Mathieu Joseph.

As a conclusion Tyler Johnson isn’t having a bad season, but it’s also not a resurgent season, as many of the fans were expecting. He’s fairly criticized by the fans, who is demanding more goals from him, however he partially compensates it with his defensive impact. The Lightning cap crunch hasn’t gone anywhere and once Nikita Kucherov recovers, the team will face the same problems as the last autumn and Tyler Johnson will be probably the first who will be moved by the team.

Lightning Links

The Syracuse Crunch fell to the Rochester Americans on the Saturday night. Florida Panthers’ prospect Serron Noel scored his first goal on a professional level and Taylor Raddysh scored the second goal for the team.

The Orlando Solar Bears defeated the Florida Everblades for the second consecutive night.

Specialty jersey alert!

Hockey News

Tom Wilson received a seven-game ban for boarding the Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Reportedly some US-based NHL players start receiving COVID-19 vaccine.

The Colorado Avalanche have moved Erik Johnson’s status from IR to LTIR.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Buffalo Sabres is trying to move Sam Reinhart ahead of the upcoming Trade Deadline