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Lightning Round: How is Alex Barre-Boulet fitting in on the top line?

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It’s been five games so the size of the sample is still small, but early reports indicate it’s going alright.

NHL: APR 20 Hurricanes at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning line-up, Alex Barre-Boulet has been playing on a line with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. That’s the de facto top line for the Bolts and a pretty big step for the 23-year-old rookie forward. It’s also a step up in scoring talent from the fourth line that he was skating during his first go-round with the team. How’s the experiment going?

Not too bad. He hasn’t recorded a goal or an assist yet, and the team is still stuck in an offensive rut, but Barre-Boulet hasn’t looked out of place skating with some of the players on the roster. He’s also seen time on the top power play unit opposite of Victor Hedman. For a player with his skill level, it is the right spot for him to be.

Overall his possession numbers have been on the plus side. During the past five games he’s posted a 53.47% CF (6th on the team), and a 53% expected goal share (7th on the team). When Coach Cooper switched things up on Thursday, it wasn’t Barre-Boulet that was moved off of the line, but Palat (Anthony Cirelli moved up).

While he hasn’t picked up an assist or a goal yet he’s had a few good chances. As Coach Cooper stated before the game,

“He’s had some plays on his stick that he’s just missed. I think with a little more playing time, he’ll start hitting those plays.”

That also makes it sound like Coop isn’t planning on moving him off of the line anytime soon. Chances are ABB will keep that spot until Steven Stamkos is back or if his game seriously tanks. They definitely want a good look at him on the top line.

All of that being said, there are some things he could do a little better. For one thing he could shoot the puck a little more. He only has 6 shots during the last five games, with 4 of those coming on the power play. Barre-Boulet’s shot is way too good not to be utilized more often. Chances are that he is demurring a bit too much to his linemates. He does like setting plays up and has excellent hockey vision.

He also has zero individual high danger chances at 5v5. While he’s not going to make a living banging around right in front of the goalie like Alex Killorn or Pat Maroon, he is crafty enough to get into prime scoring spots for easy goals. During his record-setting first season with the Syracuse Crunch it seemed like half of his 34 goals were slam dunks from the side of the net. He almost had one against Columbus but his attempted one-timer was snuffed out by defenseman Gavin Bayreuther.

As he gets more comfortable with the NHL game, he’ll start finding those soft spots on the ice. While his skating might not be up to where they think it will end up just yet, Coach Cooper doesn’t seem overly concerned,

“The one thing was always his foot speed, but when you’re a smart player you kinda can navigate your way around that.”

It’s still early for him and he’s just finding his footing in the league, after all he’s only played a total of seven NHL games, but it doesn’t look like he’s out of place in the NHL. He’s not going to make a late 10-game push for the Calder, but as Coach Cooper said,

“He’s done a heck of a job for us.”

Lightning Links

Lightning Win, 3-1

JustinG. (hey that’s, me!) went with a running diary to recap the game.

Jackets Lose, 3-1

From the other side of the ice, the recap from Jackets’ Canon. “This game was not aesthetically pleasing.” Yup, that about sums it up.

That’s just Savvy, man (subscription required)

An in-depth look at David Savard with stories from his former teammates in Columbus. It seems he’s a Halloween-loving foodie who loves classic cars and singing karaoke. It sounds like if the Lightning win another Cup, he could rival The Big Rig in shirtless celebrations.

Tom Brady takes in a Lightning game

TB12 visited his fellow champions as he watched the game from a luxury suite with Jeff Vinik and his family. The Bally Sports cameras caught him talking with Tie Domi at one point as well. It’s not a bad life for Mr. Brady.

Curtis McElhinney talks about the difficulties of playing against Columbus, how his season has been going, and what it was like waiting for his next start after giving up seven goals in his last start.

Coach Cooper on McElhinney: “He was great tonight.”

16 Stats: Hedman’s Fall (subscription required)

We all know Victor Hedman hasn’t been up to his usual lofty stature of late (personally I think it’s from him trying to do too much in the offensive zone. Dom over at The Athletic takes a look at his numbers, they’re not great.

Some notes from our friends at the Lightning:

  • Ondrej Palat’s goal was his fifth game-winner of the season. That ties him with Brayden Point for the team lead.
  • The Lightning now have seven players with ten or more goals: Point (20), Steven Stamkos (17), Yanni Gourde (16), Palat (13), Alex Killorn (12), Mathieu Joseph (11), Blake Coleman (10).

Hockey Highlights

NHL celebrates Earth Day

Did you know the NHL has had a Green Water Restoration Program for the last ten years? I sure didn’t. Good for them.

Launched in 2011, NHL Green’s Water Restoration Program first balanced the League’s water footprint by making the 2011 Stanley Cup® Final the first water-neutral series in history. Over the past 10 years, the Water Restoration Program has helped to restore streamflow to Oregon’s Deschutes River and restore water to the Colorado River Basin. In total, the program has balanced more than 88 million gallons of water by funding programs to ensure healthy, flowing freshwater to crucial waterways in North America.

NHL 2021-22 Schedule to start a little later than normal

It looks like the NHL is scheduled to start around October 12th with training camps opening around September 22nd. There also appears to be a two-week break in the schedule that would coincide with the Winter Olympics.