One day of camp is in the books for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Is it time to make wide, sweeping proclamations about what the team is going to do for the entire season? Of course not, but let’s not let that stop us. One of the big questions about the squad this year is how will they replace the vaunted third line they lost to free agency/expansion?
In short, they’re not. There is no replacing Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman. They were a bright, shining comet that was in our lives for too short of a time and to expect any trio to duplicate their performance is preposterous. So let’s not even do it. Try and go through the season without thinking, “Well, the current third line isn’t anywhere near as good as the Gourde line.” It’ll only lead to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Or so a green CGI puppet once said.
It’ll be a team effort that replaces their production. The second line will have to play a little better as will the fourth line. The first line is good, they just need to do what they do. Whichever players end up on the third line, just need to do their job, be who they are, and not try and be Yanni, Barclay, or Blake.
Speaking of lines, we got a possible taste of what the coaching staff may be thinking for the regular season.
Here are line combinations from the two main groups at #GoBolts #TBLightning opening day of training camp— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) September 23, 2021
If we weed through this we can assume:
First line: Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Second line: Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Third line: Mathieu Joseph - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Fourth line: any combination of the names not mentioned
For the record, Patrick Maroon was out with a non-COVID related illness.
Is it too early to determine these are indeed the opening day lines for Coach Cooper? Of course it is. There are many practices and preseason games left to determine how the pieces (outside of the top line line) might be arranged. The third line during practice on day one is intriguing, though. You have the wily, net front pest Perry on a line with the speedy Joseph and the reliable Colton. It doesn’t appear to be a traditional shutdown line, but could be an aggressive forechecking line that keeps the play in the other teams zone just by wearing them out.
One thing I would be personally interested in would be if the staff moves Cirelli down to center that line while shifting Stamkos back to his traditional role as a center on the second line. That would also free up space for a young forward whose inclination might have more of an offensive inclination to crack the second line (looking at you Alex Barré-Boulet).
This is literally what training camp is for. Compared to last year when everything was hyper-rushed and pretty much figured out, there are some legit questions that need to be answered by the back-to-back champs. Hopefully, some of these rookies take notice and force the coaches to test out a bunch if different line combinations.
Lightning / NHL News
It was 29 years ago (yesterday) that Manon Rheaume made front page news (Tampa Tribune headline “Tending to Business”) by appearing in a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues. She made 7 saves on 9 shots allowing goals to Jeff Brown (acknowledged by everyone involved as a “soft” goal) and Brendan Shanahan (a blistering one-timer that no one was stopping). Was it a publicity stunt from Phil Esposito to get people to pay attention to an expansion team? Yes. Did Rheaume take advantage of it and perform better than people expected? She sure did.
“When Manon came in, she could actually play. She wasn’t just a fill-in. I think we had six goalies that year, and she was probably in the top three.” —Terry Crisp
"Dear Manon... I wish to extend to you a formal invitation to attend and participate in the Tampa Bay Lightning's first NHL Training Camp." @ManonRheaume turned this invitation into history.— NHL (@NHL) September 23, 2021
29 years ago today, she played goalie for the @TBLightning in a preseason game. pic.twitter.com/l7vOlVDvA9
Yesterday was also the one-year anniversary of one of the top moments in Lightning fourth-line history.
Thanks for the reminder Matt. Can’t believe it was only a year ago … the bench reaction still gives me chills . https://t.co/NZFgUle9N5— Steven Stamkos (@RealStamkos91) September 23, 2021
Hugo Alenfelt kicks off the final ten spots of our Top 25 Under 25. [Raw Charge]
As Bryan Burns points out, a lot of focus has been on the players the Lightning lost in the offseason. Why not pay attention to those who they still have, right? That and other observations from the first day of training camp. [NHL.com]
Protect Vasy at all costs. That seems to be the motto for the year, and the reason for bringing in Brian Elliott. “As long as we have 88 between the pipes, we’re in good shape.” Preach on, Alex Killorn. [Tampa Bay Times]
Tod Leiweke has his fingerprints all over the Lightning’s Stanley Cup roster as he served as the team’s CEO when the core of the team was formed (he left the organization following the 2015 loss to the Chicago hockey team). Now he’s hoping to incorporate some of what he learned during his time in Champa Bay into building the Seattle Kraken. [The Spokesman-Review]
In the least shocking news of the summer (wait, we’re officially in fall? how did that happen?) Jack Eichel failed his physical upon the opening of training camp in Buffalo. Less than shocking considering the entire rift between the elite center and the team has centered around treatment of his neck injury. Adding insult to literal injury, the team stripped him of his captaincy. [Die by the Blade]
Already looking at opening the season (against the Lightning!) without Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be without his longtime running mate, Evgeni Malkin. The high-scoring forward is recovering from knee surgery and will be out about two months. [Pennsburgh]
Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts is now 32 Thoughts and he actually has some Lightning thoughts. Apparently, the fire still burns for the Bolts to win another Cup and one of the reasons is so that they can shut up people belittling their championships due to the reduced crowds (and bubbles) caused by COVID protocols. [SportsNet]
SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!! The NHL is expecting (hoping) that 30 of their 32 franchises can be approved for 100% occupancy in the upcoming season. Restrictions currently in place are restricting Montreal (33%) and Vancouver (estimated 50%), but it’s fair game for all the other franchises. For a league that is desperate for hockey-related revenue, ticket sales are are the prime source for that much-needed cash. Good luck. [ESPN NHL]