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Lightning Round: Raw Charge’s Stars of the Week

It was a solid week for the Lightning thanks to these folks

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NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the week with a 2-1 record, scoring 11 goals while giving up just 7. After starting the week with a disappointing loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Bolts rolled out convincing wins against the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. They are now 4-1 in December and have moved within 8 points of the division-leading Boston Bruins.

The Ian Cole/Erik Cernak Pairing

3 GP, 0 Goals, 2 Assists, 38:48 of ice time together, 68.09% Scoring Chances For (5v5)

Have the Lightning finally found their defensive pairings? It seems they might have, for the most part. Nick Perbix has moved up to join Victor Hedman while Cal Foote has skated with Mikhail Sergachev over the last two games. That has left the veteran duo of Ian Cole and Erik Cernak paired together and they have done quite well.

Over the last three games they have led all pairings at 5v5 ice time with 38:48 minutes. In that time they were not on the ice for a goal against while the Lightning scored 4 times. More importantly, they only allowed 6 high-danger chances against and just 31 unblocked shot attempts against.

It will be interesting to see if Coach Cooper keeps them together and starts deploying them against some of the opponent’s top lines moving forward. Their strong play together pretty much allows him to balance out the ice time of all three pairings. Last week this pairing averaged 12:55 of 5v5 ice time while Sergy and Foote were at 13:00 and the Hedman/Perbix duo played an average of 11:36.

Cernak and Cole also played quite a bit together shorthanded (5:22 of ice time) without allowing a goal. That means Coach Cooper doesn’t have to mix and match his pairings quite so much following a penalty kill and allows some cohesion throughout the game.

Anthony Cirelli

3 GP, 0 Goals, 2 Assists, 20 iCF, 2.06 iXG, 51.52% Face-Off %

What a welcome site Cirelli has been for Lightning fans. He’s solidified the third line and given Coach Cooper another center that can take important face-offs and win them. While he didn’t find the back of the net last week, Cirelli did lead the team in expected goals and individual high-danger shot attempts. He was also on the ice for four goals for while only seeing two goals go into the Lightning net during his ice time.

Brayden Point

3 GP, 4 Goals, 0 Assists, 21 iCF, 1.61 iXG, 50:52 ice time

Look out NHL, Brayden Point is heating up. Yeah, that’s probably weird to say about someone averaging more than a point a game on the season, but he has kind of been playing second (or third) fiddle to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov so far this season.

Still, he is the lynch pin for the top line and the power play. Kucherov may be the playmaker, but Point provides the speed that creates the space for Kuch to work his magic. He scored in all three games last week after scoring in just two games over his previous twelve.

If he continues to score consistently, it’s just one more player that opposing goaltenders have to worry about.

Lightning / NHL News:

First Lightning players had key side gig as hockey ambassadors [Tampa Bay Times]

How do you sell hockey to a fan base that may not have known much about it? Cheap tickets and plenty of interactions with the players.

Brayden Point to meet fans at toy drive [NHL.com]

Speaking of hanging out with fans, Brayden Point is going to be at the Westshore Blue Center today from 5:30 to 6:30 today. Point will be autographing items and taking photos in exchange for a holiday toy donation.

Vasy never really left, but he’s definitely back [Lightning Insider]

“That’s a vintage Vasy game where he made some unbelievable saves,’’ captain Steven Stamkos said. “It might not be the story of that game because it ended 4-1, but we know in this room that was a big reason why we won.’’

Don’t forget - EE is running a promotion for Raw Charge readers. If you haven’t signed up for Lightning Insider yet, do it today and use promo code “Raw Charge” for 35% off your first year. Offer is valid through December 26th. That’s Boxing Day!

Syracuse Speaks: Walcott has what the Lightning value [Podcasts everywhere]

Blog Auntie Alex is back with another episode of Syracuse Speaks. She chats with the guru of the AHL Patrick Williams.

What Sammy Walker’s debut could mean for the Wild [The Athletic]

Sammy Walker had a decision to make. He could sign an AHL deal with the Lightning, the team that drafted him, or he could bet on himself in free agency. He chose the latter option.

‘He’s incredible’: Bedard is turning heads at Canada’s WJC camp [CBC]

The Connor Bedard Invitational Tournament, aka the World Juniors, is still a couple of weeks away, but training camps have started. The 17-year-old presumptive number one pick in the next NHL draft is taking a break from an outstanding WHL season to represent his country at this year’s tournament featuring the best under-20 players in the world.

Eeli Tolvanen placed on waivers [On the Forecheck]

A strong defensive player that hasn’t been put in the best offensive positions is on waivers. He also has a reasonable contract and will still be a RFA after this season. Yeah, there is a really good chance someone claims him today.

NHL Best and Worst of the Week [Yahoo.com]

Nikita Kucherov made it on the list, sadly it wasn’t for one of his goals.

Jaromir Jagr is never getting into the Hall of Fame. Simply because he is never going to stop playing professional hockey.