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Breaking down Tampa Bay’s offense: Forwards and power play

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the most balanced teams in the league, bad at nothing and good at everything, and that’s one of the main reasons why they are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Let’s take a look at how their offense stacks up.

Carolina Hurricanes v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning boast one of the best forward groups in the entire league and it’s virtually the same exact group they had when they won the cup last season.

It has talent, speed, grit, size and nastiness and it’s arguably one of the hardest groups to try and match up with due to its depth of talent.

The Carolina Hurricanes will have their hands full trying to contain not only the Bolts’ lethal top line but the rest of the talent laden lineup too.

TOP LINE

Line 1

Player Ondrej Palat Brayden Point Nikita Kucherov
Player Ondrej Palat Brayden Point Nikita Kucherov
Rg. Season 15-31-46 23-25-48 /-/-/
Playoffs 2-1-3 4-2-6 3-8-11

One of the best in the NHL, the Lightning’s top line contains two of the league’s best offensive players: Brayden Point, who is arguably a top10 center but just for some reason hasn’t gotten nearly the level of respect he deserves and Nikita Kucherov, the former 100+ point Hart trophy winner who seems to be perfectly healthy and ready to score even more goals after being the primary dismantler of the Florida Panthers.

To top it off, you have Palat who has great chemistry with both of the other guys and is constantly a stealthy threat as most teams focus on the two bigger targets, which leaves Palat open to do his own damage.

The line is fast, able to steal pucks and initiate an odd-man rush quickly and has the top tier talent to set up ridiculous passing plays and shots.

The Canes will try to match up Jaccob Slavin against them whenever they can and will then try to utilize Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei to help contain them as well and will hope and pray that they can keep the third pair away from them.

LINE 2

Line 2

Player Alex Killorn Anthony Cirelli Steven Stamkos
Player Alex Killorn Anthony Cirelli Steven Stamkos
Rg. Season 15-18-33 9-13-22 17-17-34
Playoffs 4-4-8 2-2-4 3-5-8

The Tampa Bay second line is a mashup of different talents that also works well as a secondary shutdown line centered by Anthony Cirelli, who at multiple points has collected quite a few Selke votes here and there.

His offensive production dipped a bit this year, but he is still a solid two-way player who the Canes have to be aware of.

Alex Killorn is a physical player that easily agitates opponents and also is a very steady producer who gets top power play time.

He isn’t a great play driver, but he always finds a way to make an impact on games.

And then there is Steven Stamkos. Injuries have taken their toll on him as he is not quite the player he once was, but he can still rip a puck. “Stammer” is still one of the best shooters in the NHL and while he may no longer be at his peak, that part of his game is still elite.

LINE 3

Line 3

Player Blake Coleman Yanni Gourde Barclay Goodrow
Player Blake Coleman Yanni Gourde Barclay Goodrow
Rg. Season 14-17-31 17-19-36 6-14-20
Playoffs 1-2-3 2-1-3 1-0-1

Arguably Tampa’s second most effective line, this is their grind you down and make you pissed off line. All three love to throw the body and will do everything they can to get under the opponent’s skin, especially Yanni Gourde but his effectiveness at that may be questionable for this series…

Jokes aside, even though this is a physical, energy line the Canes have to keep in mind that the line is very productive as most Tampa lines are. They are great off the rush and make opponents pay most every time they turn over the puck while they are out on the ice.

Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow were two of the best depth additions at last year’s deadline and especially with each having an additional year of term. The two add a lot to the defensive ability of Tampa Bay and make them a much tougher team overall.

LINE 4

Line 4

Player Patrick Maroon Tyler Johnson Ross Colton
Player Patrick Maroon Tyler Johnson Ross Colton
Rg. Season 4-14-18 8-14-22 9-3-12
Playoffs 1-0-1 0-1-1 2-0-2

Lastly, Tampa’s fourth line stacks up a lot better than most other teams.

At this point, everyone knows what Patrick Maroon is. He is an antagonizer who can crush someone along the boards and is great at drawing penalties with his antics. He also goes to the net and loves to jam away for greasy goals.

Tyler Johnson has seen a steady decline in production for a few years now, but his last series against the Panthers showed a rejuvenated player, plus he always scores against the Hurricanes.

Ross Colton rounds out the line as yet another promising player that Tampa has developed and he really carved out a role for himself this season playing up and down the lineup due to his strong play and shooting ability.


The Carolina Hurricanes’ defense has their work cut out for them in this series. Ideally, the Canes will want to match up either Slavin or Pesce and Skjei against Tampa’s top line and avoid them seeing the third pair at all.

The third pair of Jani Hakanpaa and Jake Bean struggled against the top line of Nashville and the Bolts are just better in all regards.

It will be an all hands on deck series for the Carolina defense and they will need to dig deep and return to the high level form that they are known for.


Power Play

PP1

Victor Hedman - Point - Killorn - Stamkos - Kucherov

PP2

Mikhail Sergachev - Johnson - Palat - Cirelli - Gourde


Now that Kucherov is healthy, it’s fair to say that the Lightning may have the best power play in the league. And it isn’t particularly close.

You have a Norris winner, a Hart winner and a two-time Rocket Richard winner running the perimeter of the power play and then you put Point to run the middle and it doesn’t even matter at that point who’s the net-front presence.

So it’s a classic case of pick your poison. Both Stamkos and Kucherov can absolutely obliterate a puck from either circle, Headman can activate in close and walk the line, Point is a wizard with the puck and Killorn can just jam away in front.

But the real threat of Tampa’s top unit is their fluidity. Not only are they dangerous in their “spots” but the whole unit is able to shift positions to move defenders way out of sorts and lose assignments.

On top of all that, the speed that the Lightning move the puck on the power play leaves most teams with whiplash just trying to keep up.

Carolina boasts one of the league’s top penalty kills and it will have its hands full trying to tame the Bolts power play. The usual aggressiveness of the kill can actually hurt them due to the chemistry of the top unit. The Canes will have to be way smarter with reads and coverage, but the number one thing they can do is try extra hard to stay out of the box.