Early 2013-14 Grades for Each Tampa Bay Lightning Line
Despite two losses to the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a solid start. Coach Jon Cooper seems to have figured out strong line combinations in the early part of the season, which has resulted in a 5-3 record.
Overlooking the completely poor performance against Boston on Oct. 19, the Lightning have competed in every game this year. That is a significant improvement from last year’s inconsistency.
While it’s just eight games in, the Lightning have played solid hockey. With minimal turnover on the roster so far this season, Cooper’s lines have found some solid chemistry.
Here is a grade for each of the Lightning’s lines so far this season.
The top line of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone is really going through the motions. Lightning fans have grown accustomed to the production and fireworks this line can provide on a nightly basis—and they haven’t been disappointed.
St. Louis and Stamkos have 10 points each and are currently tied for 10th in the league in that category. Malone is a bit of a secondary scorer on this line and more useful as a big body. He has chipped in with four points and is second on the team with 26 penalty minutes.
This line has produced exactly what they are expected to produce.
Teddy Purcell, Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn have been a solid second line for the Lightning. The line won’t get as much attention as the top line, but they can still be a dangerous group.
Filppula’s ability to create open space has benefitted Purcell and Killorn. Purcell’s eight points is third on the team, while Filppula and Killorn have chipped in with six (fourth on the team) each.
This line is a combined plus-eight with five power-play goals. If they maintain a similar pace it will be tough for defenses moving forward.
For being such a young line, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik have done a nice job of holding their own. The line has been broken up from time to time, but these three have an undeniable chemistry from their AHL days.
Johnson and Palat lead the line with four points each. Panik has added three points to the mix. Those aren’t bad numbers given the youth of the line.
There are some obvious weaknesses for this group. They could be attributed to growing pains in the NHL, but the Bolts should be willing to trade offensive production for defensive help.
This line was a combined minus-three against Boston on Oct. 19 and is also a combined minus-three for the year.
The physical line for the Lightning of Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen have been average this season. Production obviously isn’t important from the fourth line, but through eight games all three players have yet to record a point.
They have a combined 28 penalty minutes and are minus-four on the year. Those numbers need to improve if the Lightning want to climb through the Atlantic Division standings. Similar to the third line, the enforcers were a combined minus-three against Boston on Oct. 19 and didn’t help in the comeback effort.
Everyone knows the defensive pairs are more of a rotating carousel than distinct pairs. However, Matt Carle and Radko Gudas have logged a significant amount of ice time together.
Carle has produced well with five points in eight games. Gudas has one point, but is tied for fifth in the league in hits (34). Unfortunately, this pair hasn’t resulted in a lot of consistency.
Gudas is a physical player but he has put himself into some bad situations and drawn penalties at pivotal points in the game. He leads the team in penalty minutes (29), but has an even rating.
Carle is just plus-one through eight games. With the league’s ninth-best offense (3.12 goals per game), the defense should be better in the plus/minus department.
The top pair needs to buckle down.
Sami Salo and Victor Hedman combine for the second pair. Salo has been a surprise this season, logging over 20 minutes of ice time per game including a solid 3:20 on the power play.
Hedman has seen fewer minutes this year. He is just under 20 minutes per game (19:56), but that is a significant drop from the 22:39 he logged last season.
Salo has five points through seven games and has provided arguably the most complete game of any of the Lightning defensemen. His solid start has benefitted Ben Bishop in net.
Unfortunately, Hedman is off to a slow start this year and his minus-two rating isn’t helping. Hedman will need to pick up the slack soon.
Eric Brewer and Andrej Sustr have been fairly quiet this season. Both defensemen are averaging just over 16 minutes per game. Both have been used on the penalty kill sparingly as each of the top four defensemen seem to be more consistent.
Sustr has one assist and is plus-one, while Brewer has two points and is tied for the team lead at plus-six. The best part of Sustr’s game currently is that he is yet to take a penalty and put his team in a bad spot. That is important as the Lightning are currently 22nd in the league on the penalty kill (78.8 percent).
There could still be some shuffling of the pairings as the season progresses, but a 5-3 record is a good start to the year.