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The First Five: Positives and Negatives From the Lightning's Start

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By Michael Wax

The Lighting are through five games of their 2021-22 season, and results have been… mixed. they have yet to hold a lead at any point through the five games, and they've lost more games than they won. however, there have been some positive takeaways from this brief season, even with some question marks that have yet to be answered. Let's look at the positives and negatives from the first five games of the Bolt’s 2021-22 season.

Positive: Penalty Kill

When the Lightning lost their entire third line during the 2021 offseason, many people questioned whether they would be able to make up for the penalty killing of Goodrow, Gourde, and Coleman. so far, the penalty killers have lived up to, and perhaps exceeded expectations. Pierre-Édouard Bellemare and Mathieu Joseph have taken over the top penalty-killing unit forward Tampa, and I've done a rock-solid job of limiting chances. Bellemare’s technical style, coupled with Joseph's blazing speed, has even led to scoring chances on the shorthanded side of things. If Joseph can start capitalizing on some of his breakaway opportunities on the penalty kill, this duo can be one of the most dangerous penalty units in the league. Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli have done their part as a solid duo on the second unit, but it's been the addition of Bellemare and the unanticipated development of Joseph that has been the biggest positive surprise in this young season.

Negative: The Penalties

Stay out of the box. Just stay out of it.

Jon Cooper’s teams have always been known to take a ton of penalties and receive a ton of power plays. last season they were the most penalized team in the entire league. Part of the reason that didn't matter was because of the rock-solid penalty-killing unit that the Lightning had, And the fact that these penalty killers never seem to run out of energy. however, when your top penalty-killing unit has a 36-year-old center and an inexperienced winger, it would be beneficial to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible so that they stay fresh throughout the season. Once again, Tampa is in the top half of the league in penalty minutes, putting more of a strain on the penalty killers to do their jobs and not allowing the plethora of talent that the Lightning have to shine at even strength.

Positive: The Rookies

The kids are alright, it would seem. With all the offseason losses, it was apparent that at least one rookie would get the opportunity to prove their talent this year. Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk earned their way to the main club with solid training camps, and early returns have been positive. Though neither has gotten their 1st NHL point yet, their ability to drive play on the 4th line has been impressive. Part of that credit should go to the vet, Bellemare, for being a fantastic 4th line center, but Raddysh and Katchouk have held their weight as well. you would like to see Raddysh stay out of the box, but that’s been the only negative for either player thus far. With Alex Barré-Boulet rejoining the club through waivers, the competition for those precious forward spots should be a fascinating watch.

Negative: Mikhail Sergachev

I am trying to be patient with individual players, especially this early in the season. However, Sergachev’s play over the first two weeks has left a lot to be desired. Even if Sergachev is labeled as a 3rd pair defender, he is averaging over 23 minutes a night, the most of any point throughout his career. +/- is not a be-all-end-all stat but being a -7 after only five games is not ideal, to be sure. Sergachev has had some egregious turnovers as well, some that have even led to penalties in order to negate scoring chances. The thing is, we know the talent is there; we’ve seen it. The problem is the critical thinking currently isn’t there for Sergachev.

Negative: The Power Play

“Process Over Outcome” was the quote that we heard repeatedly from head coach Jon Cooper during last year’s Cup run. In this little stretch of games, especially in the games without Kucherov, the power play is displaying neither a fluid process nor any outcome. The Lightning are currently 0/10 on the power play without Kucherov, many of their opportunities failing to set up properly in the offensive zone. Kucherov was a vital part of the power play, no questions asked, but the man advantage needs to start clicking for the Lightning to open games up more.

Positive: El Capitán

I put two negatives in a row because I wanted to end on a positive: Steven Stamkos rocks. After two long playoff runs where he was dealing with significant injuries, the captain has looked the best that he has in years in his skating and mobility. His nine points are tied for fourth in the entire NHL, and he's managed to put up multi-point games in four of the five contests so far. His two power-play goals in that OT thriller versus Detroit recaptured some of the power play magic but he displayed during the 2021 playoffs, while his five-on-five play has taken a major step forward, even after being shuffled around the top six after the Kucherov injury. Stamkos’ latest multi-point game, the shootout loss to Colorado, we saw him do something he hasn’t in quite a while: score a net-front goal. If Stamkos is willing to go into the greasy areas to score more goals and set an example for the new guys on the team, we might be in store for a prime Steven Stamkos year in 2021-22.

Let us know what you think some of the positives and negatives from this season are in the comments below.

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