(Photo via NHL.com)
By Michael Wax
Well, that was much better. After a rough first five games, the Lightning rebounded in a big way over their next five games, going (3-1-1). Yes, that one regulation loss was against the Buffalo Sabres, but they rebounded nicely with a four-game point streak. Once again, there were good things and bad things from the past five games, some of which are carryovers from the first five, but some of these are brand new.
Positive: Welcome Back, Barré-Boulet
When the Lightning lost Alex Barré-Boulet on waivers on October 11, I thought the Lightning were making a massive mistake. A good skater with a wicked shot and a phenomenal offensive IQ, Barré-Boulet was an ideal replacement in the lineup for Tyler Johnson. So, when the Lightning got him back less than two weeks later, I was thrilled. So far, he's been as advertised. While his defensive game hasn't been spectacular, that's not his role. ABB is driving play at an impressive rate, no matter what line he's on. The willingness for such a good shooter to go to the front of the net and tip shots has to be commended as well. ABB is starting to even get power play time, and his one-timer from the right side is the perfect replacement for Kucherov's missing skill on that power play. Welcome back kid, we missed ya.
Negative: Brian Elliott
Listen, this could just be one bad game. But sometimes it's not about the results, it's about how they get to the results. Brian Elliott had his first start in a Lightning uniform during that 5-1 loss to the Sabres, the only regulation loss of this five-game stretch.
Elliott's rebound control on the first goal was less than ideal, to say the least. Sergachev's brutal turnover on the 2nd goal cuts Elliott a bit of slack, especially since he had made some solid saves in that period. But oh man, that 3rd goal was rough. Facing a straight-on shot, Elliott started moving to the right even before the shooter fired the puck. The puck flew by his left-hand glove, a shot he would've stopped had he not started moving early.
The main reason that the Lightning brought in Elliott was to take some of the workload off of Vasilevskiy, who has played an inhuman amount of hockey these past two seasons. Through 10 games, Elliott has had one start. With the NHL going back to a full 82 game schedule this season, plus playoffs, plus the Olympics in February, Vasilevskiy is going to be playing even more hockey. If Elliott continues to struggle, the Lightning may have to rely on Vasilevskiy more than they'd like to, and that could prove to be disastrous.
One of my favorite accounts to follow on Twitter is the Lightning Game Bot. They do a great job of displaying game events and at the end of each game, they display advanced stats from the game, as well as game scores and which lines/pairs performed the best. Well, Erik Cernak has been the Lightning's most consistent defenseman so far, and one of their best (the best has been Ryan McDonagh, impressive considering the rocky start to his season,)
The beast from Slovakia is on pace to shatter his career highs in hits, blocks, and time on ice while continuing to add an offensive aspect to his game. His breakout passes have gotten better, and his willingness to take over shifts is even more impressive with McDonagh on his other side.
With the early signal injury to Zach Bogosian, the poor of Andrej Sustr, and the inexperience of Cal Foote, the Lightning needed someone on the right side of their defense to make a big impact. Cernak has done that, and he’s become quite the defensive leader.
Negative: Mikhail Sergachev
Alright, when I wrote about Sergachev during the last article, I mentioned that
"The critical thinking currently isn't there."
Five games later, we're still seeing the same out of Sergachev. His turnovers have not only been numerous, but they've also been costly. He's graded as the worst Lightning defenseman in several categories this season and hasn't helped out any of his partner's numbers either.
Now, we have to question Sergachev's discipline as well. His high hit against Mitch Marner in the most recent game against Toronto was reckless and unnecessary, and he'll be serving a two-game suspension for it, leaving an already injured Lightning defensive group even more shorthanded.
Sergachev has got to step it up.
Positive: That Harvard Dude
Alex Killorn is hot. Seven points in his last five games, and he's made Jon Cooper look like a genius for putting him on the top line with Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point. The Influencer has made life a lot easier for Point, whose scoring hasn't been up to its usual self recently. Even if you take away his scoring, Killorn has been incredibly versatile. His average ice time of 19:15 is the mark of his career, and his PK duo with Cirelli has been tasked with more responsibility this season after the departures of the Big 3 penalty killers (Goodrow, Coleman, Gourde). The only glaring negative is Killorn's inability to stay out of the box (Six minor penalties in 10 games), but everything else to heading in the right direction.
Is his 35% shooting percentage sustainable? Probably not. But he's doing all the right things, and he's getting rewarded for it.
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