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With Nikita Kucherov and some depth, could Tampa Bay Lightning go deep?

Nikita Kucherov is doing his best Andrei Vasilevskiy impersonation by stealing games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. His league-leading 102 points are a country mile greater than the six players who generally comprise the Lightning’s bottom two lines’ 64 points total.  

The lack of bottom-six forward depth is no secret. Comparisons to the line that won the 2021 Stanley Cup are made locally and nationally. Like Yoko Ono, salary cap casualties broke up the line of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde, and Barclay Goodrow.

Statistically, how does this 2021 line compare to today? The Gourde line contributed 87 points during a shortened 56-game season that was delayed due to Covid. This year’s third and fourth lines have combined to contribute 64 points through 58 games.

This doesn’t consider some other players with a few points that have only played a few games.  Due to line juggling, the specific lines played are blurred. For this article, the players considered are the following:

 Mikey Eyssimont                           16 points       58 games played

Tyler Motte                                     7 points         48 games played

Alex Barre-Boulet (waived)          9 points         36 games played

Luke Glendening                            10 points        59 games played

Tanner Jeannot                               12 points        42 games played

Conor Sheary                                 10 points       41 games played

                                                Total 64 points       

Of course, they are not expected to put up big numbers. But, to win in the playoffs, one of the ways to go deep is, well, depth.

At this writing, the Lightning have played 60 games compared to the 56 games from the 2021 comparison. In 2021, the team placed third in its temporary (Covid-related) division and earned 75 points. This was with Kucherov missing the entire regular season due to hip surgery.

To date this season, the Lightning has 69 points and sits in the second Wild Card position, with teams breathing down its neck all having played fewer games.

Which brings us to an important question, how much has Kucherov’s dominance this season masked the huge disparity between the depth of the past and the current salary cap-strained depth? It’s safe to say the playoffs would not be in the current picture.

Kuch was shut down during the recent Ottawa game. During the playoffs, a rival just has to make adjustments over the series to shut down the dynamic Kucherov. Sure, it would allow opportunities for the other top players, but Kuch is the playmaker and parity in the playoffs is huge. You just need an edge.

March 8 is the trade deadline. With Sergachev’s LTIR salary cap relief, please, Julian Brisebois, would you find us a Yanni-esque rental? And, if you can swing it, please sir, may we also have another (defenseman)?

With some depth, we have a better chance to go deep.

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  1. In case anyone’s keeping track, the number of points and games played are off slightly at the beginning of the article because I wrote it before the weekend’s back-to-back games and Erik was kind enough to update the rest of it!

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