Tampa Bay Lightning Must Find Consistency From Their Fourth Line

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A part of the rationale why the Tampa Bay Lightning received the 2020 Stanley Cup was because of the steadiness of their ahead corps. Each participant of their line-up had a task to play, and every line had a objective whereas they the place on the ice.

Their first line was that offensive risk, pumping out scoring manufacturing whereas doing their greatest to attract penalties for a deadly powerplay. The second line was a bit extra situational, and whereas they didn’t rating as typically, they performed an vital two-way recreation that might flip a defensive-zone draw into offensive stress straight away. The third line was, arguably, the crew’s greatest all through the postseason, offering a relentless burst of power, drive, and grit that might throw even their hardest opponents off their recreation.

Lastly, the fourth line added that good contact of dimension and grit. Led by Pat Maroon and Cedric Paquette, this unit didn’t play a ton every night time, however they offered a match-up nightmare for head coach Jon Cooper to take advantage of. Relying on who was beginning, they may very well be a heavy drive that introduced hits and grit to the ice, or they may rotate in a extra offensive participant that gave a little bit of scoring chunk to the line-up.

The Tampa Bay Lightning received the 2020 Stanley Cup by using a balanced ahead corps that featured offensive upside and defensive power. (Photograph by Bruce Bennett/Getty Photographs)

By way of the primary 5 video games of the 2021 Playoffs, Tampa Bay’s high three traces appeared principally the identical as they did in 2020. Positive, just a few of the names modified as gamers rotated out and in on account of damage, however they have been taking part in an identical function now as they did again within the bubble. The fourth line, nevertheless, was experiencing a little bit of an id disaster.

Lightning’s Fourth Line Lacked a Function

All through the 2020-21 common season, the Lightning’s fourth line performed extra of an offensively targeted function, with younger names like Mitchell Stephens, Mathieu Joseph, Alexander Volkov, and Ross Colton taking turns taking part in alongside Maroon. These gamers introduced power and offensive hazard to this line, as they may velocity up and down the ice whereas utilizing Maroon as a net-front presence to distract the opposing goaltender.

Within the playoffs, nevertheless, the fourth was largely in a state of flux, as head coach Jon Cooper was using seven defensemen or placing Joseph in as an offensive choice. This, together with Tyler Johnson being despatched to the underside six after he struggled to seek out his place within the Lightning’s lineup this season, gave them no actual id.

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You couldn’t name it a scoring line, as neither Maroon, Joseph, or Johnson scored a degree within the first 5 video games. It wasn’t a line of defense, because the trio mixed to publish a team-worst minus-9 in simply 9 minutes of ice time every recreation. Lastly, it definitely wasn’t a tricky, hitting line, as all three gamers had simply common hitting numbers when in comparison with the remainder of the crew.

To place it merely, the fourth line was invisible via 5 video games, contributing little on the ice apart from just a few face-off wins.

Lightning Could Have Discovered an Reply With Colton

In Recreation 6, nevertheless, one thing modified on the Lightning’s fourth line. With the return of Barclay Goodrow, Cooper was capable of shift Colton and his high-energy fashion all the way down to play alongside Maroon and Johnson.

Virtually instantly this transfer noticed success, as Maroon opened the scoring with an help from Johnson. By the top of the night time, the road was a plus-3, with two factors and 4 hits to their title. Whereas their taking part in time was nonetheless comparatively low, they have been noticeable for optimistic causes for the primary time within the collection.

Ross Colton Tampa Bay Lightning
As a breakout rookie for the Lightning within the common season, Ross Colton may very well be a key determine of their bottom-six all through the 2021 Playoffs. (Photograph by Scott Audette /NHLI by way of Getty Photographs)

One good recreation is just not sufficient to imagine that every part is fastened on the fourth line, after all. Nevertheless, if Cooper can get the identical type of play from Colton, Maroon, and Johnson in Recreation 1 of the second spherical, it’ll go an extended solution to serving to the Lightning overcome the Carolina Hurricanes.

That line appeared powerful to play in opposition to, even in a restricted function. And when it involves the playoffs, you by no means know who will act as a hero that night time and rating the sport or perhaps a series-winning objective.



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