How does a team survive when their star player is out for an extended period? Better question is how does a team have a secure hold on a playoff spot during that same time?
It may be a bit of a cliché but when adversity strikes teams can do one of two things. They battle hard and end up not overcoming the loss of a player like Steven Stamkos or they can do what the Lightning has done so far.
One of the biggest reasons, if not the reason, is the Bolts’ secondary scoring. They have eight players with ten or more goals so far, the most by any NHL team. That’s astonishing considering how many rookies the team has on the roster this year.
The Lightning have, in years past, depended on the combo of 91 to 26 for much of the scoring and have been considered a “top heavy” team that depends on the top line a little too much for scoring.
However, with Stamkos out, the goals were going to have to come from somewhere and Coach Jon Cooper must be thrilled to see eight different guys hit double digits, not to mention the guys such as Nikita Kucherov who haven’t hit double-digit goals yet.
With this good news comes the realization that this trend, which has been this year’s success story, needs to continue.
Just because Stamkos returns to the lineup, doesn’t mean these other guys should stop doing what they are doing. The team is supposed to get even better with Stamkos back but that will only happen if the current group keeps doing what they are doing.
In the regular season, one player like Stamkos, Sidney Crosby or even Alex Ovechkin can change a game. When the playoffs start though, teams will hound those players and their respective lines with their best defensive pairing so scoring is at a premium. It’s going to have to come from the other lines if the team is going to make a deep run. This should come easy in April, as the Bolts have spent most of this season learning how to do score from different players every night.
The hard part is to keep up the secondary scoring ways when Stamkos returns because if they do, this team will go from being a pleasant surprise to a juggernaut.