Tampa Bay Lightning needs much more from their top line

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning is in desperate need of more from their top line as they forge through their Round 2 series against the Boston Bruins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning got off to a rather rough start in Round 2 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After dropping Game 1 of the series 6-2 at the Amalie Arena here in Tampa, the Lightning went on to swing momentum the other direction by defeating the Bruins 4-2 in Game 2.

Now, the series is headed back to one of the most difficult buildings in the NHL to play in, the TD Garden in Boston, for Games 3 and 4. For the most part, the Lightning has been able to work together as a cohesive unit over the course of the postseason, but lately, something has been missing.

If the Tampa Bay Lightning wants to remain successful and forge their way past the Boston Bruins and on to the Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning’s top line absolutely must come out of hiding and make an impact. There is simply no two ways about it.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Since the start of the series against the Bruins, not one member of the Lightning’s top line has made their way to the scoresheet. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, not one.

This means not so much as an assist from Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, leading point-scorer Nikita Kucherov, or forward J.T. Miller.

In fact, the last time any of these three players have made their way to the scoresheet was in Game 5 against the New Jersey Devils, a game in which the Lightning won 4-1 to advance to the next round.

Stamkos picked up an assist on a goal from Kucherov in the second period of the game. Miller picked up a goal and two assists in Game 4 just a few nights prior.

On the other side of the ice, the Bruins top line has been lighting things up; especially when it comes to the Bolts. Pastrnak picked up four assists in the Bruins victory over the Bolts in Game 1 followed by an assist in Game 2 for a total of five points thus far. Bergeron netted two goals and an assist in Game 1 followed by an assist in Game 2 for a matching total of four points.

This means the Bruins top line has produced eight points in this second round series between the Bolts and the Bruins compared to the Lightning’s top line total of zero. Considering the amount of talent and sheer scoring power contained in the Lightning’s top line, this is simply unacceptable.

Things are not going to get any easier as the series shifts to Boston. Not only are Boston fans some of the most opinionated fans in the league, but the players feed off the emotion of the crowd and have a history of turning this into spectacular victories. The Lightning will have to match this intensity if they want to keep momentum on their side and hold strong until the series returns to Tampa.

Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper is certain his top line will make an impact in this series.

Steven Stamkos was quick to hold himself and his line accountable for their lack of production. He makes no excuses when he says they have to be better.

“I think most of the time when you’re not producing, it’s more on you,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, they’ve got some really good defenders over there, but just execution a little bit for us just hasn’t been there.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning has a tough path in front of them. The Bolts haven’t exactly had the best of luck when it came to meetings with the Boston Bruins this season, winning only their last regular season meeting with the Bruins. Fortunately, all bets are off when it comes to the playoffs.

The Lightning knows what they need to do in order to be successful. Other than a few hiccups along the way, the Bolts accomplished this in Game 2. The Lightning simply needs to stick to their system, play their brand of hockey, and quickly get inside the heads of the Bruins.

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has been shaky over the course of the postseason and can easily be driven to the edge if rocked at an early point in the game. The Bolts need to come out hard and fast in the first period and keep the pressure on for an entire 60 minutes of hockey if they want to break Rask down.

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The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 p.m. from the TD Garden in Boston. If you are one of the many people here in the Bolts Nation unable to make it to Beantown tonight, you can catch all of the action on the NBC Sports Network. As this is ideally not everyone’s first choice, you can always tune into Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito as they bring you the call on 970WFLA and on the TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio.