On the one-year anniversary of their first back-to-back Stanley Cup Victories, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened their 2021-22 preseason on the road in Raleigh. After dispatching the Carolina Hurricanes in five games last postseason, the Lightning and Hurricanes showed little resemblance to the lineups they boasted back in June.
The preseason serves as a way to progressively reincorporate your NHL regulars into game action and help round out the fringes of the roster. This first contest of the preseason featured just four players seemingly locked into the Tampa Bay opening night lineup: Mathieu Joseph, Ross Colton, Mikhail Sergachev, and Jan Rutta. The Lightning fell 3-1 to the Hurricanes, who sent out more of their expected NHL regulars than Tampa Bay.
Let’s look at some takeaways from the Lightning’s defeat in their preseason debut.
1. Alex Barre-Boulet and Boris Katchouk connect on the scoresheet.
At the moment, it is looking like there is just one spot up for grabs in the Lightning opening night lineup. Barre-Boulet and Katchouk came into camp as two favorites to earn this final spot in the forward group. These two will get their chances among a handful of others for the right to dress opening night. In the second period, Katchouk set up Barre-Boulet for the only Lightning goal on the night. Barre-Boulet seemed to be the lead candidate for this spot coming into training camp, and his impressive trigger pull that found the back of the net will only help his case.
2. Simon Ryfors is a dark horse candidate for the Lightning roster.
Not lost in the shuffle in the lone Lightning goal, Simon Ryfors won a puck battle behind the net that led to Barre-Boulet’s goal. The 5’10 Swedish forward recorded an assist in his North American debut. At 24 years old, Ryfors is a non-traditional prospect brought over from Sweden via Free Agency. Victor Hedman played a prominent role in bringing Ryfors to the organization, and Ryfors will get a long look throughout the preseason. Whether as a depth piece in the NHL or likely a regular in the AHL, Ryfors will play a role in the organization this year.
3. Penalty Kill Struggles.
A weak spot at times in recent years, the Lightning penalty kill has been hot and cold. Carolina converted on each of their first two opportunities on the man advantage in the opening frame. While most of the expected lineup did not travel for this preseason opener, the penalty kill will be an essential aspect of their game the Lightning will need to pin down. Departures of crucial penalty killers Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman means that some new faces are out there trying to kill penalties, and the preseason will serve as an opportunity to test the waters.
4. Lagace strengthens as the night goes on.
After surrendering two powerplay goals in the first period of the contest, Maxime Lagace settled into the contest as the game went on. Lagace would make 29 saves on 32 shots on the night, including just a single goal in the final two periods. Lagace is the most likely candidate for the Lightning’s number three netminder. He appeared in just one NHL game last season with Pittsburgh, a shutout at the end of the regular season. With the tandem of Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliot all but set in stone, Lagace will likely serve as the starting puck stopper with AHL Syracuse.
5. Walcott gets an “A.”
All be it the most inconsequential takeaway, Daniel Walcott skating as an Alternate Captain to kick off the preseason establishes his importance in the organization. The AHL veteran has appeared in just one NHL contest so far in his career and is likely on the outside looking in at the opening Lightning roster. By getting to dress as an alternate captain in the preseason, shows how respected Walcott is within the organization. A popular teammate in the dressing room throughout his time in the AHL, Walcott should be expected to take on an increased leadership role with Syracuse and be one of the first called into action as needed at the NHL level.