Playoffs: 5 Keys to a Tampa Bay Lightning Threepeat and First-Round Predicitions

Jul 7, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) looks on during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens in game five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 7, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) looks on during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens in game five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning will begin this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. At stake for the two-time defending champions is the opportunity to become the first team in the salary cap era to threepeat and the first since the 1980’s New York Islanders to pull off this historic feat.

Different seasons mean new challenges and different solutions needed to solve them. Here are the five keys the Lightning will need on their quest for the threepeat.

5 Keys to the Tampa Bay Lightning Threepeating

1. Either Point or Stamkos Need to Assert Themselves as the #1 Center

For whatever reason the Lightning have not been able to rekindle the magic of the Palat-Point-Kucherov line, that had been dominant as the Lightning’s top playoff line the previous two postseasons, this season.

As of recent, Steven Stamkos has been plugged in-between the two remaining “Triplet” forwards and rocketed off to 33 points in April on his way to setting career highs in assists (64) and total points in a season (106).

While Brayden Point has not been bad, he certainly hasn’t looked to be playing at his full potential. There are potential injury concerns though as Jon Cooper did mention that in receiving the odd game off down the stretch that Point is dealing with something. However, it will be hard to write Point off as he’s consistently found another gear in each of the last two postseasons.

Regardless, one of the two will need to lead the team down the middle to maximize the full offensive potential of both Kucherov and Palat.

2. Kucherov Needs to Lead the Team Offensively

You can have the best defense and goaltending, but if you do not score goals, then you will not win games. And that is where it becomes vital that Nikita Kucherov leads the team in playoff scoring like he did in 2020 and 2021 at rates of 1.36pts/game and1.39pts/game, respectively.

The difference in winning close playoff games will often come down to who performs on special teams, and with most of the best penalty kill groups being in the playoffs the Bolts will need their top playmaker to be surgically precise with the puck on his stick. Look back to last season’s first-round matchup against the Florida Panthers where the Lightning converted on 8 of their 20 power play opportunities for an impressive 40% success rate. 7 of the 8 goals involved Kucherov either scoring the goal or assisting on it.

When Kucherov is on his game there are seldom few better than him with the puck on their stick. Should Kucherov score around the same rate as he did the previous two years, the Lightning will be forcing opponents to raise their own games or lose, i.e., no easy wins for the opposition.

3. Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul Need to Perform

Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul do not need to form a reincarnation of the Yanni Gourde “Gourdrowman” line that was tasked with setting the tone in games against the opposing team’s top lines the previous two playoffs, but they will need to chip in many of the same ways Gourde, Goodrow, and Coleman did.

One role that Paul and Hagel have both excelled at since arriving in Tampa is being on the penalty kill. Both have immediately become trusted options for coaching staff to roll out onto the ice, and when games are often decided by one goal, the difference between the penalty kill preventing one extra goal against per game could make all the difference.

Offensively, Paul has found instant success with the Lightning since arriving from Ottawa improving his scoring rate from .31pts/game to .67pts/game. Hagel on the other hand has seen the opposite as his .67pts/game with Chicago has declined to .32pts/game with the Lightning. If both players could perform around the .50pts/game mark in the playoffs, then that would give the Lightning considerable middle of the lineup scoring ability alongside already established middle-six playoff performers, e.g., Cirelli, Killorn, etc.

4. Playoff Corey Perry Needs to Show Himself

When the Lightning courted Corey Perry in free agency and signed him to his current 2-year contract over the offseason it was partially thanks to the lasting impression he left on the Lightning’s players, coaches, and management after lining up opposite of the Lightning for the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens in the previous two respective Stanley Cup Finals.

Whenever his team needed a timely goal or someone getting under the Bolts’ skin there was always Corey Perry coming through for them. Now that he is a Bolt, the expectation is that he will fulfill that same role for us.

5. Vasilevskiy Needs to Have a Conn Smythe Caliber Performance

How good is Andrei Vasilevskiy? How many other goalies could win 39 games in a season with a .916 SV% and be considered underperforming by some?

While the underperforming remark is not necessarily true, there have been games down the stretch where Vasilevskiy has looked more vulnerable than Lightning fans have grown accustomed to over recent seasons. Thankfully, Vasilevskiy has a proven track record stepping up his game in the postseason.

In the 2020 and 2021 Playoffs Vasilevskiy posted a GAA of 1.90 in both and save percentages of 0.927 and 0.930, respectively. The Lightning will need more of the same from the 2021 Conn Smythe winner if they are to complete the first ever threepeat in the salary cap era.

First-round Predictions from Bolts By The Bay Writers

Noah: Lightning in 7

Stephen: Lightning in 7

Henry: Lightning in 5

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