The opening month of the season has been a bit of a mix bag for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team has been great at home and struggled on the road but find themselves still in a playoff spot with 11 points through the first nine games. The up and down start has not been short of some very positive moments for the team with different pieces of their game trending in the right direction.
Opening Up with a Bang
Opening night for the Lightning against Nashville was maybe the most exciting all around game the Lightning have played this year. Nikita Kucherov got the season started the season with a big one-timer in the fist period and Brandon Hagel converted the first successful penalty shot for Tampa Bay since 2021.
One of the other high points on opening night was Nick Paul potting a pair of power play goals in the third period. Paul has stepped into the Lightning’s top power play unit and has been very effective in the first month. Paul has three power play goals through the first nine games and has seamlessly taken over Alex Killorn’s net-front spot on the power play.
Johansson Posts Back-to-Back Shutouts
Jonas Johansson was a large question mark for the Lightning coming into the season, especially with Andrei Vasilevskiy expected to miss the first quarter of the season. Johansson has exceeded all expectations and has been very strong while assuming the starting position. Johansson’s quality play was highlighted by posting two consecutive shutouts over Carolina and San Jose in which he stopped all 55 shots he faced.
Johansson’s stellar play at the end of the month earned him the NHL’s Second Star of the Week for the final full week of October. Johansson’s play has been even more impressive as he leads the NHL in shots faced. In his eight starts this season, Johansson has faced 282 shots, 53 more than the next closest goaltender.
Even when the Lightning have lost, not one of those losses could be pinned on the way Johansson has played in net. Tampa Bay could really not ask for more than that while they wait for Vasilevskiy to get healthy.
Hagel Comes up Clutch
In two games where the Lightning ultimately did not get all two points, they were able to salvage a point in both games thanks to a late tying goal from Brandon Hagel. Hagel tied the game up at two with seven seconds left in Buffalo on October 17th and tied up another game Monday night against Seattle with a little over five minutes remaining. Hagel’s tying goal in Buffalo was the most dramatic goal of the season for Tampa Bay as they finally cashed in with the empty net.
The Lightning would go on to lose both of these games in overtime and their OT woes as a team have been well documented. However, these were two important points collected and can be looked back on as big points in games where the Lightning definitely could have lost in regulation.
After Tyler Motte was injured in the first game of the season, the door opened for Alex Barre-Boulet. Barre-Boulet’s journey to becoming a regular in the Lightning lineup has been a long one. On this stint with Tampa Bay, Barre-Boulet has gotten the chance to skate on the top line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Barre-Boulet has taken advantage of the opportunity and scored his first goal of the season against Toronto on October 21st.
Since that goal, Barre-Boulet has added two more goals to go along with three assists. Barre-Boulet seems to be growing in confidence after being granted the opportunity to play with Tampa Bay’s best players after playing further down the lineup in previous years. Even once being taken off the Lightning’s top line while they trailed in the third period on Monday, Barre-Boulet still found a way to be a threat while playing with Brandon Hagel and Anthony Cirelli. If Barre-Boulet continues to progress the way he did in October, he will be extremely difficult to take out of the lineup.