5 Tampa Bay Lightning players who must bring their A-Game to maintain a top-three spot

The Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves back in the top-three of the Atlantic, but they need a few players to put their best game forward to maintain that spot.

Feb 10, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his
Feb 10, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his / Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
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Brandon Hagel needs to bring his strongest two-way game

You don’t often see former fifth-round picks make the same type of impact that Brandon Hagel has over his first two seasons with the Lightning. He even scored a few Selke votes last year, so it shows us not just how far the 25-year-old has come, but just how much more room for growth he still has. 

But here is, coming off of a 30-goal season and a two-way game that saw him snag 92 takeaways. But he hasn’t reached the same level this year, logging just 26, or less than one-half a takeaway per game, through 53 contests. Someone must step up more defensively for the Lightning, especially now with Mikhail Sergachev out and the team playing a rather pedestrian game when they don’t have the puck, and a forward with sound defense like Hagel would at least help the matter.

From a scoring standpoint, however, Hagel is enjoying his greatest season to date with 48 points and 19 goals. And while his defense hasn’t been awful, it has to step up and at least come closer to what we have seen from him offensively in 2023-24. Hagel must get just as if not more physical than he was last season when he recorded 68 hits, and he must also start getting sticks on the puck again.