In their big win against the Toronto Maple Leafs it became even more evident one of the keys to the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning, continued activity from the team’s blue line.
The Lightning has no shortage of offensive stars, but the success of the blue line will determine just how far the team will go this season (really no shocker there). In peppering Leaf’s goaltender James Reimer with 41-shots, 20 of them came from the defensemen.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Active Blue Line Key To Success
For some teams, that is a stretch of games, not a single contest. Leading the way was Radko Gudas (yes Gudas), with six shots on net. He tied Steven Stamkos for the team lead on the night. Victor Hedman and Matthew Carle contributed the points, combining for three assists on the night.
The group also combined for six hits and six blocked shots on the night, and a very big play early on that may have saved the game. With the Maple Leafs on the power play, it looked as if Tyler Bozak was going to get an easy empty net shot opportunity, but Gudas got his stick in the way and broke the play up.
But the defenseman with potentially the biggest impact going forward is the one that’s presence is being missed currently, Jason Garrison. The 30-year old from White Rock, Canada was acquired at the draft because of his booming shot and power play presence.
Having missed the previous three games, it has become quite clear on what his worth is and will be to this team. Since he has been out of the lineup, the Lightning has gone 1/14 on the power play – getting their lone goal against the Maple Leafs. Granted, the team’s struggles with the man advantage started before he left the lineup, but his absence has obviously hurt.
All though he only has one power play goal on the season, the threat of his booming shot is something that opposing teams have to account for – which in the process should open things up for let’s say, Stamkos. In the last three games (outside of his assist last night), notice the lack of space Stamkos has gotten to wind up and take his shot?
Garrison has 41-career goals, 17-of them have come on the power play (41%).
With a solid top-four, the return of Garrison gives them an even more respectable bottom pair – either by him filling there or Gudas going down.
Having Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov (among others) most will point to the Lightning’s offense to reason, and the key, of the Lightning breaking out of their current slump. But the overall play (as well as when Garrison returns) of the defense will lead them back on the right path.
Anthony covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Hockey Writers. He is also currently a Featured Columnist for Last Word on Sports, and has held editorial positions on multiple Fansided websites and the now defunct The Farm Club.