After a rocky start to the season in October, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoped to bounce back with a strong second month of the campaign that would ideally vault them right back into a playoff position. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned. The Lightning finished November with a solid 6-5-1 mark, but that isn’t exactly what was expected of the defending Eastern Conference champions heading into the season.
However, despite the relative struggles of the Lightning in the early going, there are still quite a few bright spots that the team can be pleased with at the individual level. In October, I named Vladislav Namestnikov, Ben Bishop, and Victor Hedman as the team’s three stars for the season’s opening month. Now, it’s time to delve into the numbers from November and come up with the three best Bolts for the second month of the regular season hockey calendar.
3rd Star: Anton Stralman
While his partner turned in an outstanding month of October, it’s fellow Swede Anton Stralman who cracks the list this month. Stralman’s usual consistent, solid game was at its best in November, as he posted a positive Corsi rating in 10 of the month’s 13 games, including seven in a row to close out the month.
Speaking of closing out the month, how impressive was Stralman’s performance in Brooklyn against the Islanders on the 28th? While the Lightning ultimately blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2, Stralman was instrumental in building that lead with a goal and an assist.
Stralman also recorded a goal on the 14th against the Florida Panthers. Additionally, according to war-on-ice.com, the defender was an astounding +31 at 5-on-5 play in terms of scoring chances while on the ice. So throughout November, Stralman drove possession, drove quality possession, and chipped in on offense. That’s exactly what he gets paid to do, and that’s exactly why he finds himself here this week.
2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov
With an obscene amount of injuries plaguing Tampa Bay’s forward unit, Kucherov stepped up in a big way to help fill in for some of the missing players who usually make key contributions to the Lightning’s offensive attack.
While Stralman had a strong finish to this month, it’s Kucherov’s hot start in November that earns him his spot on this list. The young Russian winger was on fire out of the gate this month, recording seven points in his first six games. After that, he cooled off a bit, but it’s worth noting that the Lightning were 4-2-0 when Kucherov recorded a point this month. That should come as no surprise, seeing as he’s one of the team’s top players, but it’s a good harbinger of things that could follow nonetheless.
Kucherov’s 10 points in November were second among all Lightning players behind the single player ahead of him on this list. It’ll be crucial for the Lightning to see a more consistently productive Kucherov as the season rolls along, but a high volume of production in short bursts is obviously much better than entirely sporadic production.
1st Star: Steven Stamkos
With an impending contract situation hanging over him, Tampa Bay’s captain quietly put up a very strong month even with all of the injuries that ravaged his team up front. Stamkos was good for six goals and six assists in 13 games in the month of November.
Those 12 points he produced included three multi-point games that came against the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, and Florida Panthers. Stamkos was also a positive possession player in seven of his 13 games this month, while being an even or better scoring chance player in eight of those.
At even strength, war-on-ice.com says that Stamkos generated a whopping 24 scoring chances on his own accord. There was just one game in which he was held without a scoring chance, and that came against the Washington Capitals. The Lightning are sure to need more of the same from their captain as they get healthy and hope to make a climb toward the top of the Atlantic Division standings.