There’s no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning have been an offensive juggernaut throughout the 2017-18 season. With a team that features scoring superstars like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, it felt like they could score at will. Not only are the Lightning ranked first overall in goals for per game and goals scored, they have done so with scoring throughout their line-up.
This year, the Lightning featured six 20-goal scorers when you include Vladislav Namestnikov before he was traded. When Kucherov or Stamkos struggled to hit the net, you had players like Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde pick up the slack. In recent weeks, however, the Lightning’s scoring has dried up. While they are still finding ways to score, it’s not with the same consistency that the team needs to be successful.
Gourde Hit a Rookie Scoring Wall
Arguably the biggest surprise of the Lightning’s season was the breakout performance by Gourde. After fighting to keep a roster spot at the start of the season, Gourde went on to have a Calder-calibre scoring year. He has found chemistry throughout the Lightning’s lineup, scoring goals no matter who he was paired with.
However, since Feb. 15, Gourde has hit a goalscoring wall. Over the last 20 games, he has only mustered two goals after scoring 22 in the first half of the season. While he is still finding ways to put up points on a consistent basis, his goalscoring struggles is a cause for concern.
As a mid-pairing winger, Gourde is the kind of player the Lightning will need to rely on to score important goals in the postseason. With this being his first full season in the NHL, though, he may be struggling with the grind of the year. When the playoffs hit in April, he might be too worn down to recreate some of the magic he experienced in the first-half of the season.
All-Star Point Is Missing His Scoring Touch
In a similar vein, Brayden Point has been experiencing his own goalscoring struggles over the last month. Since the start of March, he has only scored three goals, one of which came in overtime. While he is a dominant player in 3-on-3 overtime, he hasn’t been able to find the same success on the power play this month, only putting up two points.
It doesn’t appear that this dip in productivity is due to an injury since Point has been taking on more ice-time throughout the month. What he seems to be suffering from is a bout of bad puck-luck. While he is second amongst the Lightning’s forwards for shots on goal in March, he has the third-worst shooting percentage during the same timeframe.
This means that Point putting pucks on net but he isn’t cashing in like he was at the start of the season. Some of this may be due to the opposition’s defense learning how to limit the Lightning’s scoring opportunities as the season progressed or it could be the natural shooting troubles experienced by all players throughout a season. Either way, should he continue to put shots on goal, Point will likely find the success that he is used to.
Scoring Drought Striking Key Lightning Players
It’s more than these two players that are struggling to score. Streaky scorers like Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson cooled dramatically after a hot February, only putting up six goals and nine points combined. Stamkos, despite dishing out 12 assists, scored three goals with only one on the power play.
In reality, excluding the eight goals scored during a break-out month for J.T. Miller, the Lightning had one of their worst goal-scoring months of the season in March. While these sorts of struggles will happen, it’s the timing of this drought that has the Lightning concerned. Entering the playoffs with a team struggling to score is often a recipe for a quick first-round exit.
With a week left in the season, there is time for the Lightning to fix their scoring slump. It will start with players like Point and Gourde finding their mid-season form and scoring when given the opportunity. If they can elevate their game again, the rest of the Bolts will likely follow in their footsteps.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.