The start of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2019-20 season has been far from perfect. Despite posting a positive 5-3-1 record through their first nine games, the Lightning have looked a bit lackadaisical on the ice, falling into bad habits that have followed the franchise for years.
Since it is only October, though, these issues should be resolved as the Lightning work their way back into mid-season form. The team is still adjusting to a number of offseason moves, so they may need the better part of a month to get back on the same page once again.
If there is one area that could be a concern, however, it would be Tampa Bay’s star scorers. Even though they feature some of the top-scoring talents in the NHL, those players simply aren’t scoring at their expected clip.
This begs the question, is the start to 2019-20 just a scoring slump, or is it a sign of concern for some of the Lightning’s star players?
Lightning Stars Are Slumping
When Kevin Shattenkirk is tied for the most goals for the Lightning nine games into the season, you know something isn’t quite right. But that’s the exact scenario Tampa Bay finds themselves in at this point of the season.
Key players like Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos simply aren’t finding the back of the net like one would expect. It’s not that they are finding opportunities and taking shots, but for one reason or another, they just aren’t scoring.
The good news for the Lightning, however, is that they were in almost this exact same scenario last season. For example, nine games into the 2018-19 season, Kucherov had only registered three goals and nine points, identical to his scoring output so far this season.
Things were even worse for Stamkos, who only scored one goal and five points at this time last season. The only player who truly excelled early last season was Point, but he missed the start of this season with an injury, skewing his scoring totals low.
So, while these star players may appear to be in a bit of a goal-scoring slump to start off the season, it really isn’t that far out of the ordinary. Does this mean that all three will repeat as 40-goal scorers? Likely not. But they should be able to rack up plenty of goals this season.
Slower Secondary Scoring Should Concern Lightning
While Lightning fans shouldn’t be too concerned about their star players yet, they may have a reason to worry about some of the team’s secondary scorers. Players like Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde, who contributed more than 20 goals each last season.
Gourde has only scored one goal this season, with Johnson registering two so far. While these numbers aren’t too far off from the Lightning’s leaders, they are far from inspiring.
As two of the Lightning’s highest-paid forwards, the franchise needs more consistent production out of these players. They are expected to be, at least, 20 goal scorers. If their lackluster scoring continues, they will struggle to reach that total, which will only hurt the franchise throughout the long NHL season.
Depth Scoring Buoying Lightning
Even though some of their star players may be struggling to score, the Lightning are still finding ways to win. This is due to a reliance on depth scoring, with players on all lines and defensive pairing contributing to the score sheet.
If they can continue to get this kind of scoring from unexpected sources, the Lightning will be just fine even if their stars fail to reach their full scoring potential. In fact, finding consistent production from all players is one of those issues that the Bolts needed to improve upon after their postseason meltdown, so this may actually be a good sign for the future.
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.