Things have gotten pretty ugly for the Tampa Bay Lightning the past few weeks. After their loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they have now lost four of their last five contests – the lone win against the lowly Carolina Hurricanes.
Part of the reasons for the struggles, is the absence of the top line as of late. Led by Steven Stamkos, the Lightning’s top line has not been able to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis.
After scoring a goal in three consecutive games from November 20-26, Stamkos has only two goals in the past nine games.
Ryan Callahan has seen even more struggles, as after scoring three goals in a two game span – he has not found the back of the net in any of the previous eight games. And while Valterri Filppula has not been a permanent member of the top line, he has seen his own drought with only two goals in 19-games.
Despite the amazing depth on the Lightning, especially the success of the team’s second line, Tampa Bay needs their top line to produce in order to stay on the winning side of things.
What could be the answer to snapping the top line of their collective slump? How about the third overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, who has been biding his time on the lower lines, Jonathan Drouin?
Drouin scored his second goal of the season, and almost set up Victor Hedman for a goal that instead banged off the goal post by dropping the puck off and pulling the defender off of the defenseman to create space for a shot.
All he hasn’t been rewarded as much as he probably should be on the score sheet, Drouin has been incredibly in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. He has created for himself and for others, but no one has been able to finish.
Maybe another shuffle of the lines is what the entire team needs. Drouin could easily open up space for Stamkos and Callahan and get the puck to them in that space as well as become one of the most dangerous lines in hockey (more than already).
Tampa Bay needs a spark, especially on the top line. A tough schedule could see them fall out of the top-3 in the division by the time Christmas rolls around if things don’t turn around.
Drouin could be that spark the top line needs, it’s what they drafted him to be, so why not give him the opportunity to do just that?
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.