“You look at how many teams have come together three times in a row in the 100+ years in this league and there aren’t many,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “And when you see this list of those teams, it’s when there weren’t a lot of teams in the league. In a time of salary cap, and I applaud the Pittsburgh Penguins for doing it there. years ago to get two and you applaud the Tampa Bay Lightning for getting two, but who made three? Not even some of the greatest teams ever put together. Edmonton Oilers, they have five. cups and they’ve never made three together. And so, it’s rare to be able to do that. Few teams have the chance to do that, and we have the chance to do it. “

The Lightning are bringing back the core of the team that won the last two Stanley Cups, but have gaps to fill elsewhere as the salary cap crisis has seen the departure of some important and popular players.

As the Bolts train over the next three weeks in preparation for the season opener on Oct. 12 against Pittsburgh, here are the top three questions we ask as the camp opens.

Video: Brayden Point | 9.23.21

Why are the Lightning still a Stanley Cup favorite?
Alex killorn was asked this question at the 2021 Tampa Bay Lightning Championship movie premiere at the Tampa Theater on Saturday, and its answer is as good as any.

“I think as long as you have 88 between the pipes you still have a chance,” he said to the crowd’s approval.

Much has been said that the Lightning has lost this offseason due to salary cap constraints and the Seattle expansion plan.

But let’s remember who still has the Lightning.

The top line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov is intact. Point signed an eight-year contract extension starting with the 2022-2023 season, tying him to the Lightning until 2029-30. Kucherov comes into good health this year after missing the entire 2020-21 regular season with hip surgery in the offseason.

The second line also comes back. Alex Killorn, Antoine Cirelli and Steven stamkos combined last year to give the Bolts two dynamic, dependable and revolutionary lines at the top end of their attacking group.

The number one power play unit of Victor hedman, Stamkos, Point, Kucherov and Killorn return. This combination helped the Lightning achieve a 32.4% playoff powerplay success rate, the best among teams that qualified for the last four.

The defense is essentially the same as a year ago, with the exception of David Savard’s swap for Zach Bogosian, a well-known merchandise that helped the Lightning win the first of their back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020. Expect the defensive pairs to also stay similar with Hedman and Jan Rutta in partnership, Ryan mcdonagh and Erik Cernak forming the stop duo of the Bolts and Mikhail Sergachev and Bogosian giving the Lightning arguably the third strongest pair in the NHL.

With Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal, as Killorn stated, Tampa Bay is one of the favorites to win any game. The Lightning know they have the best goalie. The rest of the hockey world found out from his performances in the last two playoffs, including an NHL record with five straight shutouts in game-setting wins since the 2020 Cup final against Dallas.

Plus, there’s all of that in the championship’s pedigree.

The Lightning has it and then some. Bet against them at your own risk.

Video: Ross colton | 9.23.21

How to replace the third line?
Short answer: you can not.

There’s a reason Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman’s line started just about every game and period for the Lightning throughout their two Stanley Cup races. This trio set the tone for the rest of the squad with their tenacity and relentlessness and the way they harassed opponents into making mistakes and then being able to profit from them.

Every NHL team has at least one remarkable line and most have two. When you get into the playoffs, sometimes those front lines cancel each other out. This is where you need your depth to shine, and that’s exactly what the Gourde line did.

These three players have left this season, however.

Gourde was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. The Lightning got massive two-point value in the playoffs for both severely underpaid Coleman and Goodrow. As unrestricted free agents this offseason, the two are making a lot more money with new teams because the Lightning cap situation didn’t allow them to pay both what they could order in the open market. .

Tampa Bay will therefore have to find new players during training camp who can take their place and continue to give the Bolts a dynamic third line.

The opening day of training camp may have given a glimpse of how the coaching staff are planning to replace the Gourde line. Ross Colton, who scored the deciding goal in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final against Montreal, centered what appeared to be a potential third line with Mathieu Joseph to his left and newcomer Corey perry to his right.

The first two lines of Tampa Bay from last season – Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Steven Stamkos – remain the same. Pat maroon will likely anchor fourth row again this season with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare center and be a young player like Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk Where Alex Barre Boulet fill the right role. Or maybe Perry slips into that group to give the Bolts potentially the fourth grittiest line in the league.

The way the third and fourth lines work is probably a fluid situation that could take longer than training camp to answer.

But it’s an answer the Lightning will need nonetheless.

“There is no Barclay Goodrow or Yanni Gourde or Blake Coleman or David Savard or Tyler Johnson,” Cooper said. “They were all players. They made it to the NHL and were successful and are now reaping the benefits. There is a new group of players who are going to do the exact same thing, they are just going to do it in a different way. There are guys out there waiting for a chance like this, and we’re so glad to have these guys. And then you mix up some of the savvy vets that we’ve brought here that we’re really excited about, just watching this melee today, I love this mix that we have here. But having a little rotation in a team is not a bad thing. I will never forget what this group of players did for two years, but our core is still intact and we surround them with hungry and hungry players. It’s just going to be different. We are looking for the same result, we are just going to have to do it in different ways

Video: Jon Cooper | 9.23.21

Who will kill the penalties?
With Gourde, Goodrow and Coleman more on the roster, the Lightning have some work to do to identify their penalty pairs, especially among the attacking group.

The back of the penalty should be good. The Lightning are bringing back five of their top six defensemen for shorthanded average time on the ice for the 2020-21 regular season. The only player not returning is David Savard, who can be replaced by Zach Bogosian, who finished fourth among Bolts defensemen in shorthanded average ice time during his brief stint in the regular season with l team in 2019-2020.

It is up front that the Lightning will have to find replacements.

The Coleman and Goodrow duo was one of the main reasons the Lightning had an 84.1% playoff death rate, fourth best among all playoff teams and second best among qualifying teams. for the last four.

Goodrow (2:26), Coleman (2:13) and Gourde (1:29) were three of Tampa Bay’s top five forwards in average shorthanded time on the ice per game.

The Lightning will likely rely heavily on Alex Killorn (2:02) and Anthony Cirelli (1:49) this season. These two have been killing shots on goal together for a few seasons now and have great chemistry.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was third among Colorado forwards last season for the shorthanded TOI and was brought to Tampa Bay as a free agent this offseason to help the Lightning in that area.

“Bellemare, we haven’t played a lot against him, he’s always been in a lot of different divisions. I’m just talking to the guys, he’s a great guy,” Killorn said. “Defensively, on the PK, he’s going to help us a lot. When you look at Yanni Gourde and Coleman and Goodrow, it’s three guys from the PK right there. We’re going to need him to help us in that regard.”

Expect to see Ondrej Palat no longer used on the penalty kill. When Goodrow got injured at the end of the regular season and couldn’t start the first-round series against Florida, Palat was one of the players the Lightning looked to replace him.

Mathieu Joseph and Ross Colton didn’t feature much in special teams last year, but qualifying for the penalty kill could be a way for them to increase their role. Colton has the tenacity to replace Gourde. Joseph’s speed could be a dangerous weapon in shorthanded breakaway situations.

But identifying the forward depth beyond shorthanded Killorn, Cirelli and Bellemare will be an important point during training camp.

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