The top line has carried the Lightning much of the year and the lower lines need to step up and contribute more.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have hit their roughest stretch of the season, losing three of their last four with their lone win coming in overtime. Over the past four games, the team has given up 15 goals against while scoring only nine goals. The Stamkov line of Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have cooled off in this four game stretch, and the secondary scoring hasn’t been there to overcome the lack of production from the first line.

One of the keys to being a Stanley Cup champion is having three lines that can produce offensively. The Pittsburgh Penguins have really proven that with their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins where they had three complete lines, plus contributions from their fourth line, on their way to those championships.

On paper, it would seem that the Lightning have three solid lines. No one can deny that the Stamkov line has been the best trio in the NHL through the first quarter of the season. Brayden Point had a great rookie campaign and he’s paired up with a capable veteran in Ondrej Palat and 25-year old rookie Yanni Gourde (yes, he’s considered a rookie).

The third line features a couple of players that have a pedigree of being at least half-point-per-game performers over their careers in Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson, with random players stepping in on their right wing throughout games for most of the season.

Beyond the top line, you have two 20-goal scorers, a 70-point scorer, a 60-point scorer, and two 40-point scorers. That’s quite the pedigree. When you factor in the top line into the top 8 group, every player except Gourde has scored at least 14 goals and 35 points in a season. Namestnikov and Gourde are the only players to not reach 40 points. Namestnikov, Gourde, Point, and Killorn haven’t hit 20-goals in a season.

That’s a lot of talent to have up front. But that talent hasn’t performed enough to counteract the top line’s slump over these past four games.

Below are the combined stats for each line over the past four games.

  • Stamkov Line – 1G, 3A, 4P, minus-12. No even-strength points.
  • Point Line – 6G, 4A, 10P, minus-4. Three even-strength goals.
  • Johnson Line – 0G, 2A, 2P, even. No power play points.

The Point line has certainly pulled their weight, but the Johnson line hasn’t added much offense in this stretch. The offense picked up two other goals from call-up Cory Conacher and from Chris Kunitz in this stretch.

The defense, mostly thanks to Mikhail Sergachev, has brought more offense from the blue line this season than the Lightning were getting last season. That’s also been a big part of the team’s success through the first quarter of the season. They’ve only come through with six assists in the past four games, three at even strength, two on the power play, and one short handed.

The secondary scoring needs to pick it up for the Lightning to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season while the Stamkov line figures out their struggles. You can’t ride one line through the entire season and you must have scoring coming from the other lines consistently. That’s magnified even more in the playoffs when opposing teams are going to key on your best offensive players. You have to make the other team pay when they do that.

And the Lightning aren’t doing that right now.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com