Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev is contributing even without a goal

Mikhail Sergachev played his best game in a while against Winnipeg on Sunday. The Lightning is confident goals will come.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) hasn't scored this season but is contributing to the team. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) hasn't scored this season but is contributing to the team. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Dec. 18, 2018

VANCOUVER—Mikhail Sergachev has had some rotten luck. The Lightning defenseman is still without a goal on the season and it's not for lack of trying.

"When you have 12 shot attempts on net and you don't score," he said, "when you get it to the net, the goalie doesn't see it, but he catches it somehow, it's upsetting. It's been 34 games I haven't scored."

Last year, he averaged a point every two games. This year, it's about three.

The thing is, though, the Lightning isn't that worried about it. Sure, the coaches would like to see him on the board, but it's as much for his own sake as for the team's. Sergachev is still a productive, valuable member of this team, on or off the scoresheet, though everyone is pretty sure it's just a matter of time.

The Lightning has scratched Slater Koekkoek, another young defenseman whose game the coaches like, for 23 games. If they were unhappy with Sergachev's game, he may not have played all 34. The coaches like what they see.

Coach Jon Cooper has commented a few times this season that he's surprised Sergachev hasn't scored yet. Each time, it's been in the tone of someone who has had chances and could have and will, not someone who isn't doing something.

In Sunday's overtime loss to Winnipeg, Sergachev led the team in shot attempts (shots on net, blocked attempts and missed shots combined) with 12. He assisted Tyler Johnson's goal and he did a lot on the power play that eventually became Alex Killorn's goal.

Sergachev sounded like someone having a harder time seeing the good play because of the glaring zero in the G column. He has a hard time judging if he's playing better or not. He wants more from himself.

"We judge in other ways (than goals)," assistant coach Derek Lalonde said. "It was his best game last night, analytically, chances for and against, he was involved offensively. He spent less time in his zone because he was doing good detail in the defensive zone."

Lalonde understands why Sergachev is critical of himself, citing the "huge trade" he was part of when Tampa Bay got him from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin. It's human nature to want instant gratification.

The key, Lalonde stressed, is communication. It might be different with a veteran of 600 games, but Sergachev is still young – a 20-year-old in his second season. The coaching staff has made a point to communicate its expectations.

"Sergy had a strong game," Cooper said after the loss to Winnipeg. "One of the things we've talked about was him shooting the puck more and he was doing that. It's just going to be a matter of time with him. Obviously, the more you shoot it, the better chance you have of scoring."

Braydon Coburn isn't worried about his defensive partner. Sergachev's work ethic was one of the first things to jump out at him, that and his "very special skill set." Coburn praised Sergachev's offensive instincts, adding that he can find lanes and beat players one-on-one. He's confident the goals will go in, and when they do it will be in bunches.

Coburn also suggested a scoring drought like this forces a player to re-examine his play. Maybe there's a little something missing, when you find that piece, you become a better player.

So far, Sergachev has done a good job of not letting his frustration seep into his game. That's not to say he's been perfect – like the rest of the Lightning, Sergachev has left some plays out there in form of a turnover or missed box out. But Sunday he was "on point," to borrow Lalonde's term.

Lalond had simple advice: "Get motivated instead of getting frustrated."