Cedric Paquette’s disruptive play connects for the Lightning

Tampa Bay center puts on the hits in 2018-19 to become a greater force
Lightning center Cedric Paquette's goal propelled the Lightning to an early-season victory over the Sabres, but he made his mark this season as a disruptive force. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Lightning center Cedric Paquette's goal propelled the Lightning to an early-season victory over the Sabres, but he made his mark this season as a disruptive force. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 9
Updated May 10

(This is the sixth in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Mikhail Sergachev)

TAMPA — Cedric Paquette knows his role.

He’s a pest, an agitator. He buzzes around on the Lightning’s fourth line disrupting opponents.

He might take it a little too far sometimes — the Capitals thought so after he injured Michal Kempny in a March 20 game — but for the most part, he hasn’t received supplemental discipline. Paquette, this year playing his most games for the Lightning in his sixth season at age 25, found a way to increase his productivity.

“The biggest thing is now when he has the puck, he’s looking up and trying to make that play,” Ryan Callahan said late in the regular season, “where maybe before, he was concentrating so much on hitting that you forget about the other side.”

Physicality can create opportunities. Coming in hard on the forecheck might force a defenseman to move the puck quicker and perhaps make a mistake.

[ MORE LIGHTNING: Anton Stralman's disappointing season puts his Lightning future in question ]

That would give Paquette more opportunities to play with the puck. However, Callahan said, sometimes playing on the fourth line, a player can be hyper aware of his chances, not wanting to do something wrong and limit his already few shifts.

The fourth line isn’t far from the press box.

After a dip in play last year (career lows nearly across the board in 56 games), Paquette, who signed a one-year contract in the offseason and can be a restricted free agent July 1, wanted to be more effective this season. He made a point to improve his play with the puck. By doing so, he also improved his game physically and neared career highs in most categories playing in 80 games.

Paquette’s 269 hits were almost double his previous high of 144. His faceoff percentage of 52.8 was a career high and second among the Lightning’s four main centers.

[ MORE LIGHTNING: Brayden Point tops break out season with better results ]

His ice time reflected that. Paquette averaged two minutes more a game, including 1:28 more shorthanded, as he became one of the Lightning’s go-to penalty killers.

He might have had even more time on the penalty kill if he hadn’t been in the penalty box so often. He led the team with 80 penalty minutes, 14 more than anyone else and 44 more than the team average. His 30 minor penalties were tied for fifth in the league.

To some extent, that comes with a physical style of play, but it’s still too high a number. Particularly as someone who is effective on the kill, Paquette could stand to rein it in some.

Cedric Paquette’s season in review

High: Paquette scored twice in a March 11 win over the Maple Leafs, his first multigoal game since Dec. 1, 2016.

Low: Unnecessary penalties kept Paquette off the ice and put the Lightning at a man disadvantage too often.

By the numbers

10

Percentage, roughly, of the Lightning’s 763 penalty minutes this season that came from Paquette (team-high 80)

13

Goals for Paquette, a career high. His 87 shots were four off his career season high.

269

Hits, four short of the franchise season record set by Radko Gudas

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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