Advertisement

5 things we learned from the Lightning’s win in Anaheim

The team managed a quick turnaround, rebounding from Tuesday’s loss in L.A. with a 4-2 win over the Ducks.
Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman (77) and Erik Cernak (81) celebrate with goaltender Brian Elliott (1) after a 4-2 win over the Ducks on Wednesday night.
Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman (77) and Erik Cernak (81) celebrate with goaltender Brian Elliott (1) after a 4-2 win over the Ducks on Wednesday night. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]
Published Oct. 27, 2022|Updated Oct. 27, 2022

The Lightning’s season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride so far. One night they look slow and uninspiring down the stretch; the next they come out with passion and poise, and won’t be denied two points.

Both extremes were seen Tuesday and Wednesday in Southern California, where the Lightning were outplayed by the Kings in a loss Tuesday and mostly dominated the Ducks the following night but did need a strong finish to win.

“I don’t care who you’re playing against, when you’re going on the road a couple time zones away, you’ve got to grind out points,” coach Jon Cooper said. “When the game’s in the balance and it’s tied in the third period, you have to find a way to get points out of it. We’ll take it. Let’s just build on this (Wednesday win). If we can come out of this road trip 2-1, we’ll be really happy.”

The Lightning wrap up their trip Saturday in San Jose.

Here’s what we learned from the Lightning’s 4-2 win in Anaheim:

Confidence is everything for Brandon Hagel

Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel celebrates with teammates after scoring during the third period Wednesday night.
Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel celebrates with teammates after scoring during the third period Wednesday night. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]

When forward Brandon Hagel arrived in Tampa in a March trade with the Blackhawks, he struggled to find where he best fit with the Lightning. This season the Lightning have made it known they want him to do a little bit of everything — skate on the top line, play on the second power-play unit and contribute on the penalty kill.

Hagel can generate shots with his stick and his speed; he had 12 shot attempts in his first four games this season but was goalless. Hagel kept shooting, and in the sixth game of the season, against the Islanders on Saturday, he scored his first goal of the season, then scored in the two games since, including his first power-play goal of the year against the Ducks.

Hagel can play with great players — he did so with Patrick Kane in Chicago — so he’s not just a grinder. He has added a different dimension to the top line skating with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

Blue line remains a work in progress

Ducks center Mason McTavish (37) shoots against Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) during the first period Wednesday.
Ducks center Mason McTavish (37) shoots against Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) during the first period Wednesday. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]

Defenseman Cal Foote, who opened the season skating on the top pair with Victor Hedman, was a healthy scratch again. Cooper has said he wants to get a better look at newcomers such as Philippe Myers and Haydn Fleury. He hasn’t needed much of a look at Nick Perbix, who has found a role skating alongside Mikhail Sergachev on the second pair.

Follow all the action on and off the ice

Follow all the action on and off the ice

Subscribe to our free Lightning Strikes newsletter

We’ll send you news, analysis and commentary on the Bolts weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Perbix, a rookie, is 10 days older than Sergachev — both are 24 — and has caught on quickly. He knows how to use his big body (6 feet 2, 191 pounds) and is jumping in on the offensive end. The fit for Foote and Myers, who have shown they can move the puck up the ice but have committed turnovers in their zone, remains to be seen, at least until Zach Bogosian returns from injury in about a month.

Backup goaltender Brian Elliott can be a game-changer

Lightning goaltender Brian Elliott stops a shot by Ducks right wing Troy Terry (19) during the third period.
Lightning goaltender Brian Elliott stops a shot by Ducks right wing Troy Terry (19) during the third period. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]

On some nights, the Lightning’s goaltenders have been the team’s best players. And given their pedestrian start to the season, the Lightning will be counting on Elliott to provide points in back-to-back game situations. He did that last season, as the Lightning earned at least one point in 14 of his 17 starts. And he has already earned wins in two of his three starts this year.

Elliott has played far better than his 3.35 goals-against average would indicate. Wednesday’s game was a step forward. He wasn’t tested early, seeing just four shots on goal in the first period and 14 after two. But he made the biggest save of the night with the score tied. When Trevor Zegras unloaded a wrister from the left dot, Elliott made a diving pad-stack save, turning away Zegras’ top-shelf attempt with his blocker. “I just threw the kitchen sink at it and tried to get coverage in the net, and luckily I got a piece of it,” Elliott said.

Want sustained offense? Keep shooting

Lightning center Brayden Point (21) shoots against Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) during the second period.
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) shoots against Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) during the second period. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]

The Lightning have been outshot in five of their eight games. In the three in which they outshot their opponent, they won. They have focused on various ways to sustain offensive-zone time, from puck retrievals so that they can utilize second- and third-shot opportunities to cleaner breakouts into their offensive zone. That all seemed to come together Wednesday. They outshot the Ducks 31-20, including 25-14 in 5-on-5 play.

More balanced scoring needed

Lightning center Ross Colton (79) controls the puck against Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) during the second period.
Lightning center Ross Colton (79) controls the puck against Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) during the second period. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | AP ]

The Lightning received goals from four players Wednesday, but 16 of their 24 goals this season have come from four players: Steven Stamkos, Point, Kucherov and Hagel. Nick Paul and Corey Perry are the only other players with more than one goal. The stars usually carry the load, but over the course of a season, balanced scoring is key to winning consistently.

The Lightning have received offensive contributions from their defensemen, but they need a boost from their bottom two forward lines. There has been tinkering on the lines, with Paul and Perry shuffling. Third-liner Ross Colton had four shot attempts Wednesday and has 24 on the season, but he has just one goal through the first eight games, so he’s in line to have a few go in.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

• • •

Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.