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Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Preview

Power Rankings position: 1

The 1980s New York Islanders were the last NHL team to win three straight Stanley Cups, but there is no doubt Tampa opens the 2021-22 season as favorites to win it all again.

Additions: Corey Perry, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Brian Elliott, Zach Bogosian

Losses: Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard, Curtis McElhinney, Luke Schenn

The Lightning got: Worse

What makes one think the Lightning can win again is the fact that they are bringing back their entire top six, five of their six defenseman from the playoffs, and one of the best goalies in the NHL.

There honestly really isn't too much to be said about the Lightning's star players. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are all in their prime and there aren't many players who you'd rather have in the postseason than those three. Despite stellar point totals in both the regular season and playoffs and being a finalist for the Norris Trophy, Victor Hedman wasn't actually at his best for much of last year. Steven Stamkos had another excellent season despite missing some time, and has shown little signs of slowing down.

What the Lightning did lose this offseason was their incredible depth at forward that played a major role in the title run. 2020's Lightning boasted by far the best third line in the NHL with Yanni Gourde centering Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. That line dominated opponents.

While saying that, Tampa did a pretty good job filling those holes. They signed Corey Perry after defeating him in the Cup finals two years in a row. He brings a lot of the toughness that Goodrow had, and has more skill than Goodrow. Ross Colton earned a name for himself after scoring the Cup clinching goal, but he actually had a pretty solid season before that. In the regular season he scored 9 goals and 12 points in 30 games. Not too shabby for a rookie fourth liner.

One key player to watch not only for the Lightning's bottom six but for the entire team will be Alex Barré-Boulet. He has ammassed an impressive 69 goals and 136 points over 144 games over the past three years with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Despite being 24 years old he's played only 15 games in that span (all last season) and scored three goals in the NHL. He has the potential to be a good NHL goal scorer, especially if he's given a shot higher in Tampa's lineup.

For the fourth line, Tampa signed Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to a two year deal worth $2 million in total to replace Tyler Johnson. Bellemare doesn't have the offensive potential that Johnson had, but he works hard, and is a really good defensive player. He should be joined by Mathieu Joseph and Patrick Marron, two players who frequented the fourth line often last season.

The only change to the defense is that shutdown man David Savard signed with the Montreal Canadiens. That leaves the sixth spot open for either Cal Foote or Zach Bogosian, although they will likely each get plenty of chances there. The top four should stay exactly the same.

In net, Tampa replaces backup goalie Curtis McElhinney, who played quite poorly last season with Brian Elliott. Elliott wasn't all that great in Philadelphia either, but he managed to put up slightly better numbers than McElhinney despite being behind a very weak defense. He's a minor upgrade who should be able to give Vasilevskiy a few more nights off this year.

Overall, even with the completely new third line and loss of some key depth, on paper the Lightning are still the best team in the league. They have all the pieces in place to win a third straight Stanley Cup.

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2021-22 NHL Predictions

Eastern Conference Finals: Bruins over Islanders Western Conference Finals: Golden Knights over Avalanche Stanley Cup Final: Bruins over Golden Knights Atlantic: Tampa Bay Lightning Boston Bruins Toro


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