How the Tampa Bay Lightning constructed a shutdown line quickly — and may change it again

DENVER — They won back-toback Stanley Cup championships. Tampa Bay Lightning A secret weapon.

Their checking line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman And Barclay Goodrow Their top players were shut down by them, while they contributed huge goals of their own. The only goal against the opponent in Game 7 was New York IslandersTo send the Lightning to 2021 Stanley Cup Final? Gourde was shorthanded. Gourde scored the winning goal in Game 2 against the Montreal Canadiens? Coleman was the one who did it.

The Lightning lost the entire line last summer due to external factors. Gourde was picked by the Seattle Kraken The expansion draft. Coleman was signed away Calgary FlamesGoodrow signed with them. New York RangersThis was partly due to Lightning’s salary-cap restrictions.

Tampa Bay faced a number of big questions as it sought the three-peat. Could it win even without this secret weapon?

Simple answer: The Lightning will just make a brand new one.

The line of Anthony Cirelli Centering Brandon Hagel And Alex Killorn The O.G. might not make as many offensive contributions as the O.G. The O.G.'s offensive contributions might not be as significant, but the Lightning's past playoff games show that they were more effective defensively.

Cirelli stated, “If our coaches trust us to go out and shut guys down then we take a lot a pride in that.”

The new shutdown team has not given up a goal at level strength in the playoffs for just over 68 mins. They have a plus-36 shot chance advantage, a plus-15 score chance advantage and an amazing plus-15 in high risk scoring chance differential. This means they have been able to get to the toughest scoring areas of their opponents more than any offensive stars.

Jon Cooper, the head coach, said it best: “The more you make them play D and the less they can do offense.”

Cooper compiled this line in Game 2 of Eastern Conference finals. Cirelli was playing with stars Steven Stamkos And Nikita Kucherov. Cooper moved Stamkos from the middle to help his team overcome a 2-0 series deficit. Ondrej Palat That top line was so strong that we added Cirelli to the mix between Killorn, Hagel and to make a new trio.

This checking line was used against the Rangers' top-ranking group Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider And Frank Vatrano.

What is the reason for this line?

Cooper deadpanned, “Stopping They”, without any explanation.

This is exactly what they did in Game 3 versus New York. They held an elephantine 19 shot-attempt lead over the Rangers. Zibanejad failed to score an even-strength goal in any of the last four games. These were not by accident Lightning wins.

It's a key point of emphasis for our team. Killorn stated that while we have the talent and skill to score offensively with enough skill, we are more focused on our defensive game. “If we win 2-1 we are happy. We don’t have to win six goals. We want to be the first to defend.”

This shutdown line, like the famous checking line from the first two Cup victories, was a major reason why the Lightning advanced to Stanley Cup Final. Gourde never had to confront a challenge like Cirelli's in the last round in 2022. Nathan MacKinnonThe talented wingers include a player named ‘Mr. X', who has 11 goals from 15 games. Colorado Avalanche You can pair up with him.

“We are aware that we have a big job. Killorn described it as “probably the most important job we've had during the playoffs.”


Killorn was with the Lightning for his entire NHL career, which ended in 2007, when he was drafted in third round. Cooper's entire coaching career, including the roller coaster ride of success and failure in the postseason that saw the Lightning become a dynasty.

“What is a dynasty?” Killorn pondered. Killorn thought about it. Patriots They were winning a ton. We wouldn't be called a dynasty. If everything goes smoothly, you might be able to. If you look back at the past 10 years, there have been many times when we reached the conference finals. We've also been to the Stanley Cup Final quite a few times. It's more than three years. It's all that comes with it.

Killorn was at times in doubt. His contract has a salary cap of $4.45 million annually and he had a restricted no-trade clause the last three seasons. Gourde, another Tampa Bay fixture, is also on the horizon. Tyler Johnson, were shipped out. However, the Lightning held on to Killorn and protected him in the Seattle expansion draft.

He's now 32 years of age. He looks like a veteran winger with a thick beard. His “by any means necessary” approach to the game is what makes him stand out. He has scored offensively for the Lightning, scoring eight goals in the playoffs and 25 goals during this regular season. In 18 playoff games, he has only four assists and no goals.

Killorn stated that “we haven't chipped into as much offensively we'd like” but that it wasn't for lack of trying.

Cooper stated that the absence of goal scoring is not a concern given the contributions Killorn has made in other areas.

“I think that he's played amazing. It's impossible to judge these players based on how many pucks are put into the net. It's difficult enough that they judge each other. Cooper explained that we don't judge them this way.

“It's amazing to look at the scoresheet and see your name. Our guys know that it's better to see “Lightning” with a higher number than your opponent. This is why we have had so much success. It's not our custom to judge players this time of year, and Killer has been great.


The Chicago Blackhawks They had begun an aggressive rebuild before the 2022 trade deadline. They were so aggressive they offered Brandon Hagel, a 23-year old winger who had scored 21 goals in 55 matches and had a $1.5 million team cap through 2023-24 to see what they could trade.

They found their answer from the Lightning: Two forwards (forwards Boris Katchouk And Taylor Raddysh) and two first-round picks in 2023 and 2024, albeit top-10-protected.

Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay general manager, said, “We are adding a 23 year-old player that can play in any situation, can play with many different types of players, and is very competitive.” We noticed his competitiveness and consistency in his efforts every shift.

Hagel was promoted to the Lightning's lineup and scored four goals in 22 games. The transition was difficult, he admitted.

“It can be difficult to get traded. In my entire career, I have never been traded. He said, “I didn't know what it was.”

It wasn't about getting traded. It was about walking into a locker where most of the team had been through the rollercoaster ride of two consecutive Stanley Cup wins. It was awkward for Hagel but it was easier for Lightning who have mastered the art of making people feel at home in an exclusive club.

“They were all very good. They were all great and welcomed me into their team. Hagel stated that these guys have been so great for so many years that they're really skilled at this stuff.”

“But it's going take a bit for me. With all these guys together for so many years, you don't want any of them to get on your feet.” he stated. They made me feel at ease. It was me who had to make that leap and get in the water with them. They've been amazing.”

Hagel scored six points in 18 playoff matches. His style of play is compatible with what the shut-down line wants.

“I think Hages has been a great addition to our team. He's a great forward-checker. He's a great forechecker, and despite his small stature, is very strong with the puck. Killorn explained that the two of them have “kinda found some chemistry”.

Hagel is inspired by players like Killorn who are a part of the foundation of what the Lightning have built. It gives him confidence that he will be able to continue that winning tradition.

It's all about the winning attitude. Everyone knows how to win. Sometimes you feel like you're going down, but then you realize that there are other guys who can take your game to the next level. He stated, “They are the ones who know how win.” “So we're down to 2-0 [to the Rangers]There's no need to panic. You just need to find the right recipe and then deliver it.


Jon Cooper was mad. But not at Anthony Cirelli. For Anthony Cirelli

The Selke Trophy was recently awarded. Boston Bruins Center Patrice Bergeron. Cirelli was fifth in voting. He was fourth for 2020. Cooper knew why Cooper was fourth in 2020, but he has never been a finalist.

“This is biased. OK? I am his coach. All awards are points-driven. That is what I find a bit problematic. It's not a problem, but I think it is. Aleksander Barkov Should you be ready for the Selke? 100%. Do you think Bergeron, or any of these classic men should be up there? They are all worthy to be up there. Cooper said that Tony will fall behind the men because he does not put up points like them.

Cirelli was drafted by the Lightning in the third round of 2015 and has been a part of the Lightning's five seasons. He was a strong offensive player as a young OHL player with the Oshawa Generals. His game pace was one per game. He is not a complete offensive black hole in NHL. In the regular season, Cirelli scored 43 points in 76 games. He had 44 points in 68 games in 2019-20. This season, he scored 17 goals which was a career record.

Excellent offensive output. Perhaps not enough to win awards.

It is a bit unfair. Again, it sounds like I am the whiney coach to one of my players. Cooper said that Tony finished in the top five with no points. Cooper said, “He'll be the next guy to knock at the door. He is a selfless player who understands that playing selfless defense in our favor is important for us as well as for him. And he's great at it.

In 18 playoff games, he scored one goal and had five points. It's not all about the score sheet for this trio.

“As a team, we keep things simple. We try to get pucks behind their defensemen, as cliché as it sounds. Killorn explained that in such situations, all three of our players are very good at protecting pucks down low. “Maybe we haven’t produced as many as we’d like, but as a team that requires them to play defense for the majority the game is successful for us. That's what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Cirelli is the player who makes it click. He chased Zibanejad through the Rangers series, and faced players such as Auston Matthews Barkov in earlier rounds.

“In different areas on the ice, I just want to be on top and play hard with guys. He said that you just need to be aware of when they are on the ice, and to try to be in good places.

He is aware that MacKinnon is playing in the Stanley Cup Final. Cirelli is also known by the Avalanche.


Jared Bednar, the Avalanche coach, said it was an inevitability. That MacKinnon couldn’t avoid Cirelli on ice “if this is the matchup Coops desires” in this series.

“You guys all know Nate. He doesn't fear or intimidate to take on anyone. Bednar explained that he actually enjoys some of these matchups.

Cirelli was at even strength against MacKinnon in Game 1. He was there for 5:06 The Lightning outscored MacKinnon's line by 1-0 during their shared ice-time. They were plus-6 on shot attempts and plus-3 in scoring opportunities.

Bednar stated that he isn't going to react to the Lightning's tactics against his top players.

“I will not interrupt the flow or change anything until I know it isn't working. If it's working well and our team is comfortable using it, we'll let it go and use it. He stated that if I need Nate on in certain circumstances and they release Cirelli, I will put Nate out.”

Matchups can be changed. The same goes for lines. The trio of Killorn and Hagel were great, but they weren't there until Game 2 of conference finals. A significant change in the Lightning's lineup in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final means that there is a good chance that this highly successful group will also be short-lived. Brayden Point.

Game 1 was Point's debut game since May 14, when she ice skated with Nick Paul. Ross Colton. They used to have a different linemate during the first round against each other. Toronto Maple Leafs: Hagel.

Point sustained a lower-body injury in Game 7 against the Leafs. He was standing on a line with Killorn, Cirelli.

Point was still trying to find his rhythm in Game 1 against Colorado. “I believe he played 18 minutes last evening. He played 18 minutes, which is probably more than I expected. However, he did a great job. He is getting his game together and taking care of his hands. Cooper said that Cooper can expect him to have more ice time if his body is feeling better.

Is it possible that he will be re-instated to the same spot as Killorn or Cirelli in the lineup?

“Our lines have changed throughout playoffs, starting with the Toronto series and moving up to the final four. Cooper stated that lines had changed even from Games 1 and 2, in the Rangers series, to our last four games. “What we start with today could not be what you end up with at the conclusion of the game or the series,” Cooper said.

It's a problem worth having: You can keep the best postseason shutdown line together or you could subtract Hagel and add Point. Point is a dynamic two-way player with the most postseason goals in NHL history (30).

In any case, Hagel, Killorn, and Cirelli, all three outstanding hockey players, will continue to make an impact on the playoffs by what they do and not what their opponents do.

“We don’t want play against the other side.” Killorn stated, “We want to play the best we can.”

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