Tampa Bay Lightning top defenceman, Mikhail Sergachev, may be out for quite a while. Sergachev, who had just gotten back from a lower-body injury that kept him out since December 19th, was stretchered off the ice in his first game back in action. The injury is a major blow to a team that could use any help they can get as they battle for a playoff spot down the stretch.

Mikhail Sergachev Injured In First Game Back

Prior to his initial injury, Sergachev had produced 19 points (two goals and 17 assists) in 34 games, a decent statline. He had also averaged 22:33 time on ice per game, showing how integral his role was on the roster. Plus, despite playing just 34 games, he still has the second-most ice time amongst defenders on the powerplay. Per MoneyPuck, he has played 51 minutes at five on four time, with Hedman leading the way at 158. Three other defenders have gotten powerplay time, and that includes Darren Raddysh, Erik Cernak and Nicklaus Perbix. However, Perbix and Cernak have gotten only one minute on the man advantage. For more advanced stats, Sergachev is second on the team in expected goals for per 60 minutes amongst defenders, with 0.22, behind just Victor Hedman.

Despite all the positives, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows for the defender. Amongst defenders with at least 40 minutes of ice time this season (at least five games played) he ranks seventh out of 10 defenders in expected goals percentage. He is third amongst defenders in expected goals against per 60 minutes at 3.4 as well. Meanwhile, in Last Word’s tracking project this season, Sergachev is second on the team in defensive zone giveaways (17) in four tracked games that he played in (nine Lightning games total tracked). He also has the highest giveaway rate amongst defenders (19.54%). Finally, he also struggled against the rush this season. He allowed 50% of the rushes he faced directly to enter the offensive zone with possession, worst on the team, with the next worst being Erik Cernak (39.34%).

What Mikhail Sergachev’s Injury Means For The Team Currently

Sergachev plays a large role for the team, there’s no doubt. He chips in a lot with offence, showing no fear leading breakouts and making plays in transition. There’s also the powerplay impacts he has, showing an excellent ability to quarterback the top unit if asked. Despite the struggles in his own end and against the rush this season, there’s no denying he is arguably the number one, or at least two, defender on Tampa Bay. Losing a top-two defender for any team is tough to overcome. But in Sergachev’s absence, the overall structure of the in-zone defending has improved. Turnovers have been cleaned up, it feels. That’s not a shot at Sergachev either; Perbix for a time had the highest defensive zone turnover rate, but he has since improved drastically.

It also helps that rookies that have stepped into the lineup have looked really good. Let’s also not forget about some veterans stepping into a bigger role. Calvin de Haan is one of those guys, who has taken initiative, especially transitionally. Declan Carlile looked decent in his one game this season as well, while Jack Thompson also saw some time in a game. However, it has been Emil Martinsen Lilleberg and Maxwell Crozier who have really impressed. Lilleberg even usurped de Haan in the game both Cernak and Sergachev returned, remaining a roster lock, it seems. Lilleberg’s physical game stands out, but he also provides some value transitionally, and on occasion, with some nice offensive flash.

What Mikhail Sergachev’s Injury Means For The Rest Of The Year

Sergachev’s injury certainly changes things. For some, the defensive core in Tampa was looking strong of late. The added depth with gems like Crozier and Lilleberg added more comfort. With Cernak and Sergachev coming back, if they performed well with a seemingly improved structure, then the deadline focus would likely shift more heavily toward offence. However, Sergachev going down may make the Lightning’s pursuit of another defender the more likely option. That means rumours that had previously swirled around Sean Walker coming to the Sunshine State may once again resurface. This time, with a bit more fire.

Meanwhile, Lilleberg will continue to draw into the lineup and impress. Crozier could be recalled and given some more NHL looks in the meantime. Raddysh will be looked at as the guy who will likely eat into Sergachev’s vacated role the most. Specifically, he will likely be manning the second powerplay unit. All-in-all, the Lightning may make a move and bolster their core on the blueline to help limit the impact of losing Sergachev. However, Sergachev’s talent will almost certainly be missed.

Advanced stats and ice times provided by MoneyPuck

Raw stats via Hockey-Reference

Tracked defensive zone and rush stats via Last Word (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)

Main Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

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