First look at Tampa Bay Lightning's power play with a pretty impressive cast
Beyond the injury to goaltender Mike Smith (see previous post), the most interesting thing to come out of Monday's training camp practice was the first real look at the power play. Actually, Monday was all about systems with crash courses in the 1-3-1 look it appears coach Guy Boucher will use and a power play that, as Boucher called "my little candy."
"It gives you a lot of freedom with what you want to do," Boucher said. "There's a lot of possibilities with it, but the reality is, no matter how good the players are, when they're learning something, there's hesitation."
First things first, though. The first power play unit was forwards Staven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Simon Gagne and defenseman Pavel Kubina. Defenseman Brett Clark also worked in with the first unit. The second unit was forwards Ryan Malone, Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell, and defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman.
It was especially interesting to see Ohlund on the power play. He had played it much in 11 seasons with the Canucks but did not play it last season and ended the year with zero goals. Asked about it today, he said, "I don't even want to talk about it. Whatever happens, happens."
Anyway, the power play seems all about motion and options. Boucher started with Lecavalier at the point sometimes. Sometimes he was at the high slot. But he rarely ended in those spots, swirling through the offensive zone until he landed near the right faceoff circle for a one-timer. Sometimes Kubina was alone at the top of the slot with four forwards across the offensive zone.
"I'm a big believer in permutations on the power play," Boucher said. "There's a lot of movement in it. I want that. There are a lot of great coaches out there who prepare their penalty kill really well, and they focus and cheat on some players, so we want to make sure we have a greater amount of plays that are available to our players, so we don't get caught against a team that's doing outstanding against us."
"The big things is there are so many different options," Stamkos said. "You can't take away any particular person because someone else is going to be open. It's going to take some time to get going, but once we get it and once we're all on the same page, we're going to be successful."
As for the 1-3-1 five-on-five set-up, it is pretty much as we have been describing it with a defenseman joining the three-across. The main task is getting the puck to the forwards who move quickly ahead.
Here is the game group for Tuesday's preseason opener at Dallas:
Goaltenders -- Mike Smith (tentative), Cedrick Desjardins. Defensemen -- Brett Clark, Scott Jackson, Mattias Ohlund, Matt Smaby, Mike Vernace. Forwards -- Steve Downie, Adam Hall, Ryan Malone, Dominic Moore, Richard Panik, Niklas Persson, Marc Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson, Dana Tyrell, James Wright.
Boucher said he likely will not stick with set lines in order to test chemistry. He won't roll lines, either, rather putting players on the ice in specific situations "to see how they handle that." He also said he is not too concerned with the score. "We want to go into every game and win," he said, "but the reality is we want to figure out who can play on our team and fill the roles that we need filled; guys who can be first on the puck and get us enough speed and grinding to wear the other team down."
Wednesday's game with the Blackhawks will be on NHL Network. It will be the only preseason game on TV. All the games wil be on 1250-AM.
Finally, one quick moment from practice. When Boucher went on the ice to start power play practice, he blew his whistle to assemble the troops. Not all got to the coach quick enough and he ordered them all to "do it again." So the players dispersed, Boucher blew the whistle again and the players flew to the coach like a magnet.
"For me there's absolutely no time to waste to get better and faster," Boucher said later. "I'm all about getting an edge and not wasting time, getting guys to be at their top level at all moments. Then it becomes a habit."