Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Curses! Foiled again on the power play

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — When coach Jon Cooper was asked about his struggling power play the other day, he scanned the media scrum.

"I'm happy there's no (TV) cameras," he quipped.

No, Cooper didn't use any four-letter words in describing the not-so-special teams unit, which is — stunningly — 25th in the league at 16.5 percent. But center Tyler Johnson summed it up succinctly — and cleanly — after Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Kings, when the Lightning went 0-for-6 with the man advantage (on just four shots).

"Pretty atrocious," Johnson said.

Captain Steven Stamkos wondered aloud last week how many wins the Lightning (13-12-3) might have had its power play scored a goal. It's costing games, and may end up costing a playoff spot, the Lightning entering Monday four points out of third place in the Atlantic (automatic berth) and two points out of the second wild card (behind three teams).

Take Sunday as an example. The Lightning had already made it a successful trip, taking four of six points on the West Coast swing, but had a chance for its first three-game sweep in California since 1993. Down two goals five minutes into the second period Sunday, the Lightning had one minute, 10 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but couldn't muster a shot on goal. It didn't have a shot on a minute of 4-on-3 power play later in the period.

For a team desperate for scoring — held to two goals or fewer for the 16th time in 27 games Sunday — the power play can, and must, be a difference-maker.

With so much skill, how is the unit so futile?

"I am frustrated," Stamkos said. "I know we have the talent to do it. It's just execution."

Stamkos, who has two goals in his last 10 games, failed to get a shot on goal despite 6:25 of power play time. He wasn't the only one. The Lightning looked like it was trying to pass the puck into the net, turning the puck over on low percentage seam passes. There's too much hesitation. Johnson, who returned after missing three games with an undisclosed injury, believes players have been getting out of their structure.

"It's a weird thing, the power play, you look around the league, once you get hot you get that confidence and things go the right way," Johnson said. "For whatever reason, we get down early and just get frustrated in a way. We have guys that are so competitive, that when something doesn't go right, you almost try to do too much. Once you try too much, it's tough. On the power play, you already have the extra man, so you've got to use that to your advantage."

While new assistant Brad Lauer helps with the power play, like he did in Anaheim, Cooper still runs most of the show, so part of it is on his staff.

"You get scouted," Cooper said. "Coaches are good in this league, teams start to adapt and you have to adapt. We haven't been good enough at that as of late."

With recent injuries to Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat, Cooper has often switched up personnel, even putting recent AHL callup Jonathan Marchessault on the power play. The unit could use Marchessault's shoot-first mentality, he had a team-high five Sunday. The Lightning, which also hoped defenseman Nikita Nesterov could provide a spark, doesn't really have true quarterback. As Cooper said, it's not "as commanding as we once were."

"It's not like the guys aren't trying — they're trying," Cooper said. "But our execution is off a little bit. The frustration mounts, a little bit of negative energy can get in there and then they're gripping their sticks."

The Lightning lamented Sunday not being able to pick up goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up two goals in 10 shots before getting pulled in his first start since Nov. 27. In the opening minute of the second, 12 seconds after Brian Boyle tied the score, Vasilevskiy allowed the go-ahead goal and was yanked, Cooper hoping for a "spark."

Ben Bishop, who had a scare Saturday after getting hit in the right eye by a stick, looked, and felt, good, stopping 17 of 18 shots to give Tampa Bay a chance. But Tampa Bay couldn't score, with no help from its power play.

"If I had the answers," Bishop said with a smile.

If only anyone did.

MINOR MOVE: Left wing Joel Vermin was reassigned to AHL Syracuse on Monday.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Don’t forget Ryan Callahan in Lightning’s resurgence

Don’t forget Ryan Callahan in Lightning’s resurgence

WASHINGTON — Much has been made about the impact on the Lightning of a healthy C Steven Stamkos, who missed most of last season after knee surgery.But don’t forget about RW Ryan Callahan, 32, who is looking like his old self after hip problems plague...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Published: 11/22/17
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Published: 11/22/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Published: 11/22/17

‘Good chance’ Cedric Paquette back for Lightning

For Cedric Paquette, the wait may finally be over.Paquette said there's a good chance he returns to the Lightning lineup tonight against the Blackhawks at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m., NBCSN). Paquette had missed the last 13 games with an undisclosed inju...
Published: 11/22/17
Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

BRANDON — A successful penalty kill begins long before the offending Lightning player, whistled two minutes earlier for some infraction, leaves the box with the score unchanged.It begins with a detailed scouting report of the opposing team’s power pl...
Published: 11/21/17
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Published: 11/20/17
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17