Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Curses! Foiled again on the power play

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 joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

25th NHL rank for the Lightning's struggling special teams unit.

16.5 Lightning's success rate this season

when it has a man advantage.

16Games this season in which the Lightning has scored two or fewer goals.

Up next

vs. Senators, 7:30 Thursday, Amalie Arena. TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Curses! Foiled again on the power play 12/07/15 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2015 10:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Rays journal: Jake Odorizzi goes on 10-day DL with back strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi is hoping his struggles this season can be tied directly to the lower-back strain he has tried to pitch through since spring training. Toward that end, the Rays placed Odorizzi on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday retroactive to Tuesday.

    Rays center fielder Mallex Smith smiles after hitting a single advancing runners in the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It is going to get interesting tonight when the Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York. The Rays feel they are good enough to win the East Division. These next four games and the four that follow in Houston will be a good measuring stick.