Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Faceoff issues hamper Lightning's special teams

NEW YORK — Lightning special teams have been taking a beating lately.

The penalty kill has allowed goals in 11 of its past 32 shorthanded situations. The power play — despite scoring in nine of 13 games — is just 15-for-110 (13.6 percent) in its past 35.

One reason, coach Jon Cooper said, is a lack of puck possession caused by lost faceoffs.

The numbers are numbing.

On the power play, Tampa Bay has won just 46.2 percent of faceoffs. On the penalty kill, it has won just 42.8 percent.

Winning 50 percent of faceoffs is considered okay, so Cooper was serious when he said of the percentages, "It's not good."

The way Cooper figures it each power-play faceoff lost means losing 20-30 seconds of attack time. On the penalty kill, it can mean a extended time defending in one's own zone.

At least the power play has an excuse: the loss of star C Steven Stamkos on Nov. 11 to a broken leg. In 17 games with Stamkos, the Lightning won 51.4 percent of power-play faceoffs. In 30 games without him, it has won 42.7 percent.

"You take your top faceoff guy away and you get exposed a little bit," Cooper said, and added, "We have capable guys. We just have to be a little hungrier as a unit. Maybe not playing for the 100 percent clean win, but playing for the 50/50 and everybody getting involved."

Truth is the Lightning struggles on faceoffs in all situations as it is 25th in the 30-team league with a winning percentage of 47.9 percent.

Only C Nate Thompson (51.5) and C Valtteri Filppula (50.8) top 50 percent.

Hedman ascending: Victor Hedman's 10 goals are tied for second in the league among defensemen, one behind Nashville's Shea Weber. Hedman's 26 points ties his career best.

"It's a lot of fun to contribute on both ends of the ice," Hedman said. "I worked a lot this summer on my shot and getting shots through, and joining the play is one of my strengths."

"We've put a system in place we think he can excel at, so the way we play the game takes advantage of a lot of his attributes," Cooper said, "that's his skating, his ability to shoot pucks. We don't have him sitting still on the ice."

Scary moment: With 6:16 left in Tuesday's first period, Hedman lost an edge on the stick blade of New York's Brian Boyle, and apparently hurt his right hand when he hit the corner boards.

Hedman was back for the second period. "I got lucky. I had the time to protect myself," he said.

Cooper praised Boyle.

"A lot of players would have run Hedman into the ground, but he held up," Cooper said. "I have to give Boyle a lot of credit for being a hockey player in the game and not trying to hurt somebody."

Odds and ends: G Ben Bishop is 5-0-0 against the Rangers with a 0.91 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. … Matt Carle's seven-game points streak in which he had nine assists came to an end. The streak tied Dan Boyle's franchise record for defensemen. … Now that he has played more than 10 games since his callup, D Jean-Philippe Cote must clear waivers to be reassigned to AHL Syracuse. … D Sami Salo (ankle) and forwards Thompson (flu) and B.J. Crombeen were scratched.

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