BOSTON — Lightning right wing Steve Downie's physical play and grit garner a lot of attention, especially from referees.
But what often goes overlooked is Downie's playmaking ability, which was showcased during Wednesday's 5-4 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Bruins.
Downie showed poise and patience in taking the puck toward the slot during a power play in the second period before slipping it back to Teddy Purcell, whose one-timer from the left circle beat Tim Thomas.
For Downie's assist on a Marty St. Louis goal in the third period, the wing sold to nearly everyone, including Thomas, that he was going to shoot on a two-on-one. He held the puck until the last second before sliding a cross-crease pass to St. Louis.
"It's not new to us. We know he's a good hockey player," St. Louis said. "I think sometimes his skill level gets overshadowed with maybe his reputation, his physical play, his grittiness. Obviously, he spends his fair amount of time in the penalty box, so you forget he's got the tools and the skill level to make those plays."
Downie, who has two goals and 12 assists this postseason, will always bring a high battle level. He's willing to take on anyone, no matter how big (see: Bruins 6-foot-9 captain Zdeno Chara). And he has racked up more than 170 penalty minutes in each of the past two seasons.
But Downie is also a top-six forward who has shown his ability to score, including 22 goals and 24 assists last season. He played on the top line with St. Louis and Steven Stamkos at one point this season, which, shortened by injury, included 10 goals and 22 assists in 57 games. Not to mention, he's a key force on the second power-play unit.
"His greatest attribute is … his smarts with the puck," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "That's why we're here focusing on that with him rather than his physicality. Obviously, he can always throw the body here and there, and he hits extremely hard.
"But to me, he's always been a terrific hockey mind. And if he sticks to that, he's terrific out there."