Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning looks to shake up stagnant power play

TAMPA — The Lightning power play looked quite a bit different during Thursday's practice, including an experiment with a five-forward unit.

"Intriguing," coach Jon Cooper said.

Though Cooper said there's no guarantee the Lightning will use that alignment in tonight's game against the Flyers at Amalie Arena, the struggling power play could use a shakeup. "It needs to be better," wing Ryan Callahan said. "We realize that. It has to be better if we want to make any noise in the playoffs or down the stretch here."

The power play has been a season-long issue. Tampa Bay entered Thursday ranked 26th in the league at 16.7 percent, which is stunning considering all the skill it has. Even during the Lightning's nine-game winning streak, it was 3-for-31 with the man advantage, and it is in a 0-for-13 skid.

With general manager Steve Yzerman unable to address the power play by the Feb. 29 trade deadline, it's up to the coaches and players to fix it.

"Obviously we're kind of in desperation mode with the power play right now," captain Steven Stamkos said. "You're willing to try some things that you didn't in the past. We need to find a way. I know (problems have) been masked because we've been winning, but you see some of the games we could have easily won that we've lost, going back to earlier in the year, if the power play could (score).

The Lightning, fighting for first place in a tight top three in the Atlantic Division, believes it has the pieces. There's Stamkos, one of the game's elite scorers, with 29 goals. The Triplets line of Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov (25 goals) and Tyler Johnson is heating up. There's puck-moving defensemen such as Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. But the execution — and confidence — have been fleeting, the issues include giving up six shorthanded goals.

"When things are going well, you're going out there thinking that you're going to score and generate some chances," Stamkos said. "We went through a stretch where it was like, 'Hopefully we don't get scored on.' Then you go through a stretch where you're like, 'Okay, hopefully we can get a shot.' "

Shooting would help. Cooper has harped on his team to have more of an attack mentality.

"It's a matter of making plays when they're there, get more pucks to the net," Callahan said, "maybe not trying to make that perfect play. Sometimes when it's struggling, you're trying to almost pass the puck into the back of the net. You just need to get pucks there and bodies there and get an ugly (goal), and then you start rolling with your confidence."

The Lightning power play has been timely on occasion. Stamkos' power-play tally was the winner in a 4-2 victory in Carolina on Feb. 21. Tampa Bay scored two with the man advantage in a 4-1 win in Boston a week later. But Cooper said it was hard not to think an 0-for-4 power play was the difference in Tuesday's 1-0 overtime loss to the Bruins.

Tampa Bay will need any spark it can get tonight against a desperate Flyers team that is closing in on a playoff spot after winning seven of it past 10. The wins include thumping the Lightning 4-2 on Monday, a game in which Philadelphia outshot the Lighting 40-18 and that Stamkos called among Tampa Bay's worst performances in his career here.

Cooper said it's up to coaches to put the special-teams unit in the best position to succeed and that included mixing up the personnel and philosophy Thursday. "Sometimes when you change things up, it kind of reinvigorates the guys," Cooper said. "So we'll see what happens."

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