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)

More shakeups could come to struggling Lightning power play

Lightning 6-foot-7 center Brian Boyle, left, is being brought into power-play tweaks, put in front of the net on the first unit.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning 6-foot-7 center Brian Boyle, left, is being brought into power-play tweaks, put in front of the net on the first unit.

TAMPA — The Lightning's new-look five-forward power play unit didn't get much of a showcase in Friday's debut, with zero shots on one opportunity in the loss to the Flyers.

And from the looks of things, it might not be the only significant shakeup in the stagnant special-teams unit down the stretch.

At Saturday's practice, 6-foot-7 center Brian Boyle was put in front of the net on the first power-play unit. Gritty wing J.T. Brown and Alex Killorn took turns near the crease for the other unit.

Some would argue it's about time the Lightning added a little more will to the skill on the power play, which has puzzlingly struggled with consistency all season. There's simply too much talent on this team — from captain Steven Stamkos to the Triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov — to be 26th in the league (16.7 percent) on the power play entering Saturday, better than only the Panthers, Flames, Maple Leafs and Jets.

There's a reason Stamkos said the power play is in "desperation mode." For the Lightning to make another deep playoff run, its power play has to produce.

"You look at the best power plays in the league, they can be the difference between momentum in games. They can win you games," Stamkos said. "We've got to figure it out heading into the playoffs."

It's not like this issue snuck up on the Lightning. General manager Steve Yzerman said last summer it was one key area he wanted to improve. He tried to address it at the Feb. 29 trade deadline but said an impact player wasn't available. Assistant coach Brad Lauer, who worked with power plays while with Anaheim, was brought in this season, but the unit is primarily run by head coach Jon Cooper.

Cooper said that when the unit struggles, it's upon the coaches to put players in the best positions to improve it. But there's not one simple reason why the power play has fizzled. There's a lack of a shoot-first mentality, and the players make too many low-percentage seam passes. The Lightning was next-to-last in the league in faceoff percentage on the power play (48.3 percent), according to faceoffs.net. You don't see 2-on-1s created with movement, like the more potent power play in Washington (23.7).

"It just hasn't been a well-executed power play," Stamkos said. "We've talked with the coaching staff. As players, everyone has a piece in that. And we don't feel like we've found something that obviously worked.

"It's tough when things aren't working and trying to change things or change units to switch things up. It's not the way you want to have a mind-set going on a power play. You want to be confident."

Stamkos pointed out how key of a factor the power play was in the Lightning's series wins over the Canadiens and Rangers in last year's playoffs. But in the Stanley Cup final, when the Lightning lost three one-goal games to the Blackhawks, the power play went 1-for-13. "That could have won us the series, if we had a better power play," defenseman Anton Stralman said.

The Lightning doesn't want to have the same regret this summer.

SLAP SHOTS: It appeared reviews were good for Jonathan Drouin's return Friday for AHL Syracuse, his first pro game in six weeks. Drouin had an assist and three shots on goal. "He looked like the same Jonathan," Crunch forward Matt Peca told nhl.com. "It didn't looked like he missed any time." Drouin also played Saturday against Rochester and had two goals in a 7-4 loss..

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

More shakeups could come to struggling Lightning power play 03/12/16 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2016 11:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.