Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

St. Louis, Stamkos to see action on Lightning penalty kill

ESTERO — Marty St. Louis loves to kill penalties.

"You're always part of the game," the Lightning wing said. "There's no slowing down."

The thing is, St. Louis did not do a lot of penalty killing the past three seasons under former coach Guy Boucher. Under coach Jon Cooper, though, that will change.

And not only for St. Louis but Steven Stamkos, both of whom will get a chance to bolster an anemic penalty kill that last season was 19th in the 30-team league at 80.6 percent and 26th in 2011-12 at 79.2 percent, and give it offensive oomph as well.

Want to read an embarrassing stat? The Lightning the past four seasons has been either last or tied for last in shorthanded goals. It had five in that span, fewest in the league.

"I know you're short a guy, but that doesn't mean you don't have chances to score," Cooper said. "The No. 1 goal is to keep (pucks) out of your net, but if you put one in, it can be a momentum (producer), too."

As St. Louis said, "Sometimes a shorthanded goal can change the whole game."

That is what happened in the third period of Thursday's 3-2 overtime preseason win over the Panthers. Richard Panik scored shorthanded on a two-on-one with St. Louis to tie the score 2-2.

So, will St. Louis, last season's NHL points leader, and Stamkos, with a league-best 185 goals since the start of 2009-10, be game-changers for the penalty kill?

Time was, St. Louis was integral. In 2003-04 his eight shorthanded goals and 11 shorthanded points led the league. In 2006-07 his 11 shorthanded points again were tops, and his five shorthanded goals tied for second with then-teammate Vinny Lecavalier.

But Boucher, who coached from 2010-13, did not want his best offensive players burning energy in a defensive role. St. Louis had zero shorthanded goals under Boucher and an average 33 seconds of penalty-kill time. Stamkos averaged 32 seconds, also with zero goals.

"Listen, if you're going out there smart for 20, 25 seconds, I don't think you're wasting energy. I really don't," said St. Louis, whose 28 shorthanded goals are a Tampa Bay record. "If you can get five, six rotations on your PK, nobody is tired."

The key, Cooper said, is "player-slash-game management."

"If we're in a situation where we've had a ton of power plays, (St. Louis and Stamkos) probably won't see much time killing penalties. I'm not even necessarily a fan of using them together. But I am a big believer in you use your best players whenever you can. I'm not saying they're going to be regular penalty killers, but there are times we are going to need them."

The need, though, is not necessarily goals. Cooper said a penalty kill with a percentage success rate in the high 80s would be just fine, even without shorthanded goals.

And just getting offensive players on the penalty kill "puts a little honesty in the other team" because "they have to be more careful," St. Louis said.

"I love it," Stamkos said. "You want to be out there in those situations and help your team. If it's the penalty kill or stopping goals, that's something I want to do."

Scoring a few shorthanded wouldn't hurt, either.

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