It’s nearly impossible to look at the Lightning’s success on the blueline this postseason and not notice Kevin Shattenkirk’s contributions.
He’s not four-time Norris Trophy nominee Victor Hedman, but Shattenkirk’s impact on the ice has been anything but quiet.
Shattenkirk’s nine points during the playoffs rank second among Lightning defensemen, behind only Hedman’s 12. Shattenkirk’s five points (all assists) over the past two games trail only — you guessed it — Hedman, who has six (three goals, three assists) during that span.
Asked what he attributes his recent success to, Shattenkirk said, simply, “It’s just passing to Victor Hedman. That’s the secret right now.”
Shattenkirk’s play has been crucial on the Lightning’s blueline since the league resumed play last month.
With the Lightning playing an extra defenseman Monday — as it has since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Bruins — Shattenkirk was paired at times with Hedman, Zach Bogosian and Mikhail Sergachev, totaling 13:17 of ice time.
He was strong at both ends of the ice, assisting on goals from Yanni Gourde and Nikita Kucherov in the 8-2 Lightning win.
“It happens that way sometimes,” Shattenkirk said of his recent offensive output. “You feel like you’re getting a ton of breaks, you know, and they’re not going in for you. Sometimes they come in bunches.”
Shattenkirk isn’t expected to make the big plays like Hedman or kill penalties like Ryan McDonagh. But he plays an important complementary role on defense and mans the right point on the Lightning’s second power-play unit.
“I think it frees up a lot of us,” Shattenkirk said of playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen. “I think, in a way, guys are playing different roles. I think it allows us to roll our D-core a little bit more. I think we’re confident in any group that we put out there, any pair. I think it just gives us a lot of options."
While the adjusted lineup can put more stress on the Lightning’s forwards, it allows the defensemen to get more involved in the offense. To a player like Shattenkirk, that means “feeling better in the game, as well.”
Shattenkirk referenced a play from Game 1 against the Islanders. The defenseman hit Kucherov in stride near center ice with a pass from the Lightning zone, then watched as Kucherov and Brayden Point worked their magic to produce a goal that gave Tampa Bay a 6-1 lead.
“You put it in (Kucherov’s) hands and Point’s hands, and they seem to make some special things happen,” Shattenkirk said.
Shattenkirk is within two points of matching his high for points during a single postseason. He had 11 during the St. Louis' Blues' run to the Western Conference final — where they lost to the San Jose Sharks — in 2015-16.
“It’s just kind of the way it’s gone,” he said. “Not trying to change anything, and obviously not trying to let it affect my game in the defensive zone or anywhere else on the ice.”