The Tampa Bay Lightning power play was dismal in 2015-16. This much we know. For a team loaded with talent all over the ice, finishing 28th in the NHL with a 15.8% conversion rate simply wasn’t acceptable.
Last summer’s hiring of former Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards absolutely addressed this struggle. Richards’ Blue Jackets had the fifth-best power play in the league in 2014-15 before an 0-7 start in 2015-16 led to his firing.
It’s not just the early returns that are encouraging. The Lightning is fifth in the league with a 23.9% conversion rate. While that number will fluctuate over the course of the season, the eye test tells us they’ll remain in the top third of the standings for a few reasons:
- Moving and shaking – A rather basic tenet of the power play, but the Lightning simply didn’t do it enough last year. The boys are moving their feet, creating space and lanes and not allowing defenders to lock on.
- Enter the Dragon – Can anyone name one player, outside of perhaps Jonathan Drouin in the playoffs, who could enter the offensive zone on the power play last year? It was dreadful. The Lightning has simply been better at controlling the puck across the blue line, making the first pass and getting set up.
- Toss it, leave it… – and pull up quick to retrieve it! This year’s power play has been anything but one and done when it comes to shot attempts. In Monday’s game against the Islanders, there was one sequence with the Lightning putting 3-4 shots on net and recovering the puck each and every time. While they didn’t score on that particular power play, you’re going to be rewarded more often than not in that situation.
- Spreading the love – Last season, Steven Stamkos led the team with 14 power play goals, followed by Nikita Kucherov with nine and Jonathan Marchessault with…four. Stamkos and Kucherov accounted for over 50% of the team’s power play output. Thus far in 2016-17, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin have joined Stamkos and Kucherov with multiple power play tallies. You’re also seeing more players taking shots and looking to shoot instead of simply deferring to Stamkos in the left circle.
Are you feeling optimistic about the Lightning’s play with the man advantage? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Vasisexy.