If you call yourself a Tampa Bay fan you should already know what happened on 8 December. That of course being the injury to Marty St. Louis during practice by a backhand shot from Dominic Moore. Not only did the Lightning lose one of its consistent scorers, but more importantly, lost a good chunk of its heart and soul on the ice. Of course there’s also the missing presence of big blue liner and Assistant Captain, Mattias Ohlund, who’s been out since the beginning of the season with a knee injury. A presence that has noticeably been missed as the play of the defensive corps has been a bit inconsistent thus far. So what is this other injury I speak of? The Lightning power play.
The Bolts are currently 24th in the NHL on the Power Play with a 15.0% rate. Compared to last season, the Lightning PP is suffering, it has been injured and it has been one of the missing pieces keeping this team from getting on track.
Last season the Lightning finished 6th (20.5%) on the PP and then came the playoffs and the Bolts went wild! And after 18 playoff contests the Bolts finished 3rd on the PP (25.4%). So what happened between that ECF Game 7 with Boston and now? Some might point towards the departures of Simon Gagne. Well Simon Gagne had a good presence on the PP during the regular season with 7 PP Goals and 8 PP Assists and notched 3 more assists on the PP during the Cup run. Fairly solid stats to be certain, but one man’s departure should not have affected the PP all that much.
My thoughts on the cause of this is an inconsistency with the fundamentals; transitioning into the offensive zone, solid passing while in the zone, getting traffic in front of the net, and just plain taking shots! The Bolts have been struggling getting on the attack and more often than not, getting stuffed at the opposing blue line. When they get into the zone it seems that their vision is left behind, with bad passing leading to 5 short-handed goals against so far this season. The Lightning are also getting bullied in front of the net or are not getting there to create the screen, allowing the blast from the back end to make it through. Lastly, many of the games I’ve watched (and yes armchair PP Quarterbacking is easy to do) when I thought they should have taken the shot and challenge the goalie to make the save, they passed and passed and passed, which often led to the puck getting cleared out.
Now, other than solid work on fundamentals during practices, what else can be done? Personnel change, shake things up a bit. I was glad to see more Marc-Andre Bergeron other than Eric Brewer on the PP a few times during last night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. He’s got a canon of a shot, but has not had too many chances to just rip one. With him getting on the PP more, it will give him more chances to lock it in and get comfortable. I was hoping to see how Antti Miettinen might have played on the PP, but the Jets snatched him from waivers. Of course, Coach Guy Boucher, has never shied at changing lines up, even shifting linemates during a game to create a better match-up. I’d like to see this more on the PP as well, if the main crew isn’t getting it done, time to break things up and see if something happens. The worst possible outcome is that our PP will stay the same and not improve.
Take care and take it easy,
– Black Sheep Jim
All stats from NHL