Tampa Bay Lightning revamp power play with dangerous second unit
Injuries hurt in 2016-17, but with a healthy group, the Bolts’ second power play unit can make some noise.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a huge resurgence with it’s power play in 2016-17. Most of that was led by Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin, and Victor Hedman. Throughout the season, 13 different Lightning players scored a power play goal and 14 players recorded a power play point. However, late in the season, the power play was the first unit and only the first unit. From February 1st until the end of the season, only eight different players scored a power play point. Two of them missed the end of the season; Valtteri Filppula after being traded and Tyler Johnson to a lower body injury.
That left Kucherov, Drouin, and Hedman joined by Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat to carry the load. A combination of Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Vladislav Namestnikov, Adam Erne, Anton Stralman, and Jake Dotchin made up the second unit for much of the last month and a half of the season. That unit was ineffective with only Alex Killorn scoring a power play goal after March 1st, and that came on a shift with the first unit.
Injuries decimated the Lightning and it caused Jon Cooper and Todd Richards to use a cobbled together group of forwards on the second unit consisting of NHL regulars and AHL call-ups. This season though, they have a full compliment of players to draw on to put together two power play units that can threaten to score on any given chance.
The first power play unit obviously has the big fire power. Gone is Drouin, but back in the mix is Steven Stamkos with Kucherov and Hedman. They’ve added Namestnikov who has shown a knack for being in the right place at the right time and Alex Killorn that has used his size to create space and passing lanes in the middle as well as supporting teammates that are being pressured along the boards. Through eight games, the players on the first unit have put up five power play goals and nine assists.
While the big guns are on the first unit, the second unit this season isn’t anything to sneeze at either. The point position has rotated between Anton Stralman and Mikhail Sergachev. Stralman has yet to find the score sheet on the power play, but Sergachev has picked up two assists already. The forwards on the unit are Johnson, Point, Palat, and Gourde. That unit has combined for three power play goals and two assists on top of the two assists from Sergachev.
The power play resurgence last season put the Lightning 6th overall in the NHL with a 22.8% success rate. So far through eight games, the Lightning sit at 10th overall with a 24.2% success rate. It’s still a small sample size and everything will even out a bit over the rest of the season. But so far the signs are promising that the Lightning can have more than just one good power play unit. Opposing teams won’t be able to focus their best penalty kill units on Stamkos, Kucherov, and Hedman. They’ll have the prowess of Johnson, Point, and Palat to contend with on the second unit too.
2016-17’s 22.8% on the power play set a franchise record. Can this season’s team top that number? Time will tell, but with two good power play units, there’s a great chance that they can do it and have a top five power play unit in the NHL.