Since the first day of training camp, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has stressed that his players should have a shooter’s mentality.
For Teddy Purcell
, who admits for much of his hockey career he has been a passer, that has been a work in progress. But that process is starting to move along at a strong pace.
Purcell is using his wrist shot more, getting to the scoring areas between the dots consistently and taking advantage of his opportunities to produce. Purcell has climbed to fourth on the team in scoring with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists), with nine points in his last nine games.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my shot in the past,” Purcell said. “It’s only the last couple years that I’m starting to realize that it can be pretty effective, too. I’ve just got to find that balance, not force any passes and use my shot to create rebounds for the guys.”
Even if you have the great vision and hands that Purcell possesses, Boucher said the decision-making balance should be tilted toward shooting. Shots create goals, momentum, offensive-zone face-offs, an indirect pass or rebound. Passes have to be perfect to be productive and those made in the offensive zone often become turnovers.
“A shooting mentality is a lot more important to me than a zig-zag pass,” Boucher said. “I think [Purcell] has done a lot better in that respect. He needs to trust his shot because his shot is even better than his vision and passing ability. If he kept passing like he was always before, we would have lost more games. Because he has helped us win.”
Purcell, 25, produced 58 assists and 83 points for Manchester of the American Hockey League in 2007-08 – his first season of pro hockey – then shared time the next year between Manchester and the Los Angeles Kings. The 2009-10 season was supposed to be Purcell’s breakout campaign for the Kings, but it did not materialize.
That turned out to be the Lightning’s good fortune. The Kings traded Purcell and a third-round draft choice to the Lightning for veteran center Jeff Halpern at the trade deadline last March. Purcell had nine points in 19 games for the Bolts last season.
“One of the main things for me is confidence and having people believe in me,” Purcell said. “That wasn’t the case in LA last year. My confidence was down and I guess they didn’t believe in me.”
Purcell came to Lightning training camp with a fresh attitude and confidence.
“My main goal was to go in and prove that I was going to work hard,” Purcell said. “I knew I could make plays with the puck and I was determined to improve my play away from the puck.”
Boucher pushed Purcell from the start, stopping one practice after the first regular-season game to urge the St. John’s, Newfoundland native to shoot the puck. In the next game at Montreal, Purcell had a season-high eight shots on goal.
Purcell said seeing things on video has helped him get to the prime scoring positions more consistently.
“Sometimes, you think you are there but you are a split second away or you go through the area and you don’t stop,” Purcell said. “It’s not only getting there, it’s staying there and finding pucks. That’s what has happened. I’m getting a lot more chances around the net and more pucks are bouncing my way and finding my stick. You just have to make a consistent effort to keep going to those areas.”
Boucher said Purcell “has all the skill in the world” and has upgraded his all-around game the last month, following the lead of guys like Nate Thompson
, Adam Hall
and Dominic Moore, among others.
Purcell said playing with many different linemates has been a plus for him.
“Everyone’s on the same page,” Purcell said. “So when you go out with a certain line you know the style. We are a fast team that likes to get pucks to the net and we have a lot of skill.
“Coach is only going to give you opportunities if you are doing the little things. He’s a big believer in play away from the puck and taking care of the defensive zone first. That’s why we’re getting our results. When I do those things, I’m above the puck and not cheating offensively, then I’m going to get the puck a lot more. That’s when I’m most effective.”
Boucher said he knew Purcell was a power-play guy. But he had to earn his minutes, replacing injured Vincent Lecavalier
on the right boards on the top power-play unit.
Purcell has eight assists and a goal on the power play, fourth on the team with nine points. He had six shots against Florida recently and followed that up with seven against Toronto. Purcell attempted 42 shots the last nine games, 31 on goal, and had three two-point games in a six-game stretch.
“This year is a new start for me and I’m just trying to work on my consistency,” Purcell said. “Coach has given me a great opportunity to get a lot of quality minutes with a lot of good players. I can’t take anything for granted. I know I have to keep working for what I’m getting.”