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Conference Final

Point propelling Lightning power play against Capitals

Center key to Tampa Bay's proficiency with man-advantage in Eastern Final

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point probably is not the first player that comes to mind when analyzing the Tampa Bay Lightning power play. Center Steven Stamkos, forward Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman undoubtedly come first.

But Point, the 22-year-old center, is the one who quietly has helped re-energize the Lightning's white-hot power play against the Washington Capitals during the Eastern Conference Final.

With Point, Tampa Bay's first unit on the man-advantage has scored six goals in 14 attempts through four games in the series, which is even at 2-2 going into Game 5 at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

"He makes great reads," Stamkos said.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Point was moved up to replace forward Alex Killorn on the first power-play unit with Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and forward J.T. Miller in the second period of Game 5 of the second round against the Boston Bruins.

The Lightning were 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 5 against the Bruins after going 4-for-16 in the first four games. That's 25.0 percent, certainly more than passable, but two of the goals came from the second unit, which Point was anchoring. The first unit wasn't nearly as dangerous as it needed to be.

"We just didn't feel we were getting our looks that we liked," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

So Cooper swapped Point, a right-handed shot, for Killorn, a lefty. The shooting hands are key, because it changed the look of Tampa Bay's first unit, which scored on its only opportunity with Point on the ice in Game 5 against Boston.

He didn't get a point on Miller's power-play goal, but was an outlet in the left circle, typically Stamkos' spot, with the Lightning giving a new look with Kucherov, Miller and Stamkos all on the right side.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Miller nets PPG off give-and-go play

Point has since been playing in the middle of the ice, between Stamkos in the left circle and Kucherov in the right circle, and the difference has been noticeable.

Tampa Bay's first power-play unit has scored in all four games of the conference final, including going 3-for-7 in Games 3 and 4 at Capital One Arena, each a Lightning victory.

Point has points on four of the six goals (one goal, three assists).

"He's always been an option for us there," Cooper said of Point's position between Stamkos and Kucherov. "We thought he just gave us another threat in hopes that we could expose Washington in having him there. The other thing is, too, is he gets the puck in the zone. 

"He's really good at that, of transporting the puck. As coaches you've got to try to put the guys in position to have success, and it's really helped out."

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm2: Point hammers home PPG from slot

Point's role on the Lightning's power play is similar to that of forward T.J. Oshie on the Capitals, the right-handed shot in the middle that can be used in multiple ways.

Tampa Bay uses Point as a middle bumper, which is how he set up Stamkos for his goal in Game 4. He's in the slot to put in rebounds, which is how he scored in Game 2. He's a puck retriever in the middle or on the wall, which is how he got an assist on Stamkos' goal in Game 3. He goes higher in the zone to spread the penalty killers out and open the passing lane between the circles, which is how Stamkos scored in Game 1. He's also a one-time option.

"[Point] is so comfortable in that spot," Stamkos said.

He sees himself as a relief valve of sorts, saying he's there to take pressure off Kucherov and Stamkos.

That Point is a right-handed shot in the middle is key because it means when Kucherov has the puck in the right circle or Miller has it below the goal line, opponents must respect Point as a threat. That which means Stamkos gets just a little more room to operate, just like forward Alex Ovechkin does with Oshie in the middle of Washington's power play.

"When they take those flanks away, the middle of the ice is open," Stamkos said.

That's what happened on Stamkos' goal in Game 4.

The middle passing lane to Stamkos was closed, so the Lightning went with the shorter route, with Miller finding Point between the circles. It worked, because once Point got the puck, the Capitals converged three penalty-killers into his area. Nobody was covering Stamkos, who was gliding low through the left circle.

That was a misread by the Capitals, but it happened in part because Point is a threat with his right-handed shot. Killorn wouldn't have been as dangerous in that same situation because the puck would have to travel too far to get to his stick and might have been knocked away.

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm4: Stamkos buries Point's feed for PPG

Point tried to one-touch a pass to Stamkos, but it hit Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly's skate. The puck came back to Point; this time he delivered it to Stamkos, who had the entire left side of the net open and didn't miss.

"He's an outstanding player," Stamkos said of Point. "He's been arguably one of our best players all season long and then through the playoffs."

***

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