If there’s anyone who knows what it takes to win in the postseason, it’s Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
His team had had their names engraved on the Cup in back-to-back seasons and despite the 0-2 hole to the Rangers they still have as good a chance as anyone to win it again this year.
During the ESPN broadcast of Eastern Conference Finals Game 2, play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough shared an interesting comment from the Lightning bench boss on the importance of the power play in the postseason.
It’s interesting what Jon Cooper said about the adage that you have to have your power play in the playoffs. He said “Not really. You have to have your penalty killing. Where you have to have your power play is when you are behind. You can be mediocre or worse on the power play but you can’t be bad killing penalties and last long in the playoffs.” –McDonough on ESPN during Game 2
Cooper has been there, he’s seen it all. He’s been through heartbreaking losses in the conference finals, being swept in the 1st round after winning the President’s Trophy, and winning 10 straight playoff series to get where they are now.
In the last 10 series the Lightning have played in, they are a combined 63 for 186 on the power play. Putting it politely, that’s ridiculous. His team is hitting at a 34% clip over nearly 200 power play opportunities. But, the mantra he shared with ESPN comes from experience even during that time.
In the 1st round of 2020’s playoffs the Lightning went 0 for 10 on the power play en route to beating the Blue Jackets. They were 4 for 21 and 2 for 15 in a few other series these last two seasons. In every series though, save for the 0 for 10, the Lightning have allowed fewer power play goals against than they have scored.
Cooper’s team has allowed two or fewer goals in six of their last 10 playoff series and they’ve allowed just 26 goals on 179 opportunities or 14.5%.
The point I’m trying to make in highlighting this is that the Golden Knights’ power play doesn’t have to improve dramatically if they can simply get back to the penalty killing prowess they’ve had before.
In the 2021 playoffs, Vegas allowed just two power play goals in Round 1 and only three in the conference final. In the bubble in 2020, the Golden Knights were even better going 45 for 52 overall (86.5%). They gave up just one to Chicago, and three to each of Vancouver and Dallas.
Yes, the power play has been a mess for the Golden Knights, and even mentioning it in the same article in which the Tampa Bay Lightning’s is mentioned feels a bit off, but if Jon Cooper believes a mediocre power play can win in the playoffs, you better believe it can.
Vegas’ penalty kill took a major step back last season which was a huge reason why they missed the playoffs. The power play garnered most of the attention, and it probably will as we move forward, but we’ve seen a great penalty kill before, and if there are any ideas of aspirations of a Cup next season, we need to see it again.