The Wrapround: Perry, trade deadline additions delivering for Lightning
The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.
• Catch up on Game 3 of Blues - Avalanche in the Saturday NHL Rink Wrap.
• There are some injuries to watch from that Blues - Avs Game 3. Most prominently, Jordan Binnington left and did not return following a collision with Nazem Kadri, forcing Ville Husso in net. Samuel Girard is done for the playoffs after suffering a broken sternum.
• While Saturday only had that Blues - Avalanche Game 3, Sunday is as packed as you’ll get this deep into the playoffs, with three different contests.
• Although the Penguins have other fish to fry in Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, they made a key offseason decision with a Bryan Rust contract extension.
In the grand scheme of things, Nikita Kucherov just being that much better during the playoffs is the big story so far in this Panthers - Lightning series.
Just consider how Kucherov swung things heading into Game 3 (1:30 p.m. ET). In Game 1, Kucherov deked Aaron Ekblad out of the building to set up a key Corey Perry goal. In Game 2, MacKenzie Weegar did not detect what would become essentially a buzzer-beating assist from Kucherov to Ross Colton.
Compare Kucherov’s superstar work (assists on both game-winning goals, a key goal in Game 1) to that of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov (a mere assist between them), and it’s clear that Tampa Bay is winning the star battle in a big way.
Yet, as the Lightning push for a three-peat, the organization is once again showing a deft hand in adding supporting cast members who also make a key difference.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
Perhaps the most startling difference-maker is Corey Perry.
By adding players to bolster a three-peat effort, some of the logic is to bring in fresher legs for a Lightning team that’s been through some real battles. Yet, with Corey Perry, you can throw that logic -- really, a lot of logic -- out the window.
Perry, 37, is the one player who’s appeared in more games (58) than any Lightning player during their three-peat bid. It’s almost audacious how effective he’s been, considering his age, all of that extra playoff fatigue, and the notion that it seemed like Perry was nearing NHL irrelevance as long ago as when the Ducks bought him out in 2019.
Yet, there Corey Perry is. He’s scored three points for the Lightning in two games against the Panthers, and even showing that a puck to the face can only slow him down so much.
” ... When I look at where he ended up statistically at the end of the year, that was icing on the cake. Bringing him in for what he brings to our locker room, and his pedigree is as advertised,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said recently, via the Tampa Bay Times’ John Romano.
“But his on-ice product has been better than I imagined. That’s been typical him. Big moments, big times, Perry is there.”
[NHL Power Rankings: Top Second Round storylines]
Like Perry, Nick Paul captured attention with big goals -- his coming during Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, in particular. But Perry, Paul, and Brandon Hagel have stood out in a number of ways.
- They’re all in the team’s top seven in playoff points per 60.
- Brandon Hagel ranks second in the NHL playoffs in net penalties at +5 (8 penalties drawn, three taken). Paul’s in the mix at +4 (seven drawn, three taken). While Corey Perry’s logged 16 PIM during the postseason, they all came in Game 1 of Toronto - Tampa Bay. Even then, he’s drawn even with four penalties drawn and four taken. The point is straightforward: these depth players are putting others in the penalty box more than they’re traveling there. Frankly, even if you’re mainly drawing even otherwise, getting your team’s power play on the ice for extra reps can be the sort of wonderful boost that gets lost in time.
- Perry’s the only one of the three without positive possession stats across the board so far during the postseason. Even that is a positive situation the closer you look. Perry’s been on the ice for more high-danger chances for (12) than against (10) so far in these playoffs.
Naturally, the Lightning want Brayden Point back. Eventually, they’ll feel that they might need Point back. Yet, it really is a testament to the Lightning that they can plug-and-play over and over again.
Some of that is the structure of this franchise, most notably head coach Jon Cooper. Some of that boils down to the Lightning’s talent evaluators flat-out lapping the competition.
On paper, the Panthers seem like they should be deeper than the Lightning. On the ice, that advantage hasn’t been so clear.
NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY
Game 3 (TBL leads 2-0): Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 3 (CAR leads 2-0): Hurricanes at Rangers, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports): Instead of being skated out of the building each night, the Rangers played the Hurricanes tight in this series. These have been close games, which may inspire mixed feelings of relief about hanging in there and regret from letting opportunities slip away. After you wade through moral victories, the bottom line is that the Rangers need to get into this series by taking over at home against the Hurricanes. That idea seems more feasible on Sunday than it would have been if you told someone about the 2-0 series score in favor of Carolina about a week ago, yet the Rangers still need to make those extra pushes.
Game 3 (Series tied 1-1): Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2): In two games in Calgary, there was rarely a dull moment to open “The Battle of Alberta.” Can we expect the same action as the series shifts to Edmonton? Which team would benefit the most from a slower pace, anyway? The Flames may possess a more varied array of weapons, but Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl made it clear just how lethal a combination they can be in swinging Game 2. Whoever wins, let’s hope it stays hectic, fun, and at times almost chaotic. Though, to be fair, the Oilers and Flames already set the bar extremely high (and lit it on fire).
PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Avalanche vs. Blues
• Lightning vs. Panthers
• Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
• NHL Second Round predictions
• Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round