With Steven Stamkos missing time to begin the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed to rely on another center to step up. To no one’s surprise, that center would be Brayden Point, and he has done more than just step up.
The Importance of Brayden Point
In his Game 3 review, Oscar Elieff talked about Brayden Point’s importance. His stats are outstanding to this point. He’s simply been an x-factor for Tampa Bay, something that deserves a deeper dive.
Point leads the Lightning in points with seven, through six games. Three of those six have been first-round games, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, while the other three were round-robin play. Point also leads the Lightning in goals scored, including the game-winner in quintuple-overtime to clinch Game 1 against the Blue Jackets. Point is also tied for second on the team in assists with three, behind Nikita Kucherov, and tied with Ryan McDonagh.
Any impact like that, statistically, will obviously catch the attention of many people. In fact, Point holds a new Lightning franchise record, becoming the first player to record a point in each of his team’s first six postseason games. But his impact has gone far beyond simple counting stats.
Brayden Point Eating Up Big Minutes
The seven-year captain of the Lightning, Stamkos, played a massive role over his many seasons in Tampa Bay. This season he averaged nearly 18-and-a-half minutes per game, on average. Meanwhile, Point played slightly more, averaging a hair under 19 minutes per game. In the playoffs, Stamkos has only played double-digit minutes per game in three of his six appearances. In those, he played 19:44, 18:33, and 17:37 in 2011, 2015, and 2018, respectfully. Only once, in 2018, did he play over 10 games, and averaged 18:54 per game.
Seeing Brayden Point now fulfill this high-minute role that Stamkos served is no surprise. When both are healthy, the Bolts have used the duo of Point and Stamkos in tandem, rotating the role of top-line centre between the two. When one of the two is injured, though, there can be a significant hole left at the second-line position, while the healthy of the Stamkos/Point duo holds the top-line spot. Right now, that healthy man, and top-line centre, is Point.
What About Cirelli?
It’s easy to point towards Anthony Cirelli, who broke out in a big way this regular season, to replace the minutes that were lost at the second-line spot and rotate with Point. However, Cirelli just broke out, and it might be too soon to thrust him into a top role with massive expectations. While he has averaged over 20 minutes per game, Cirelli has been thrust into tough minutes as opposed to offensive zone time.
Point, meanwhile, has averaged almost 23:30 per game in the playoffs, and over 28-and-a half per game thus far in the first round. Those are unbelievably hard minutes, especially the 47 minute night in game one. You’d have to imagine the minutes would be a heck of a lot more bearable if Stamkos was in the mix.
But what’s playing those minutes if you don’t actually produce? Stamkos and Point are offensive dynamo’s, while many assume Cirelli is a future Selke winner. Point now has to not only perform at a much higher offensive level with Stamkos’ absence, but he has to do it while playing well over 20 minutes a night.
Production is wonderful, but it can be misleading. In Brayden Point’s case, however, it is not. He has dominated in every way he could be. With Point on the ice this post-season, the Lightning have never been out-shot. In fact, the Lightning have out-shot their opponents 97 to 63 in all situations, and have out-shot the Blue Jackets 62 to 34 with Point on the ice.
The Lightning have out-scored their opponents eight-to-six in all six playoff games, with their poor game against the Philadelphia Flyers accounting for three of those six goals against. But goal-scoring and shots on the net don’t tell the entire story. Possession stats, however, shed at least some light on his excellent performance.
In all, Point is the owner of a 65.8 percent Corsi-For%. Against the Blue Jackets, that number is even better, standing at 69.4 percent. His ability to maintain that possession, albeit in small sample size, is sensational.
The one thing that Point, as well as all of his teammates, must improve upon is their powerplay performance. After not receiving a single powerplay opportunity in the first round-robin game against the Washington Capitals, Point averaged about 2:30 powerplay minutes in the next five games. Against the Blue Jackets, he’s averaged above two-and-a-half minutes per game on the man advantage.
In total, the Lightning have had 24 powerplay minutes, including 14 against the Jackets, and Point has played 49.21 percent of those total minutes, and 57.1 percent of the minutes against Columbus. Despite playing a decent chunk of minutes, only 10 of the 97 total shots that Point has been on the ice for has come on the man advantage. On top of that, just five of the 62 shots he has been on the ice for against Columbus came on the man advantage.
Missing Stamkos Yet?
Throwing more shots on net, regardless of whether they’re high-danger shots or not, will make a noticeable difference. Stamkos was that trigger man, and this area of chucking shots on net while on the powerplay is where they miss him the most. It’s part of the reason why the Lightning currently have a 16.7 percent success rate, going two-for-12 over this six-game span, and also why they’re a putrid 0-for-seven in their series thus far against Columbus.
Another area that shows their overall struggle on the powerplay is Point’s corsi-for%. While this stat, on the powerplay, is virtually useless, a drop as large as the one Point is experiencing is worth mentioning. In the three round-robin games, he had recorded a 100 percent corsi-for%. In the first three games against Columbus, his corsi-for% dropped to 87.5 percent. If Point does not take an even larger step forward in the man advantage, the Lightning will feel the loss of Stamkos even more heavily.
In the grand scheme of things, Brayden Point has done wonder for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has come through in massive ways, especially in the Columbus series. He sniped home the overtime winner in game one to open the series, then scored the go-ahead goal in the second period of game three, which gave the Lightning momentum to score the third goal, the ultimate game-winner.