After two games and two losses without forward Brayden Point, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading into Game 6 with the possibility of playing once again without the Conn Smythe Trophy candidate.
Coach Jon Cooper and his team are no strangers to playing without key players throughout this playoff run. It was almost a rare sight to have seen the Lighting hit the ice during the season with a fully healthy squad.
Top players like defenseman Jan Rutta and most notably, team captain Steven Stamkos have not only missed a significant amount of time throughout the regular season but through these Stanley Cup playoffs as well. Going into Game 6 on Thursday night, the Lightning will be without another of one of their top players in Brayden Point.
The Lightning need a healthy Brayden Point to return to the ice to increase their chances of eliminating the Islanders in Game 6
It has been no secret throughout this stretch for the Bolts as to how important Point has been to the offensive output. Point is tied for the playoff lead in point with a whopping 25 in just 16 games played. The speedy forward also ranks 2nd in goals scored with 9 netted.
With Point on the ice during this Conference Finals Series against the gritty New York Islanders, Tampa has potted 14 goals and only allowed four in return. Fellow top scorer Nikkita Kucherov has also benefited as well with tallying eight points while playing alongside Point. In the two games in which he has missed due to injury, the Lightning has lost both games and have only been able to score four goals.
With the Lightning having to heavily rely on Point to jump-start their scoring, might also be a tactic that could potentially backfire, as was evident throughout all of Game 5. Tampa was able to rip off 37 shots but was only able to account for one goal. Throughout most sequences, the Bolts looked stale and almost afraid to make mistakes. If history is any testament, it is that playing that style of hockey never wins games, let alone a playoff series.
At the time of publishing, Point is listed as a game-time decision. With the probability of Point most likely playing, it will seem that Tampa will be in the driver’s seat to finish off the Islanders. But on the off chance the 24-year-old does not suit up it will be up to the depth players such as Anthony Cirelli, Alec Killorn, as well as the star power of Victory Hedman and Nikkita Kucherov to come together to punch their tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals.