Brayden Point won’t single himself out for what he’s again accomplishing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s not the way the Tampa Bay Lightning forward is built.
“His game speaks for itself and that’s what he tries to do,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He doesn’t talk a lot about himself, which is a great sign of a humble player. He just goes about his business in the right way.”
The right way has Point on pace to join exclusive company in the NHL history books. He is attempting to become the sixth player to lead the playoffs in goals outright in consecutive seasons.
Point has scored 11 goals in 14 playoff games, including one in each of the past six. He has scored four more goals than any other player still playing in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
The Lightning lead the New York Islanders 2-1 in their best-of-7 series. Game 4 is at New York on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Point led the NHL with 14 goals in the playoffs last year, when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup.
The five players to lead the playoffs in goals outright in back-to-back seasons are Mike Bossy (1982-83), Jari Kurri (1984-85, 1987-88), Bobby Hull (1962-63), Gordie Drillon (1938-39) and Howie Morenz (1924-25).
Bossy also tied for the League lead in 1981 with Steve Payne. Maurice Richard tied for the League lead in 1946 with Toe Blake and 1947 with Billy Reay. Phil Esposito tied for the League lead with Derek Sanderson in 1969 before leading the playoffs in goals outright in 1970.
“The spotlight is never too big for him,” Lightning forward Blake Coleman said of Point. “He seems to step up to whatever the challenge is, whatever the series is. He has a way of adjusting his game to be successful.”
Point’s goals are coming at key moments, emphasizing the clutch factor he brings to the Lightning.
Eight of his goals have come in wins, seven have given the Lightning a lead and three have been game-winners, including in Game 3 against the Islanders on Thursday, when he scored at 19:40 of the second period to make it 2-1.
Tampa Bay won by that score.
“The stakes are raised, it’s why we play the game to be in those situations, where your shift could mean the difference between a win or a loss,” Point said.
Point is scoring in the big moments using a combination of speed, edgework and balance, ability to make plays in tight spaces, hockey sense and the desire to be the man when it counts the most.
“He is as consistent as you find night in and night out,” said Brian Boucher, an analyst for NBC and former NHL goalie. “Details in his game. Problem solving. Executes under pressure. He’s a terrific player. He’s humble too.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper called Point a “low, low maintenance player.”
“You never have to worry about ‘Pointer’,” Cooper said. “He shows up for work every day, gives you everything and goes quietly about his business.”
His business for the longest time was improving his skating ability.
Point is now one of the best skaters in the NHL.
The rest of his game derives from his skating, including his ability to win one-on-one battles to gain possession for his line, which features Nikita Kucherov, the leading scorer in the playoffs (23 points), and Ondrej Palat.
“A lot of skill guys shy away from tough hockey in the corners and winning battles, and he’s obviously the opposite,” Coleman said. “He gets in there.”
Cooper stressed Point’s edgework and balance as reasons why he’s so dangerous in tight spaces, such as in the high slot on the power play.
“When you’re strong on your feet, and Pointer isn’t the biggest kid, I think you have a leg up on a lot of guys,” Cooper said. “Then comes in hockey sense, which players develop over time, some guys have it and some don’t. He knows where to be.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Point is hard to defend in tight spots because he wants to draw a double team, almost inviting the opponent to send two defenders at him.
“He can make plays when you double up on him,” Trotz said. “He still can make that high skill play. That’s the danger, you’ve got to find that balance of limiting space and time but also not giving him lots of options.”
The Islanders have been effective at limiting Point’s time and space through three games.
Doesn’t matter. He has scored goals in all three games, including the first goal in Game 2 and the winning goal in Game 3.
“It’s the guys who make plays at a high rate of speed and he has that ability,” Cooper said. “That’s what separates, you go from good to great.”