TAMPA, Fla. — Brayden Point swears nothing changes for him in the playoffs.
“You try and play the same way,” said the Tampa Bay Lightning center, “but pucks have found their way into nets as of late.”
That they have. Through 20 games, Point had 14 goals for the Lightning, while no one else in the playoffs had more than eight. Through 64 career playoff games, Point had a goals-per-game average of 0.56, the highest in the past 30 years outside of Mario Lemieux (0.67). His points-per-game average (1.16) puts him fourth overall in that three-decade span.
To watch Point in the playoffs — including this year’s Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens — is to watch someone at the height of his powers as a two-way player. His defensive acumen creates turnovers that he opportunistically transforms into offensive chances. He’s one of the NHL’s most agile skaters, despite less open ice in the playoffs. His stickhandling allows him to maneuver through the miniscule openings that postseason defenses allow. And the fact that his opponents know he’s this dangerous in the postseason only works to his advantage.
“He can make plays when you double up on him. He can still make that high-skill play,” said New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who said players like Point welcome tight defense. “They actually want you to double up on them. They want you to do certain things to them so they can find other people.”
Only one other player in NHL history has scored more goals in consecutive playoff games than the nine in a row that Point tallied in the 2021 playoffs: Reggie Leach, who had 10 straight games with a goal in 1976 for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Point, 25, was a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy last season when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, but MVP honors went to defenseman Victor Hedman. He’s back in the conversation this postseason should Tampa Bay repeat as champion, although goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and winger Nikita Kucherov will certainly have their share of support.
“He just gets better and better. The spotlight is never too big for him,” said Tampa Bay winger Blake Coleman, who has been Point’s teammate and was previously his opponent while with the New Jersey Devils. “He just seems to step up, no matter what the challenge is. It just seems like there’s no stage too big for Brayden. As a fan of the game, I’m just happy he’s on our side.”
Not bad for a third-round draft pick who many felt didn’t skate well enough for NHL stardom.