For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brayden Point has been one of the team’s top offensive linchpins the last few seasons. Ever since his breakout regular season of 2017-18 when he had 32 goals and 34 assists in just his second year in the NHL, Point has been a top performer for the team. Last season was his breakout performance in the playoffs, leading the team in goals while finishing just behind Nikita Kucherov in points with 33.
Fast forward to this season and Point is at it again. Through the first two games against the Florida Panthers, he has two goals and an assist — the assist set up Ondrej Palat for the Game 2 game-winner. This is not a shocker that he’s playing his best at the right time yet again. Point has shown a strong penchant for doing just that since he entered the league.
The 2017-18 regular season showed that he had what it takes to be a consistent offensive contributor over the course of an 82-game season. The playoffs that year, however, might have been an even better indicator of the big-game mentality he possesses. Point, with solid two-way play and timely scoring, helped fuel a deep run by the Lightning all the way to the Eastern Conference Final.
Point Showed Promise Early On
The Lightning were narrowly defeated in seven grueling games by the Washington Capitals, but when all was said and done, Point finished with 16 points in 17 games. That was his very first taste of the playoffs and just a glimpse of his capabilities. The next season came the infamous sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but during the regular season he was incredible, scoring 41 goals to finish with 92 points.
This season was another strong one, leading the team in both goals and points. Some could say that without Kucherov, it was inevitable that he’d lead the team in those categories. That may be true, especially when Steven Stamkos missed 22 games and the entire last month of the season. One thing that may be missed, however, is the load that Point had to shoulder without those players in the lineup. The pressure on him to be the straw that stirs the offensive attack each and every night was immense all season.
Teams routinely had their top defense pairing and either their top line or top checking line out there to stop Point, but he just kept on coming like he’s always done. How in the world he slipped all the way to the third round in the 2014 NHL Draft to fall right into the lap of the Lightning will forever be a mystery. His last three seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Moose Jaw Warriors, he finished with point totals of 91, 87 and 88, respectively. In short, he’s clearly been a gifted player going all the way back to his major junior days as a teenager.
Aside from just sheer numbers, it’s the impact he seems to have on the most important games. In Game 1 against the Panthers, the Lightning were down 4-3 after Owen Tippett scored at 4:09 of the third period. So, what did Point do? Not much, just score the game-tying goal with seven minutes to go, then the game-winning goal with just over a minute left. Unfortunately, this was all a bit overshadowed by the return of old No. 86 for the Bolts, arguably the best player in the league this side of Connor McDavid.
Point’s Value Gets Overlooked at Times
The focus on Kucherov after Game 1 was completely justified. The man hadn’t played a single minute of the regular season and comes into a playoff game against a very good Florida team and scores two goals and an assist. It was an incredible performance by Kucherov, no doubt about it. Nonetheless, as good as it was, it wouldn’t have been enough to get the win if not for the late-game heroics of Point.
He’s also been a three-zone player since he’s come into the NHL. Each and every season since his rookie year he’s been on the plus side of the ledger when it comes to the plus/minus stats. One aspect of Point’s game that may also be a bit overlooked is his improvement at the faceoff dot. So far in this series, he’s won just over 64 percent of his draws.
Now, this is not meant to say that Point is the best player on the Lightning roster. That nod goes to Kucherov, then maybe Andrei Vasilevskiy or Victor Hedman in a coin flip after that. Stamkos is the leader and probably the most popular player on the team has been such a great player and an upstanding figure for the club for so long. That said, none of those players are as valuable as Point when it comes to winning crucial hockey games that lead to Stanley Cup victories.
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So far in his young career, he has 24 career playoff goals, 17 of those have been either game-tying or game-winning tallies. The thing is, until he can win some regular season awards like the Hart Trophy or the Art Ross, he’ll probably not get the notoriety of the other big names on this club. Tampa is blessed to have some of the best players at their position in the entire NHL, on top of having one of the best head coach and general manager duos, who also get their fair share of attention. That said, when the game is on the line, there’s nobody else on the Lightning, or maybe even the entire league, you’d rather have out there than Brayden Point.