When the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to revamp their forward corps after cap constraints gutted the entirety of their third-line, they turned to an unlikely player… Corey Perry. Over the prior two playoffs, he ended up on the wrong end of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victories, as he came just a few games short of winning it all in back-to-back seasons. Perhaps after seeing this strong postseason play, general manager Julien BriseBois chose to sign Perry to a two-year deal, giving him a cap hit around $1 million.
For both parties this contract made sense, as the Lightning were able to sign a productive veteran forward on a cheap deal while Perry was able to put himself in the position to once again make a run at the Stanley Cup.
While everything seemed to be a good fit on paper, Perry started slowly with Tampa Bay. Through his first 18 games, he was held without a goal despite putting himself in prime scoring positions. As they say, he was completely snake bit, and he would whiff on great chances that he would normally bury.
Depite this, there was no doubt that Perry was still playing well, even if he wasn’t scoring. At age 36, he didn’t look out of place on the ice, as he was keeping up with the Lightning’s fast-paced gameplan. Once he finally broke through and got that scoring monkey off his back, he kept it going, posting five goals and 9 points in the games that followed.
Perry Is Getting New Opportunities With Lightning Injuries
As injuries took over the Lightning’s lineup, Perry has been leaned upon to pick up the slack. Following the long-term injury to Brayden Point back in November, he was tasked to take on extra playing time each night.
In the 16 games prior to Point’s injury, Perry was averaging about 12 to 13 minutes of ice-time, with only two games where he played more than 15 minutes. In the 12 games since, he is averaging closer to 14 to 15 minutes each night, with six games above 15 minutes.
This playing time comes with an increased role, as Perry sometimes finds himself alongside Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn in the top-six, but is for the most part acting as a key member of the new-look third-line, which features Pat Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. While this line is very different from the one that dominated play throughout the 2020-21 season, it’s starting to take over games by using heavy hitting and defensive control to throw opponents off their gameplan.
Another area where Perry is being relied upon is the powerplay. Roughly 30 games into the season, he is taking on more than two minutes each night with the man advantage. As a large, netfront presence, he gives the Lightning a different way to run a powerplay while Point and Nikita Kucherov are out of the lineup.
This differnet style could payoff in the coming months, as it gives the team a completely different look with the man advantage that is still effective. For example, if Tampa Bay’s powerplay starts to struggle in the playoffs with everyone back in the lineup, they could switch things around to give Perry a bigger role once again to see if he can help reignite their play.
Lightning Need Perry to Reach Their Full Potential
While things didn’t neccisarily start the best for Perry in Tampa Bay, he is starting to showcase why BriseBois went out and signed him to a two-year deal. Sure, he isn’t the player that he once was, but he still has more than enough left in the proverbial tank to contribute to a deep playoff run.
All it takes is one or two timely goals to change a postseason series, and as the Lightning have seen in years past, Perry is the sort of player who can provide those goals. If he can continue to play well in the absence of stars like Point and Kucherov, he could lockdown his third-line role with the franchise, and provide the team with a new-look nuasence line that no one wants to play against.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.