When you hear about the Tampa Bay Lightning, you would usually hear a name synonymous with the team, and that’s none other than star-studded centerman, team captain and elite goal scorer Steven Stamkos. Not so much here in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Enter centerman Tyler Johnson, who leads the League with 12 playoff goals. Originally undrafted, the right-shooting forward made his NHL debut for the Lightning back in the 2012-2013 regular season playing 14 games, scoring 3 goals and collecting 3 helpers for a total of 6 points, while splitting time with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse crunch where he scored 37 goals and accumulated 65 points in 62 games played.
He has improved a lot since then; most notably this past season when in 77 games he potted a career-high 29 goals and collected 43 assists for 72 points. (Credits to hockey-reference)
Not only is he of good size at 5’ 8”, 183 lbs, he’s got tremendous skating ability along with the hockey sense, not to mention he’s worked well along with his linemates, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat; the three of them nicknamed “The Triplets Line”.
Here are a few examples from the playoffs:
Round 1 Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Detroit Red Wings
Though not shown on the video, the play starts from behind the net. The puck is rimmed along the wall up #9, Tyler Johnson, who then passes it up along the point to #89, Nikita Nesterov. Then there’s going to be a give-and-go. At the tail end of that passing play is where you see the remaining sequence on the power play starting to happen at the 36-second mark of the video.
Now you’ve got all three defenders for Detroit puck-focused and you’ve got a 1-3-1 formation for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ondrej Palat, #18, and #24, Ryan Callahan are at the net getting set to battle for the rebound opportunities.
Nesterov’s shot is going to hit the far post, and now Tyler Johnson has that all the room at the wide-open net. And he picks the far corner.
Great puck movement by the Tampa Bay Lightning and good on Johnson to cash in the rebound opportunity. That made it 1-0 on the PP.
Round 1 Game 4: Detroit Red Wings @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Here, it’s a 4-on-4. The Lightning are breaking out of the own zone (not shown in the highlights video). Anton Stralman, #6, passes the puck to Tyler Johnson as they enter the Neutral Zone. At around the 2:11 mark, you see Johnson skating through on the entry with the puck. defenseman Darren Helm (#43 for the Red Wings) tries to pinch on the entry into the attacking zone. As Helm attempts to reach for the puck and pin Johnson along the wall, Johnson does a really good job of using his body position to protect the puck and uses his skating ability to skate towards goalie Petr Mrazek and shoots it off the bar and in.
Round 2 Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Montreal Canadiens
For this goal, the Habs were simply trying to get the puck out of the own zone. However, the Lightning retained possession of it. Starting at 1:24, you see a simple little indirect pass off the boards by Andrej Sustr to Matt Carle who slaps the puck towards the net but watch the work of Tyler Johnson at the front of the net to deflect the puck in. That goal would also be the first of the game to beat goaltender Carey Price.
Round 4 Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning @ New York Rangers
In a game where Tyler Johnson netted in his first career postseason hat trick, one theme is common; right place, right time.
Goal #1: For his first one, which would open up the scoring for both teams, Johnson goes on a short-handed breakaway and while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops the initial shot, the puck just trickles in from under Lundqvist and past the goal line before a Ranger crashes into the net and dislodging it. The play would be reviewed and the goal would count.
Goal #2: The Lightning are on the PP. They get some nice puck movement between Palat, Kucherov, and Stamkos taking the one-timer which is initially blocked. Stamkos gets it to Johnson in the slot area who snipes it above the glove of Lundqvist.
Goal #3: The whole Triplets line of Kucherov, Palat, and of course, Johnson is involved in this. It’s almost a 3-on-1 with Kucherov, Palat, and Johnson. Kucherov passes it to Palat who shoots it on net. Lundqvist gets a piece of it. Tyler Johnson crashes the net and puts it in for the hat trick.
Tyler Johnson has definitely been a factor for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as have the rest of his line mates on that line. Together, the three of them have so far combined for 25 of Tampa Bay’s 47 goals in the playoffs. Look for them to continue to be a force against the New York Rangers in this series. As for Tyler Johnson, well, so far he’s my top candidate for playoff MVP if the Lightning do make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year.