Conn Smythe contender Brayden Point one of the game's true on-ice throwbacks

The Tampa Bay Lightning pile on offence on the New York Islanders, scoring eight goals with two from both Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point to take Game 1 decisively.

EDMONTON -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning needed eight periods to beat Columbus earlier in these playoffs, there was a story going around about Brayden Point.

The man who scored the goal that ended the fourth-longest game in NHL history that night did so after not even bothering to retape his stick as the intermissions continued to roll by. Go back and watch the celebration on the ice at Scotiabank Arena and you can actually see the tape fraying on top of the blade of Point’s Warrior stick while he embraced Andrei Vasilevskiy afterwards.

The laissez-faire approach drew some good-natured laughs around the Lightning dressing room, but there’s something instructive in that anecdote about what a throwback this Conn Smythe Trophy contender is.

Point is all substance, with little regard for style.

Hair bursting out from every free part of his helmet, he’s basically the antithesis of what we’ve come to expect from the burgeoning class of young NHL stars even while holding a prominent position in that conversation.

The secret to his success can’t be found in any technological, skills coached or dietary advancement in the sport. That’s not meant to throw shade at the Gen-Z’s pushing hockey to places it’s never previously been, but it illustrates how Point differs from many of his peers.

You could probably hand him a Wayne Gretzky Titan TMP 2020 for a couple practices and he’d figure out how to use it to score goals by the end of this Eastern Conference Final.

It would not surprise anyone who knows Point well that the NHL’s bubble environment suits him just fine. Or that he was completely unaffected by a change of hotels, cities, dressing rooms, arenas and routines this week.

He’s the embodiment of a hockey player; wherever, whenever or however that game is played.

When last we saw the 24-year-old centre, he was all over the ice during a take-charge shift that ended with Victor Hedman’s double-overtime goal to eliminate the Boston Bruins. He didn’t miss a beat as the scene shifted west to Edmonton for a best-of-seven with the New York Islanders.

On Point’s first shift, he stutter-stepped around Ryan Pulock and aggressively cut across Thomas Greiss to make it 1-0. The Lightning went ahead 2-1 on his third shift, drew a penalty on his fourth shift and made it 3-1 on his fifth shift.

Some players would consider that a productive series and the first game wasn’t even yet 11 minutes old.

“He’s been an animal out there,” teammate Pat Maroon told Kyle Bukauskus during the second intermission.

“I’m not sure,” said Hedman, when asked if there was anything Point couldn’t do.

“Obviously we haven’t played for a week and you were thinking a little bit how the start was going to be and then Pointer goes out and does that. So, you know, I think he set the tone from the start. He and [Nikita Kucherov] and [Ondrej] Palat were unbelievable once again today. So, Brayden Point is taking it to another level, that's for sure.”

He was a major concern for the entirety of an 8-2 Lightning victory that saw him produce a career-best five points. The Islanders spoke of needing to control his speed and then produced no answers.

They could only watch as Point called for a pass at the side of the goal by raising his stick in the air before tipping home a Hedman point shot.

He and Kucherov connected on an outrageous 2-on-1 strike where Kucherov angled his stick to flick the puck to his linemate before getting it back for a tap-in. Then Point pounced on a Devon Toews bobbled puck at the offensive blue line, exchanged a give-and-go with Kucherov and found Palat wide open to make it 6-2 four minutes later.

There were mitigating circumstances, sure, with the Lightning having arrived in Edmonton more than 19 hours before their opponent and gone a week between games while the Islanders grinded through a seven-game series with Philadelphia that ended Saturday night.

Still, it looked like the Point line was dominating a mid-summer scrimmage rather than a game that moved his team within seven wins of the Stanley Cup.

“When you play the right way, I just, I truly believe good things will happen to you and that’s what that kid does,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

Point now sits second on the NHL’s playoff scoring charts with 23 points in 14 games this summer -- a ridiculous rate of 1.64 per night. He had a massive performance during Tampa’s 2018 run to the conference final but has taken it to another level in the summer of 2020.

In many ways, he was built for a moment like this.

Not only did the COVID-19 pause allow Point to heal bumps and bruises that put a drag on his regular season, it created a playoff tournament that wasn’t for everyone.

At this stage of this year, this is where the gamers shine.

And there aren’t too many with a game like his.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.