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Tampa Bay's two-second powerplay

At the NHL level, a team can score in bunches on the man advantages by doing one simple thing. Montreal let Tampa do it 4 times in a row on Sunday night.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

We've spent a lot of time looking at the reasons why the Canadiens and the Lightning haven't done so hot on the powerplay this season. Whether it's a lack of overall shot volumequestionable PP schemes, or other factors, we could go on and on about what causes a team to score on fewer than 19% of its powerplay chances (the NHL average for this season).

But when you boil everything down to the bare essentials, a team only needs to do one thing in order to have a great powerplay: Make a tape-to-tape pass across the slot.

It's a play that takes less than two seconds to set up, hence this article's title.

Witness these four screencaps, taken at strategic moments during Game 2:

No cross-slot pass here, but Tampa manages to move the puck cross-ice for a Filppula one-timer.

Carey Price is screened by his own defenseman and is a bit late reacting to the shot. His lateral movement is not quick enough and the puck goes in high short side. Powerplay goal #1.

Price might have been able to stop this one, but we are now entering "nothing to do here" territory.

It's a five-on-three for the Lightning. The puck goes to Tyler Johnson at the goal line, who immediately goes back across the slot to Nikita Kucherov.

No goalie on the planet is going to have a play on this one. Powerplay goal #2.

Puck goes from the sideboards to Killhorn at the goal line. He goes across the slot for Hedman, who's the far side guy on the 1-3-1 setup. It's an open net.

Powerplay goal #3.

Johnson finds a passing lane and crosses it to the middle of the slot for Kucherov. The Russian makes a skilled play and tips the puck over Price's blocker.

Powerplay goal #4.

Essentially, if you can pass the puck across the slot on the powerplay, you shouldn't bother trying anything else.

The sucess rate for such plays is in the neighborhood of 30%, compared to 5% for point shots and under 15% for unsceened slot shots with no lateral pass preceding them.

Theoretically, you can have the best powerplay in the league if you never, ever shot the puck and focused solely on getting one cross-crease play completed on each two-minute minor.

But that's not how hockey works. The cross-slot play is the hardest to stop, but also the easiest to prevent. All you need is to pay attention, put a stick in the lane at the right moment, and let the puck hit it. It's not rocket science.

At the NHL-level, especially, shot volume is a strong predictor for success because coaches and players are so good at making those adjustments - identifying what opponents are doing and preventing them for doing it again. That's why percentage driven outcomes (like save % or shooting %) regress heavily to the mean. It's not luck, it's economics.

So on the one hand, you can guarantee that the Habs will not let the Bolts pass the puck across the slot four distinct times on the man advantage in Game 3.

But on the other hand, Tampa's done a good job at preventing Montreal from making those passes, too. Which explains why the Habs have yet to score on the powerplay in this series.

Having David Desharnais back might help. But so would inserting someone like Christian Thomas into the lineup. The ability to make the critical lateral pass is a premium skill in the NHL, and so is the ability to get set up in the slot and finish that passing play. Those two players could be able to provide that offensive edge their team has sorely lacked so far in this postseason.

Jack Han is the Video & Analytics Coordinator for the McGill Martlet Hockey team. He also writes occasionally about the NHL for Habs Eyes on the Prize. You can find him on Twitter or on the ice at McConnell Arena.