Killorn's strong play helps propel Lightning in playoffs
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Alex Killorn doesn't have any qualms about graduating from a prestigious college and not pursuing a cushy job that might pay a lot of money but also keep him behind a desk in the office all day.
No, he's doing quite well wearing the uniform of the Tampa Bay Lightning and skating on a line with one of the NHL's biggest stars in the Stanley Cup Final.
Steven Stamkos, and even the young ''Triplets'' line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, all receive a lot more recognition. However, the Harvard-educated Killorn is coolly showing how much he means to his team during an impressive playoff run.
The 25-year-old center is tied for sixth in the league with nine goals in 24 postseason games, two more than Stamkos, a three-time All-Star and two-time league goals-scored leader.
Killon's also tied for seventh with 18 playoff points, including two goals in the Stanley Cup Final.
But that only begins to describe how much he's meant to the Lightning.
They thrive on his willingness to do whatever necessary - offensively, defensively or on specialty units - to help the team.
''He's just one of those guys that makes everybody around him better,'' coach Jon Cooper said.
''He's a guy who flies under the radar because he just does everything right,'' Stamkos said. ''He's a guy who you can trust in all situations.''
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, who grew up outside Montreal, Killorn didn't take the likeliest of paths to a pro hockey career, beginning with his parents decision to send him to a boarding school in Massachusetts.
From there, he entered Harvard - much to his mother's delight - instead of selecting a school better known for hockey. Tampa Bay drafted him in the third round in 2007, but didn't pressure him to leave school.
Killorn earned a degree in government and political science, took advantage of a break during Norfolk's drive to a Calder Cup title to attend graduation ceremonies in 2012, and has been on a fast track to a successful NHL career ever since.
''I look at what my friends are doing right now, sitting in offices from 5 in the morning until 9 at night, and I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing,'' said Killorn, who's finishing his second full season in the league.
There's little he doesn't do for the Lightning, playing on a line where it's easy to be overshadowed by the high-scoring Stamkos and veteran Valtteri Filppula, the only member of a largely young team who has won a Stanley Cup title.
Besides having the speed and skill to be a dangerous scorer, he's embraced a defensive-minded game plan that's carried the league's highest-scoring team in the playoffs.
Each of the first four games in the Stanley Cup Final has been decided by one goal, with the Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks each winning twice. Game 5 is Saturday night.
''Defensively it's been nice. We really haven't given up much. ... We want to keep playing that way. You give yourself a chance every night,'' Killorn said. ''We're still getting our chances offensively, but we're not forcing anything. ... We want to keep doing that.''
Cooper marvels at the little things Killorn routinely does to help the Lightning be successful, likening the role he plays to that of Palat, who teams with Johnson and Kucherov to form the Triplets, who have combined for 23 goals and 45 points in the playoffs.
''Fil and Stammer, and Kuch and Johnny, are probably looked at as skill and finesse, and scoring, all those kind of things,'' Cooper said of his team's top two lines.
''Well, what is the straw the stirs the drink? (Killorn and Palat) quietly go in the corner and get the pucks and they quietly make sure they're driving the net. And they quietly have the first guy back on the backcheck. And they're quietly blocking the shot,'' Cooper added, using the word ''quietly'' because that's the word a reporter used to describe the way Killorn goes about his business.
''I don't know if that's quiet. Maybe, but it's noise for us, and it's great noise,'' the Tampa Bay coach said. ''A lot of people talk about lines and pairs. ... But who is that third guy that can kind of hold everything together?''