40 shots a game is just too much
The Lightning took a macro view of what has been going on with the team's defense. Tampa Bay has allowed at least 40 shots in five straight games and has been outshot 218-124 in that span. The easy fall guys are the defensemen, and given the tale of woe the blue line has been this season (from injuries to multiple personnel moves), there is plenty of smoke there.
But both coach Rick Tocchet and captain Vinny Lecavalier said at least part of the blame lies with the forwards. Lecavalier, especially, was strong pointing out how the forwards have not done enough to keep the puck in the offensive zone and has been out of position in the neutral zone.
"It's a team stat," Lecavalier said of the shot disparity.
That said, let's take a closer look at what the defense has gone though this season. The team has used 17 blue liners, which cannot be good for continuity or confidence.
Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros are both done for the season because of torn labrums in their left shoulders. Marek Malik, who was slow before his ankle injury, has missed 12 of the past 17 games. Matt Smaby is playing with a painful right foot, and Lukas Krajicek returns to the lineup Friday against the Canucks after missing three games with a sore right hip.
Injuries have forced the addition of newcomers such as Cory Murphy, claimed off waivers Jan. 19, is willing and has great offensive instincts, but listed at 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, is smallish. Josef Melichar, acquired from the Hurricanes in the Jussi Jokinen deal, was supposed to be in the minors.
The most steady defenseman has been Steve Eminger, a nice pickup in the trade that sent Matt Carle to the Flyers.
Anyway, good for the Lightning for not pointing fingers at the defense, or, rather, understanding that the forwards have as much responsibility for keeping the puck out of the defensive zone as the blue-liners have for watching the puck once it gets in.
"We can't live in a world of excuses," Tocchet said. "I won't coach that way. But you can overcome the shots and make up for those weaknesses with a team game."
In other stuff from Thursday's practice: Right wing Evgeny Artyukhin slammed into the end boards during a line rush and left practice early, dragging his left leg. He was walking with a limp in the locker room. ... Lecavalier skated, said his right heel is still sore, but reiterated he will play Friday against the Canucks. ... Matt Smaby (foot) sat out practice but is expected to play.