Coach Rick Tocchet: Tampa Bay Lightning has to "stop the bleeding right now"
Interesting talk with Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet this morning. Spoke on a lot of subjects, but most interesting was how the team seems to be fragile in that it either can't answer when opponents turn up the intensity or "unravels" when something goes bad on the ice.
Both elements will be put to the test tonight when the Lightning, losers of seven of eight, including one in overtime, faces the Blackhawks. Chicago has just 10 goals in its past seven games, but the team also is 9-1-0 in its past 10 games at home. It also probably is pretty PO'd.
"The scary part is what their captain said, "Tocchet said of Janathan Toews. "They need to get second and third efforts. They need to get back to the efforts that they had. That's a good comment for our team to be ready. You now after a loss, coming into their building, they've been struggling to score, you know they're going to the net hard, so don't be surprised."
As for other topics, Tocchet began talking about how the Lightning fails to rise to stressful situations on the ice: "It just seems like the first 30 minutes everything is fine, and then everything starts to unravel. It’s not just one guy. It could be four shifts in a row. It could be three pairs of defensemen. Tonight is going to be a good test because the pressure is going to be on us. How do we react under pressure? That’s the stuff you've got to challenge yourself now. You're never going to make the playoffs or be in the playoffs. The pressure is 10 time more intensified."
And this: "Maybe the other team is sleeping and we play okay, and now they say, 'We've got to pick it up,' and we can’t match them. Or is it that we can’t match 60 minutes? But it’s a theme here for the past seven or eight games where we’ll be good for 30 and other teams put some pressure on and we unravel. It’s at the point now, six or seven games, it gets alarming. A few games, okay we’ll get them back on track, but now it's to the point of a team unraveling six, seven games. We have to stop the bleeding right now."
On the lack of power plays (just 15 in the past five games): "Why is that? Are we going to the net enough? To get penalties, you have tog go to contact areas. If you play an outside game, the odds of getting penalties are decreased. We have to generate some penalties. How do you do that? Go through people, go to the net, hit. That’s where you get dragged down. That’s where you get hooked. If you sit around the boards all night there’s no reason for a team to take a penalty."
On if players get it: "Yeah, people say the right things. Sometimes as a coach you’re looking for somebody to -- actually, I would welcome a disagreement. Show me on the video what you see and disagree. I would love some kind of interaction, but the players don’t because they see the same thing."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Antero Niittymaki gets his second straight start in net. ... Tocchet said injured forwards Steven Stamkos (right wrist) and Ryan Malone (lower body) will play and are "better than expected." ... Defenseman Lukas Krajicek, who cleared waivers Saturday, could play. He is a game-time decision. ... Lots of praise for defenseman Victor Hedman, who has drastically improved his decision making as to when to join the rush. Tocchet said it is part of the learning process for a rookie. But Hedman also said he is feeling much more comfortable since his switch to the left side of the blue line. "It seems like I'm seeing the ice much better on the left side," Hedman said. "I played left D back home (in Sweden) for many years. As long as I play, it doesn't matter, but, absolutely, I feel much more confident on the left side." ... Tocchet on the Blackhawks: "They got young guys, they got veteran guys, but they’re enthusiastic. They’re engaging. They get a loose puck, they’re going the other way. They’re not afraid to take the body. You can tell that they love playing hockey. It’s a fun team to watch. They enjoy the game." ... Defenseman Matt Walker plays his first game at the United Center since leaving to sign with Tampa Bay as a free agent. While he said it is nice to see his Blackhawks buddies, playing here will not be as emotional as the first time he played in St. Louis after leaving the Blues after five seasons. "You know so many people around the building and so many faces, security guards. It's different playing there," he said.