Lightning's light pre-game fun
The mood appears to be light and loose for the Lightning heading into today's must-win, Game 6 against New Jersey (set for 1:20 p.m.)
Just 90 minutes before Tampa Bay faced elimination (down 3-2 in best-of-seven), several players joined in a circle in the hallway to juggle a soccer ball. Guys like Martin St. Louis, Jason Ward - and even struggling Ruslan Fedotenko (benched in Game 5) -- laughed as teammates headed, kicked and re-directed the rubber ball into the curtain separating their game from the media lounge.
It was a good way to stretch out and relax. Although, it became pretty obvious they're better puckhandlers than ballhandlers.
The mood was just an example of what John Tortorella - and even some Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur - had remarked to us all week; that this Lightning group is a much tougher, mentally and physically, than the group New Jersey beat in the 2003 playoffs.
Having won three elimination games to take the 2004 Stanley Cup, the Lightning players have been there, done that. Brodeur said a few days ago, he can tell a huge difference, and how Tampa Bay winning, going deep in the playoffs, makes them a more hardened group when adversity comes.
“I didn’t remember these guys being so dominant against us in ’03,” Brodeur said. “That’s the bottom line. They grew up as players and learn to play with their coach also. .You can see it in their attitudes. We try to make (them uncomfortable), try to get that edge and we feel we’re good at it. Now we’ve found a team that’s doing the same thing to us.”
"That team is not going to lie down in front of us."
The Lightning outshot New Jersey, 31-14 in a Game 5 loss, but Tampa Bay players were very pleased with how they performed - as Dan Boyle said "controlled the game."
"If we play like that again, I like our chances."
-- JOE SMITH