Matt Lashoff: The Lightning's 20th defenseman
For anyone wanting to get to the bottom ofwhy the Lightning has had such a dismal season, start with these stats: when defenseman Matt Lashoff suits up for tonight's game with the Maple Leafs, he will be the 48th player to suit up this season and the 20th defenseman.
Just as housekeeping, the Lightning record for players in a season is 53 in the 1999-2000 season. The NHL record is 55 set by the 1991-92 Bruins.
To be fair, a lot of this has to do with injuries. But a lot of it is because the Lightning's organizational depth at the position is so slight,it wants to take a look at what it has in the system. Still, 20 defensemen?
Asked how he dealt with that as a coach, Rick Tocchet joked, "A lot of sleepless nights."
But seriously, he said, "It's been weird. It really has. We've had injuries when some guy would show up at warm-ups. It was that crazy this year. It's tough. Continuity is so big in the NHL, I don't think having 20 new defenseman, any organization can win in that situation. It's nobody's fault."
Lashoff, 22, the Bruins first-round choice (22nd overall) in 2005 who came to Tampa Bay in the Mark Recchi deal, is expected to bring a bit of an offensive sensibility to the blue line. That is something Tampa Bay desperately needs as its transition game has been stalled most of the season.
It's been an interesting season for the Albany, N.Y., native. He said the Bruins unwillingness to change their core group of defensemen helped keep him stuck in the minors. Then, right before the trade deadline, playing for AHL Providence, he was cut by a skate in a game against Philadelphia. Lashoff said his left knee needed 30 stitches, and the skate blade even clipped a piece of his MCL. But after two games last weekend for Norfolk, he said he is ready to go.
"It's definitely been a tough couple of weeks," Lashoff said. Probably the craziest two weeks of my career. ... It's an opportunity for everyone. It's that time of season where everyone is kind of pushing for a spot for next year, and for myself, a first impression is huge, so I'm looking forward to getting in a game and having fun. I'm just so happy to be part of this organization with a young, rebuilding type team."
Other stuff from this morning: Karri Ramo is expected to be in net for his fourth straight start. ... The Lightning's power play has stepped up recently, converting eight of 26 chances in its past seven games. "The movement is a lot better, and getting through the box,," Tocchet said. "When we're bad, it's when we're playing perimeter and looking for that one-timer, which drives me nuts. The one-timer is there because you're attacking the box. It's not there when you're playing perimeter. Tocchet also praised defenseman Cory Murphy, and though he admitted it was an "unfair comparison," compared him to Anaheim's Scott Neidermayer. "He's done an outstanding job for us the past five or six games," Tocchet said. "He's not just at the point. He's all over the map. It makes it a headache (for the opposition) because they don't know where he is." ... Wing Martins Karsums, also obtained in the Recchi deal, has had a tough time finding his feet in Tampa Bay's system. Karsums was touted as a potential top-six forward, but he has just one assist and five shots in five games and is averaging just 11:30 of ice time. Even if Karsums is having trouble picking up the system, Tocchet said there are things outside of that that he can do. "He's got to relax a little bit more," Tocchet said. "We're looking for forwards that can get loose pucks, that go to the net hard. There are things in his game that he can do. It's up to him. Guys that go to the net, guys that win battles, guys who are responsible in their own end, be competitive. Those are things he can control." ... It was interesting seeing former Lightning goalie Olie Kolzig at the St. Pete Times Forum meeting, for the first time, his new Maple Leafs teammates. Kolzig was traded at the deadline. But whereas he is out for the season after biceps tendon surgery, he remained in St. Petersburg. Kolzig, wearing dress slacks and collared shirt, as if he was on a road trip, said meeting his teammates was like "the first day of school."