Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who says he never looks at the standings, does just that
If you know Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, you have heard dozens of times about how he never looks at the standings and has instructed his players to do the same. It's the bigger-picture process that matters most, he says. Yet, there was Boucher on Saturday, in the team hotel, flipping pages in an NHL stats package to look at the Eastern Conference standings.
But that is what a 2-6-4 skid will do as the Lightning finds itself just nine points ahead of the Hurricanes who are in ninth and out of the playoffs. Another regulation loss tonight in Carolina and Tampa Bay is just seven points behind the Canes.
"The players, right now, today, have to realize the urgency," Boucher said. "We're not looking at standings before but now we have to look down a bit and see that we're only nine points away from not making the playoffs. We lose tonight it's seven points and hold on there."
For Boucher, the key to everything with his players is urgency. They did not play with it in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes or Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Islanders. Mostly, he said was because the team was treading water. It wasn't making a push to get to the top of the division or conference but wasn't falling back either. Well, now the team looking for its first playoff spot in four seasons is falling back, and there is only one things that will stop it.
"We have to win games," Boucher said. "The guys know the process. They know exactly what to do. It's a matter of being ready to do it in a game for 60 minutes. ... Until we get that we can't even begin to think we're going to win a game."
But that is difficult to do, even Boucher admitted, when players aren't confident.
"We played very well all year because we had a no-hesitation game," he said. "Now we have a hesitation game. We've got to get the hesitation out of our game."
Other stuff from this morning: Mike Smith gets the start in net. ... Boucher said forwards Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones will be out. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron is back in after a one-game scratch. ... Right wing Steve Downie was appropriately contrite speaking about the 10-minute misconduct penalty he got Friday. Seems Downie shot the puck down the ice after the whistle had blown play dead. It was the second time Downie had done it. He was even warned by the referees not to do it again. But he did and they rang him up. "I think last night they thought I was trying to spite them and do something to get them upset," Downie said. "But, really, I was just playing the game. (The refs) weren't even in my mind." As he said, though, "No matter if I'm right or wrong, it can't happen. If I did something or didn't intentionally do it, it's hurting the team and you can't have that." More disappointing is Friday's game was his first back since a March 3 game in Boston, where he went a little haywire and skated almost the length of the ice to intervene and escalate a confrontation between teammate Pavel Kubina and Shawn Thornton that was calming down. That after Boucher had told his teammates not to stir up the Bruins or the TD Garden crowd. Downie sustained a knee injury in that game and hadn't played since. "He worked hard. He had an okay game," Boucher said of Friday's effort against the Hurricanes. "It's just that he's hurting himself and hurting the team. We need him out there." Downie said he knows his past puts him on the must-watch list for referees. "I have to realize they're looking hard at me," Downie said. "So, I can't be doing stuff like that. I can sit here and say I had no intentions of (hacking) any refs off. It wasn't even in my mind to get a 10, and yet there I am getting another one." ... Lost in another depressing defeat was that Vinny Lecavalier reached 20 goals for the 11th straight season. Not what we have come to expect from him, but notable given his knee and hand surgeries and the reconstruction of his game under Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman. "Since I came back from my injury, things have been going in. Things have been more consistent scoring-wise," Lecavalier said. "I've said it before, it all comes with that confidence and trying to do things right." He still is dismayed his team is not getting results. "You do well, if the team's not winning it's not fun," he said. ... How did Bergeron feel about being a healthy scratch Friday? "I can't say I have any reaction," he said. Asked how he believed he is playing, he said, "It can always be better. I feel I'm doing all right." Bergeron has zero points in his past 10 games and is minus-7 in his past five. ... Brett Connolly, drafted No. 6 overall in June, sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury on Friday playing for WHL Prince George and had to leave the game in the first period. There was no other immediate information available.