Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet: Vinny Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay have to get "uglier"
No practice for the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, just an off-ice workout. But coach Rick Tocchet hit a few subjects while talking before the Lightning held its annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The most interesting, perhaps, was his critique of the games of center Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Alex Tanguay. So far, the pairing has not clicked and Tanguay on Sunday was bumped down to a third line with center Jeff Halpern and wing Drew Miller. Lecavalier was paired with right wing Marty St. Louis and rookie James Wright.
Asked why Lecavalier and Tanguay did not click, Tocchet went big picture:
"I think a lot of their game was too much east-west. I think if you look at all the guys who have had great starts, they're all the guys who had great years last year; Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, (Mike) Richards, their goals are north-south type of hockey. we need those guys to get a goal around the net. I think we're always setting up for a big shot. Those guys have to get a little uglier, and they know it. I told Vinny, he has to get ugly. He has to get in front of the net. He has to get a deflection. It's not always the big shot. He realizes that. Maybe those two guys together thought, 'We're going to dance around and make some fancy passes.' I don't think they're consciously thinking that. But they want to feel that kind of hockey. They have to get a little uglier, and that's the bottom line."
Tocchet reiterated Tanguay's game is "a little out of whack" right now. He also praised Wright's defensive play and ability to forecheck and how that might help Lecavalier and St. Louis.
You have to love the wide eyes, so to speak, of Wright, 19, who seven games into his NHL career finds himself on a line with two of the game's biggest stars.
"Wearing the same jersey as them is pretty special," Wright said. "And to be on the same line as them is awesome."
The Lightning has two more games to decide whether Wright should be sent back to juniors. Tocchet has said he sees no reason why Wright would not be with the Lightning after this week unless Wright has a substantial fall-off in performance. For now, it sounds like Wright has made a good impression
"He's a simple player. He takes the body and hasn't hurt us defensively," Tocchet said. "And he gets some energy. The offensive stuff will come with maturity, but right now we're just looking for guys to play a momentum game for us."
Tocchet believes Wright can be a good addition to Lecavalier's line, as long as he doesn't fall into the trap faced by Steve Downie when he played Lecavalier and lost the gritty essence of his game as he tried to play with more skill to accommodate his linemates.
"I just don't want him to change his game," Tocchet said of Wright. "Obviously, he's on that line to forecheck. It's not etched in stone, but whoever is on that line is a guy who is going to dog the puck. we need those types of guys in that situation. we need some north-south play on that line."
Funny moment, too, with Wright, who was asked about getting his first NHL paycheck. He said he still doesn't know how that feels because he hasn't yet been paid because he hasn't yet received a United States social security number. Another two weeks, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native said.
How is he getting by? "I got a loan from my parents," he said. "Zero percent interest rate."
Tocchet on Tanguay: "He's a little out of whack and it's affected his defensive hockey, too. He's playing a little bit east-west. For me, it's just get the puck in deep, use your speed. I really want him to take guys one-on-one because he's really good at that. And shoot the puck. Good things happen when you're shooting the puck, and sometimes he over-handles it. He's just out of sorts. Getting him on a line when he can worry about playing straight ahead, up-and-down hockey, all that other stuff will come into play later."
Tocchet also said Mike Smith will be in goal Thursday against the Sharks. He said Smith on Sunday had one of his best practices. Tocchet said he does not yet know how he will split the goaltending during this two-week period in which Tampa Bay plays just four games.