Tocchet: Tampa Bay Lightning needs "passion" in today's game with the Capitals
So, what do you say we talk about some hockey today? As you probably noticed, my days since last week have been filled with the story about potential new owner Jeff Vinik and his efforts to buy the team with the help of the NHL. His efforts apparently are ongoing and the league hopes to make an announcement soon.
But on to other things:
Coach Rick Tocchet was very right when he said the Lightning cannot afford to come out for today's game with the Capitals without the same passion they showed in their victory over the Capitals on Jan. 12. That game was physical, with the most notable confrontation coming between Tampa Bay pest Steve Downie and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. There almost was a fight between the two until Washington's Matt Bradley stepped in. Not that Ovechkin wasn't willing. Bradley was just protecting his team's most important player.
"We're going to need a lot of passion and a lot of smart hockey players," Tocchet said. "Passion but smart. If you're out there running around being an idiot, being stupid, that's not passion to me. If you're ready off the draw and got to the net hard and playing the coach's system, you're taking short shifts, you're getting after some of their best players and getting in their faces. we got it from Steve Downie and (Zenon) Konopka the last time we played them."
Tocchet also took another opportunity to praise Ovechkin for his aggressive, some might say reckless, style of play, and brought that back around to talking about what his team needs to beat Washington, which has won nine straight, and eight straight at home and is 11-2-0 in the Southeast.
"He was ready," he said of the almost fight with Downie. "I have to give him credit. 'I'm ready to go,' and his team followed. We need to bring that, with that same vengeance from some guys. I know Downs and Konopka will be there, but we need other guys to bring that passion. I don't think it's hatred, but to get us to the next level and compete, we have to have that passion."
Other stuff from around the team: As noted in today's paper, Mike Smith is back in net after missing six games with a strained neck and two games as Antero Niittymaki's backup. ... Niittymaki will play Wednesday against the Thrashers, against whom he is 15-0-0. ... Scratches will be announced before the game. ... Tampa Bay entered the game one point out of the eighth playoff spot in the East but with three games in hand. ... Seven out of eight points on the last four-game home stand wasn't bad, especially considering the team played well despite losing in a shootout to the Ducks. ... And, finally, I mistakenly called Washington's Brooks Laich a defenseman in today's story about Mike Smith. He is a center.