Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

At season's midpoint, Lightning aware it's short on time to improve

RECOMMENDED READING


EDMONTON — The Lightning hits the midpoint of its season tonight against the Oilers.

But considering Tampa Bay is out of a playoff position after 40 games, desperation is finally sinking in.

"We're running out of time," coach Jon Cooper said.

And it's not just in the standings, where the Lightning entered Thursday 11th in the Eastern Conference, three spots from a wild card berth, and five points behind Detroit for third place, an automatic playoff spot, in the Atlantic Division. There's also the Feb. 29 trade deadline, just over seven weeks away.

With general manager Steve Yzerman saying he typically evaluates his team a month or so before the deadline — gauging whether he has a playoff team — Tampa Bay's play the next few weeks could go a long way in determining what, if any, changes are made. And he won't decide just whether to deal wing Jonathan Drouin, whose trade request was made public Sunday.

Even captain Steven Stamkos, who has a full no-move clause, has been a subject of speculation, considering he's in the final year of his contract.

"We want to be a buyer at the deadline," Stamkos said. "Any team wants that. You don't think about that stuff until it gets closer. But we want to be in a position where management can say, 'Hey, we've got a chance this year, maybe we add a piece.' We want to be in that position."

Nobody thought the Lightning would be in this position, not after racking up 50 wins last season and reaching the Stanley Cup final. Injuries to key players have played a role, as has a puzzling lack of scoring.

But Stamkos appeared Thursday to call out his team, including himself, for one thing that should be automatic: effort.

"It starts with one simple thing, and that's just our work ethic," Stamkos said. "We have a ton of skill in this room. We have a ton of speed. We have a ton of guys that can make plays. But so do a lot of other teams that are willing to combine the two, which we were last year, which we do at times this year. We see that when we win games, it's for a reason. And we have to get back to that."

After another flat first period led to Tuesday's trip-opening 3-1 loss in Calgary, the Lightning can ill afford to drop another game tonight against the Oilers, who are in last place in the Western Conference. But Tampa Bay hasn't won at Rexall Place since March 2007, and no victories have come easy this season.

Stamkos said it became almost "second nature" last season, that with a lead late in a tight game, "we knew we were going to find a way to win." This season, it "hasn't been the case." With just seven points separating Nos. 3-11 in the conference, Stamkos notes the Lightning still can be in the playoff mix with a prolonged winning streak. Its longest such streak this season is three games twice.

"We've got to look ourselves in the mirror and realize we're at the halfway point of the season and how unacceptable it us for this particular group," Stamkos said. "You mention going to the finals last year, the expectations being raised for us this year with that experience that we gained. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. No one else is. It comes within this room, starting with me, and we all have to be better."

Time is running out.

Comments
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17
Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

TAMPA — It’s still way early, but if the Lightning’s record start continues, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs. And we’re not just talking about the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has league MVP written all over him. Andrei Vasilevskiy coul...
Published: 11/18/17

Red-hot Lightning leading NHL in more than wins

Nikita Kucherov, top left, celebrates with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer. [AP photo]The Lightning (15-2-2) enters tonight’s game against the visiting Islanders (10-6-2) leading the leagu...
Published: 11/18/17
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Published: 11/17/17
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

TAMPA — C Braydon Point’s shorthanded goal tipped the game in the Lightning’s favor and the three penalties it killed during the second period kept it that way in Thursday’s 6-1 victory against the Stars.Dallas entered the game with an NHL-best 30.2 ...
Published: 11/16/17