Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Cooper plans more offensive freedom

TAMPA — There were plenty of laughs Thursday at the Lightning's first practice under new coach Jon Cooper. Even when diagramming plays on the white board, Cooper found ways to crack up his players.

There also was serious work on breakouts from the defensive zone and backchecking, but a shootout competition had the players hollering.

"That's life," Cooper said after the 60-minute workout. "If you're not going to laugh, you're wasting it. I'm a big believer in you only live once, you might as well have fun doing it."

And make it intriguing, too. Cooper acknowledged he plans to give players more freedom in the offensive zone.

We're not talking shinny hockey, and in a sense, players will have to earn the privilege. But as center Steven Stamkos said, the structure will be looser than what was allowed by former coach Guy Boucher.

"It isn't like you weren't allowed to make plays with Guy. You still went out there making reads, making plays," Stamkos said. "But here we know what's allowed and what's not, and there's a lot of in-between where you can make a decision on your own. There aren't specific things in your head you're thinking about when you're out there."

"You've got to let guys breathe," Cooper said. "You've got to let them be free down there."

Now, here are the rules:

"We get on either side of those blue lines, you can't turn the puck over," Cooper said. "You have to be men in the corners. You have to be men in front of the net. You can't shy away from those areas. Goals are scored there. Pucks are retrieved there."

For the nine Tampa Bay players Cooper coached in the American Hockey League, the refrain was familiar, as was the quick pace of practice, with lots of skating, side board-to-side board sprints and instructions for two players to swarm an opponent who retrieves a puck chipped out of the Lightning zone.

The shootout competition, which ended with defenseman Victor Hedman pumping his fist after his winning goal and wing Marty St. Louis celebrating with him, created what left wing Cory Conacher said was "a good vibe."

"We worked hard," said Conacher, who last season played for Cooper at AHL Norfolk. "It's weird, though, when you're having fun, you almost tend to work harder. You want to keep that smile on your face and the coach's face."

The hard work really begins in Cooper's NHL debut tonight against the Devils at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Hard work in the defensive zone is key because, as St. Louis said, "the structure that's real important is the structure without the puck. The more structure you have without the puck, you'll have it more."

And that brings us back to how the Lightning might look in the offensive zone.

"I'm not going to go out there and teach Steven Stamkos how to do a one-timer. He's got that one figured out," Cooper said. "I'm not that guy that says this guy has to go here, and Marty, you have to go here.

"You get full possession of the puck … have at it, boys."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Ondrej Palat skating, likely mid-March return

Ondrej Palat skating, likely mid-March return

MONTREAL — It is an encouraging sign for the Lightning that wing Ondrej Palat (right) is back on the ice, even if he is doing just light skating.Palat is arguably the team's best two-way forward, someone who plays in all situations, so Tampa Ba...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning tops Canadiens in shootout, looks ahead to trade deadline

Lightning tops Canadiens in shootout, looks ahead to trade deadline

MONTREAL — There's no guarantee general manager Steve Yzerman will be able to pull off a big move by Monday's trade deadline, though indications are the Lightning and Senators are working hard on a potential Erik Karlsson blockbuster.And the Li...
Updated: 6 hours ago
What Lightning would be getting in Erik Karlsson

What Lightning would be getting in Erik Karlsson

MONTREAL – We don't know yet if the Lightning will be able to land Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson by Monday's trade deadline.There's a chance, with Tampa Bay having enough interest – and high-level prospects – to make t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

RALEIGH, N.C. — The  Penguins acquired center Derick Brassard from the Senators on Friday night in a three-team deal that sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Golden Knights.The Penguins announced the deal...
Published: 02/23/18
Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning these days, there's only one question that really matters:Will the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?That's it. That's the big question. That's the only thing on everyone's mind.Will it or won't it?Does this ...
Published: 02/23/18
Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk won’t die down until deadline is over

Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk won’t die down until deadline is over

MONTREAL — Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson sure seemed chatty with his Lightning friends as he left the Canadian Tire Center on Thursday night.Karlsson, 27, took his time talking up several members of Tampa Bay's staff in the hallway out...
Published: 02/23/18
Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

You can bet that many Lightning fans hoped Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson jumped on Tampa Bay's bus after Thursday night's 4-3 Lightning win.Karlsson, 27, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, is the biggest prize leading up to Monday's trade...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

OTTAWA – The Lightning was encouraged it escaped Ottawa with a 4-3 win over the Senators on Thursday night.But it was really disappointed about how it had to "hold on to dear life," as defenseman Victor Hedman put it, after taking a three-goal ...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it, too.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth ...
Published: 02/22/18
Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons for the move.With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net and a rele...
Published: 02/21/18