Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Despite injuries, Lightning maintains winning mind-set

Rookie wing J.T. Brown, right, is a dynamic skater who entered Saturday with 25 shots in 11 games.

Getty Images

Rookie wing J.T. Brown, right, is a dynamic skater who entered Saturday with 25 shots in 11 games.

There is no doubt the Lightning is going through some adversity with seven players injured — down from nine — including Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Ryan Malone. And its 5-5-1 record entering Saturday in 11 games without Stamkos is a step back from its 12-5-0 start. But an argument can be made that what the team is accomplishing is, in its way, almost as impressive.

Consider the Lightning has eight rookies on its roster and 13 players with fewer than 82 games of NHL experience, the equivalent of a full season. Much of that is because Tampa Bay is committed to building from within the organization. But injuries have forced more callups from AHL Syracuse.

"They're going to call us the Syracuse Lightning pretty soon," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper joked.

That is not to overlook goaltender Ben Bishop, who is 4-3-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage since Stamkos went down. But the poise and creativity with which the kids are playing should not be minimized.

For Cooper, who led most of them to the 2012 AHL title with Norfolk and was with all of them last season at Syracuse before he was promoted, the progression is inevitable.

"I can't emphasize how much you learn in the American League," Cooper said. "But it wasn't only the learning. These guys were winning. That really helps your mind-set. They learned how to be pros in the American League and brought that here. It's going to take time to get the NHL game down, but because of how much we have to play them, the process is accelerated."

Perhaps the kids fade amidst the grind of an NHL season. But you couldn't help but notice rookie Ondrej Palat on Thursday against the Senators setting up Marty St. Louis for two goals with plays of skill and determination.

Hedman and fellow defenseman Keith Aulie went down against Ottawa, and 6-foot-8 rookie Andrej Sustr played 20:51 and was plus-2.

Rookie wing J.T. Brown is a dynamic skater who entered Saturday with 25 shots in 11 games. And defenseman Matt Taormina, in his 50th NHL game Thursday, stepped in after his callup from Syracuse and blocked three shots and had two hits and a takeaway.

"It's probably not an ideal situation," Cooper said of counting on so many youngsters. "But we're going to be a better team for it. It's a little bit of a trial by fire, but so far all the guys have passed the test."

Despite injuries, Lightning maintains winning mind-set 12/07/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 7, 2013 7:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL Week 7: What we learned


    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  2. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  3. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17


    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.

  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]