Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Fennelly: For Lightning, Stamkos injury is just another speed bump

This is what they do.

This is what the coach does, too.

And that matters. A lot.

The Lightning lost Steven Stamkos last week to a knee injury, not to be confused with his other injuries.

So naturally the Lightning went out and won their first two games without Stamkos, including Saturday's 3-0 victory at Philadelphia. They're in Nashville tonight to play the Predators.

The Lightning are old pros at this injury deal, especially the Stamkos injury deal. I keep thinking they can't keep this up, can't keep beating the house.

But there I am, talking about how Lightning forwards like Tyler Johnson, Odrej Palat and Jonatan Drouin have to step up in Stamkos' absence. Then I look at the box score Saturday, and there are the goal scorers: Johnson, Palat, Drouin.

This is what the Lightning do.

It pushes on. It has a lot of experience at it. It handles crisis.

So does its coach.

I remember a conversation I had before the season with Lightning coach Jon Cooper. It told me a lot about his approach and, as such, his team's approach. Stamkos missed 45 games with a broken leg in Cooper's first full season as head coach.

"There are fears and challenges all along the way," Cooper said. "The first one, for me, is when you get hired. That's an 'Oh, my,' moment. But you're confident. I can do this. Then your top scorer breaks his leg. Now you've got to reset. You've got a pity party and a fear factor and you have to fight through it and let everybody know we're not going to waver. That was a big turning point for me. Not blinking was the biggest thing.

"Once you've gone through these, as the leader of the band, I truly believe that when as a team they see you're okay and confident, and there's a belief we as a staff have in our players, no matter what happens, they'll have that same belief. … They're just speed bumps. Just slow down, go over the bumps, then speed up again."

Here are Cooper and the Lightning is again. Another speed bump. This is what they do.

To blink of not to blink?

That is the question.

Comments

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