WINNIPEG — The way Lightning coach Guy Boucher sees it, the 30-minute, players-only meeting after Monday's 5-2 loss to the Jets might be the moment his players took control of their season.
It is one thing for coaches to yell, change tactics, yell, change pregame routines, yell, alter practice schedules and, — oh, yeah — yell. It is another, Boucher said, for players to hold each other accountable.
"What we're offering as coaches is direction, direction in task," Boucher said down the hall from Tampa Bay's locker room at the MTS Centre as players met inside. "You can't create superficial urgency all the time. Players have to feel that urgency. They do now and that's what I like."
It is an urgency born of failure.
The Lightning is 8-7-2 overall but 3-6-2 on the road, where it has been outscored 19-8 and outshot 150-102 in first periods. In 11 road games, only twice has it held the initial lead.
Tampa Bay trailed the Jets 2-0 in the first period and, as usual, played better once it was down. But the loss had a harsher vibe.
Not only did it come after Saturday's brutal 3-0 defeat at St. Louis, Boucher had given the team Sunday off for "self assessment," and on Monday sent a message about intensity and focus with a tough morning skate that included offensive zone scrimmages and bad language when players messed up.
That's why after the final horn sounded, the door to the locker room closed.
"This happens two or three times a year on any team," goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "There's times in a year the players need to take the bull by the horns and address some things that need to be addressed. Coach gives us a game plan, and Guy relies on us to do the stuff we need to be accountable."
"We realize we're in a game when we're down by a couple (goals)," center Steven Stamkos said. "We're a different team and that was the main message.
"At the end of the day we're still over .500, so it's not like we're sitting here thinking we have to make drastic changes or panic. We're fine. Obviously, something needed to be addressed and we took it upon ourselves. That's a good thing. It brings teams together. People step up, we say the right things and we follow."
For left wing Marty St. Louis that means "covering for one another" on the ice.
"We can't play a perfect game. Hockey is a game of mistakes," he said. "Everybody cares about everybody in here. A guy makes a mistake, we have to be there for him."
It will be a while before we know if the meeting has an effect. Tampa Bay plays its next three games at the St. Pete Times Forum, where it is 5-1-0 and has executed its defensive system with controlled precision backed by one of the best home power plays in the league, as opposed to one of the worst on the road.
Still, the meeting, as an exercise, goes beyond game sites.
"Over the course of the season you're always trying to address what's right and what's wrong," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "We've been up and down a bit. We're just trying to level out the line a little bit more. Sometimes you just need to get a few things out there."
"They want to have success," Boucher said. "They want to be accountable."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]