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Guy Boucher's Tampa Bay Lightning must strike with speed

The next time you're at a Lightning game at the St. Pete Times Forum, listen carefully.

Chances are when Tampa Bay goes on offense you will hear someone loudly imploring the players to push the puck up the ice with "speed, speed, speed."

The words — with staccato, tenor-like resonance — cut through the din of the crowd and even reach the ears of those watching from the press box at the top of the arena.

Can't quite place the voice? It is coach Guy Boucher, who from behind the Lightning bench demands to be heard.

"Oh, yeah, we definitely hear it," wing Ryan Shannon said. "We hear it loud and clear."

"Since the first day I coached 14 years ago," Boucher, 40, said about churning out the word "speed" in triplicate at his players. "I know as a player you go fast, but you're rarely 100 percent. You're 95, 98, 93, 92 percent? So it's my job to make sure the guys are jolted, especially at this level."

Boucher isn't alone barking orders from behind the bench. Assistants Marty Raymond and Dan Lacroix have their repertoire of button-pushing slogans and watchwords.

The idea is to create an atmosphere, Raymond said.

"Eighty-two games are hard for players," he said. "We have to make sure we do whatever we can to help them and know that we're there and in the game."

Boucher is the only one, though, with a clarion call.

Funny thing, Raymond said. Last season, when stationed in the press box during games as an eye in the sky, he always noticed Boucher's voice. This season, behind the bench, he doesn't notice at all.

"When you're in the action, you have so many things to pay attention to, you block out a lot of other stuff," Raymond said.

It's different for players getting an earful from their coach.

"Obviously, if you guys hear him in the press box, we can hear him on the ice," left wing Ryan Malone said. "It's just a reminder. He doesn't mean any harm."

Not intentionally, anyway.

"Sometimes you're just trying to get a handle on the puck, and he's screaming 'Move your feet,' and you're like, 'Oh … " Malone said, laughing. "He's an intense coach."

"Oh, yeah, I'm annoying," Boucher said. "I'm ferociously persistent in what I want."

And that is the puck up ice as quickly as possible.

Speed doesn't allow the opposition to set up its defense. Speed forces opponent mistakes, and speed on the transition indicates Tampa Bay is playing its system.

That hasn't always been the case this season, especially in first periods, in which Tampa Bay has been outscored 26-14, and on the road, where it is 4-8-2.

"The minute we're not at our best in terms of speed, we look awful," Boucher said. "If you look at our road games, the problem was when we didn't show up with our speed. We woke up in the second and third periods, but (before that) we didn't have any speed. We didn't have any drive."

Think of it this way, Boucher said, "A really fast guy skates against a really fast guy. What's the difference? Those fractions of seconds."

How do you gain them?

Speed, speed, speed.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] His blog is at lightning.tampabay.com. On Twitter: @LightningTimes.

Guy Boucher's Tampa Bay Lightning must strike with speed 12/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 10:32pm]
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