Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Hot-starting Lightning gaining confidence

TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper knows his team isn't perfect.

"Not even close," he said.

But Cooper said it's a group that responds well to challenges, which Tampa Bay did again Saturday night, beating the Blues, one of the league's best teams, 4-2.

The Lightning (10-4-0) is off to a hot start. This is the quickest into a season in franchise history that the team has recorded its 10th win. It is tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with 20 points. It doesn't play again until Thursday against the Oilers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Goalie Ben Bishop said the Lightning wants to be in "the same category" as playoff-contending teams and by beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks twice, the Kings and the Blues, it has garnered confidence.

"I think any time you face a challenge, you want to conquer it,'' center Steven Stamkos said. "Any time we play teams that are known to be very good in this league, we come out with a great effort. We have to start to find a way to do that with consistency, and I think we are starting to get that.

"We're not satisfied yet. We're happy with the way we're playing, but it's that relaxed, confident attitude. We know it's a long year."

Finding stability in net is a big reason for the early success. Bishop, 6 feet 7 and 209 pounds, has played like a No. 1 goalie, going 9-2-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average. Retired NHL goalie Darren Pang, a Blues color commentator, said Bishop is emerging into the kind of player St. Louis envisioned when it drafted him in the third round in 2005.

"His ability is special," Pang said. "You can't find a guy that's 6-7, 6-8 that can move and catch and play the position like a small athlete. It just goes to show how long it takes to get to this level and be able to handle what's required to be a No. 1 guy. When you're handed it, there's a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure, so I'm really pleased with the way he's handling it."

The Lightning can score, too, with Stamkos (11 goals) and Marty St. Louis (seven) leading the way. But how Tampa Bay has played defensively has been the difference.

"We know we've got a lot of firepower on our team," Stamkos said. "Our Achilles' heel has been the other end of the rink, and we're taking care of that this year, and I think that's why we have a 10-4 record."

The Lightning has had some rough moments. It has two losses to the Bruins, one of which was an embarrassing 5-0 home defeat Oct. 19. It made a couple of glaring mistakes in a loss to the Devils last week. But Cooper has liked his players' "businesslike" approach, not complaining about problems and finding solutions.

And in Saturday's win, Cooper saw progress compared to previous games against playoff-contending teams.

"We've played some of these upper-echelon teams and we've somehow garnered some points from them, but … you can say we got outplayed in some of these games when we didn't pick up points," Cooper said.

"And I didn't think we were outplayed (Saturday). I thought it was an even hockey game. That's some progress, cause we're playing an elite team, and I think we more than hung with them. The two points are still the same, but the question isn't being asked, 'Do you feel fortunate you got those two points?' And I think that's big for us."

Comments
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Published: 04/19/18
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Published: 04/19/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Published: 04/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Published: 04/18/18
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

I guess the lesson here is never believe a hockey player when he says what happens in a scrum at the end of a playoff game doesn't carry over into the next game. It sure looks like the Lightning and Devils won't be vacationing together this summer.Th...
Published: 04/18/18
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Published: 04/18/18
Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. — Both sides were in agreement Tuesday that the shenanigans during the final minute of Monday's Game 3 would not carry over to Game 4."I think the emotion of a game in a series carries over, (but) what happened at end I don't think...
Published: 04/18/18