Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning tries to overcome road woes

BOSTON — Teddy Purcell said he and his Lightning teammates don't feel any different when they play on the road compared to at home.

And coach Guy Boucher said Tampa Bay's play on the road this season "is not even comparable" to last season, when the team's road record was second worst in the league.

So why is the Lightning still struggling on the road?

"We can't go from being awful on the road last year to all of a sudden be outstanding," Boucher said Friday. "There is a process to it, and we're on the way there. I really believe it."

It is a bit of a tough sell when you consider the results so far.

The Lightning, 6-4-0 overall and 5-1-0 at home, is 1-3-0 on the road. It has been outscored only 11-10 but been outshot in each game and is 1-for-17 on the power play. "We're not off to the start we want," Purcell said.

Worse, there were times during Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Devils that Tampa Bay showed some of the worst characteristics of last season's team, which was 13-22-6 away from home. There were turnovers in the neutral zone and at the opponent's blue line, difficult and unsuccessful entries into the offensive zone, bad passing and missed scoring chances.

But Boucher insisted any simi­larities to last season's team are more perception than fact.

"It's not even comparable to last year's games," he said. "Last year on the road, (we were) awful in our zone; no offense, scared, backcheck bad, all over the place in all situations. That's not what we're looking like. We've got good structure. We're keeping with other teams. We're right there with them."

To Boucher, all it will take for the Lightning to start getting good results — that is, playing at least .500 on the road — is attention to details, or as he described it, "focusing on the process."

That includes understanding how to limit turnovers, especially at the start and end of periods, being more selective when forechecking so as not to leave too much ice undefended and working more efficient offensive-zone entries, all while managing the surges of an opponent pumped up by the home crowd.

A better power play would help as well. Boucher has bemoaned the lack of motion and shots, quite different from the power play Tampa Bay shows at home, where it is No. 1 in the league at 44.4 percent (12-for-27).

"The thing is, we're in these games," Purcell said. "It's not like we're getting blown out. Our focus just isn't there for a full 60 minutes. If we do that for a game, gain some confidence and get on a little path, we'll be fine."

How much time is there before players get frustrated?

"At some point, there has to be some results so we can get something positive to feel good about ourselves and get some confidence," Boucher said. "It's just we can't get that until we take care of the process."

That continues tonight against the 7-1-1 Bruins at TD Garden.

"Are we winning (today)? I don't know, but it has to be part of the process," Boucher said. "Right now we have to stick with it and add on these little details to make us tilt over so we're not at the other end of the spectrum like we were last year."

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