Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning expects better focus as playoffs near

Goalie Ben Bishop and the Lightning know they could have been mentally sharper in Thursday’s loss to the Flames, coach Jon Cooper says.


Goalie Ben Bishop and the Lightning know they could have been mentally sharper in Thursday’s loss to the Flames, coach Jon Cooper says.

BRANDON — Put quite simply, it was "inexcusable" for Lightning players to be as mentally unprepared as they were for the start of Thursday's game with the Flames, Tampa Bay assistant coach Steve Thomas said.

Yes, Tampa Bay has clinched a playoff spot. But it is fighting for home-ice advantage in the first round. Even more important, Thomas said, it wants to be "hitting on all cylinders" when the playoffs begin April 16.

"You don't want to be trying to find your game in Game 1," Thomas said Friday at the Ice Sports Forum.

"Ultimately it comes down to each individual coming to play right from the drop of the puck, and that is about your professionalism and knowing what you're there for."

In that sense, the 4-1 loss to Calgary, in which the Lightning played as if in a fog in the first period and fell behind 2-0, might be a good lesson.

"It was a small microcosm of what can go on in the playoffs," Thomas said. "You can go down in Game 1 in your building, and you don't want to do that."

"It's a mental thing," wing Alex Killorn said. "You have to know coming into it that it's going to be a battle."

Getting there is an interesting process because it is so individual to each player.

Coaches can prepare a team with systems and scouting. They can talk until they are blue in the face about what is at stake. But unless players flip that switch, it can fall on deaf ears.

For the Lightning, selective hearing occurs against teams out of the playoff hunt. In its past four games against such teams — the Senators, Islanders, Sabres and Stars — it is 2-1-1 and was behind in both wins.

Even Killorn, when talking about the Flames game, said, "We just took things for granted a little bit coming into that game. We're professionals. We have to be better prepared than that."

It should help that Tampa Bay's last six regular-season games, starting tonight against the Stars at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, are with teams in the playoff chase.

"I think it will," coach Jon Cooper said. "We've got to come out from the drop of the puck and be sharp … playing with determination and passion for the full 60 (minutes). That's what needs to be done."

It won't be done unless the players are proactive.

"It's individual and collective," right wing Ryan Callahan said. "You have to approach the game in whatever way you have to to make sure as soon as the puck drops you're ready to go."

Perhaps a player stands in the locker room before the game and delivers a pointed message. Perhaps players focus quietly.

"It's a mind-set in the room," Killorn said. "It starts in the pregame skate. It's an attitude. You have to want to win."

"The thing I like about our guys is they understand they could have come out a little bit mentally sharper (against the Flames)," Cooper said. " 'Okay, this is why it happened. Let's not let it happen again.' "

No excuses.

MINOR MOVE: With defenseman Mike Kostka (concussion) out indefinitely, Andrej Sustr was recalled from AHL Syracuse. Sustr, 23, had seven assists and was plus-4 in 38 games for Tampa Bay before he was sent to the Crunch in January. In 12 games with Syracuse — he missed six weeks with a shoulder/collarbone injury — Sustr had a goal and four points, and was minus-3.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Lightning expects better focus as playoffs near 04/04/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge


    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]
  2. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz celebrates his Trop-record 482-foot home run in the ninth inning.
  3. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  4. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)