Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's light side pokes through

BRANDON — Instead of shrill whistles and barking coaches, there was laughter.

Instead of precise passing and skating drills, there was, at times, what seemed like chaos.

Suffice it to say, the Lightning on Friday at the Ice Sports Forum looked and acted nothing like a team that has lost seven of nine games, is on a 4-12-1 streak and is starting to lose its grip on the playoff race.

That was because instead of practice, the ice was split in half for pickup games for those who wanted to play. Coach Guy Boucher wasn't even on the ice.

"It takes you back to when you were a kid and just the fun aspects of hockey," defenseman Matt Carle said. "Just go out and have some laughs where we're not harping on systems. It's more a mental break than anything."

Tampa Bay could use it after Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Jets, after which center Steven Stamkos said the Lightning, if it hopes to make the playoffs, must win as many as 17 of its final 24 games.

As if that weren't sobering enough, the team is two points from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

"It's a deep hole," wing Marty St. Louis said. "Our playoffs have started."

The thing is, players and coaches insist the team is playing better than when it was 6-1-0.

Five-on-five play, according to St. Louis, is "a thousand times better" than the start of the season. The defense is better, too, Boucher said, noting the Jets had only nine scoring chances and only two he characterized as Grade A. The Lightning, Boucher said, had 15 scoring chances, 11 of which were Grade A.

So, why isn't the team winning? Well, goaltending has been inconsistent — Anders Lindback allowed two soft goals against Winnipeg — and the power play has disappeared, part of a larger problem of missed scoring opportunities.

The numbers are staggering. While the Lightning went 6-1-0, the power play was 12-for-35 (34.3 percent). Since then it is 7-for-61 (11.5), 3-for-28 at home, including 0-for-14 in its past three games.

"It hurts because we make one mistake and it's in the back of our net, and we miss all these opportunities in the offensive zone," Boucher said. "We had 11 (Grade) A scoring chances (against the Jets), so it's tough to come in here and start whipping our players and telling them how bad they are. That's why (Friday) we don't need to go in and practice D zone or whatever."

Which brings us back to a day of shinny hockey.

"We don't want to have a lot of long faces and dwell on it," right wing Teddy Purcell said of the Winnipeg loss. "You have to kind of reset and get ready to go again (tonight)."

"We have to move on," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "We can't be stuck in what we did in the past."

As for the future, which starts tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Canadiens, No. 1 in the East, Lecavalier said, "I think we can be very dangerous."

"We can put a string (of wins) together," St. Louis said. "There's no doubt we can."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

DALLAS — The New York Islanders have hired Barry Trotz as their new head coach. President of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello announced the move Thursday at the NHL draft, two weeks after Trotz won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals and thr...
Published: 06/21/18
Lightning’s Victor Hedman salutes survivors in Norris Trophy acceptance speech

Lightning’s Victor Hedman salutes survivors in Norris Trophy acceptance speech

The victims and survivors of three tragedies — the mass shootings in Las Vegas and at Parkland Stoneman Douglas High School, and the bus accident that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team — were a big part of Wedne...
Published: 06/21/18
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Published: 06/20/18
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Published: 06/20/18
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Mike Hoffman traded twice in wake of harassment, cyberbullying claims

Mike Hoffman traded twice in wake of harassment, cyberbullying claims

The Ottawa Senators traded winger Mike Hoffman on Tuesday, hoping to solve an ugly off-ice issue involving star defenseman Erik Karlsson and his wife. The Senators sent Hoffman to the San Jose Sharks, who then dealt him to the Florida Panthers. All t...
Published: 06/19/18
Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Thanks, Vegas. That’s what NHL general managers are saying this offseason after the Stanley Cup Final run of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what’s expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap. With elite center John Tavares, No. ...
Published: 06/19/18
Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz abruptly stepped down as coach of the Washington Capitals on Monday after failing to agree to terms on a new contract, a stunning move that left the newly minted Stanley Cup champions without a coach with the draft later this week and wit...
Published: 06/18/18