Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Managing energy key in Lightning's quest for another Cup final

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning has today off, its third day in the past week without a practice.

No, it's not Club Med. Rather it's the coaches trying to avoid players turning into The Walking Dead.

When it comes to the daunting task of reaching back-to-back Stanley Cup finals, there are several pitfalls. But Dan Bylsma, who coached the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Penguins, said the biggest challenge the following season is managing the players' energy levels.

"At some point, you're going to crash from the high of having success and playing so many games," said Bylsma, who now coaches the Sabres. "The surprising part, in 2009-10, was it happened somewhere in December.

"We were good in training camp. We (had) good energy levels in the first start of the year, and we got to December, and all of a sudden you had a group of walking zombies. Their energy level was so low."

The 2008-09 Penguins are the only team in the salary cap era (starting with the 2005-06 season) to win the Cup the year after losing in the final. Pittsburgh started off 2009-10 hot, going 12-3. But coming off back-to-back short offseasons, the Penguins then wore down, losing four of five in early November and six of seven around Christmas. They eventually lost in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lightning has struggled out of the gates this season, entering Saturday's game against the Wild 7-6-2, a record that includes a puzzling scoring slump and a four-game losing streak. There are many reasons for that, from a brutal schedule of 11 of the first 16 on the road to opposing teams giving the Lightning their best.

But with the Lightning yet to play a complete game, coach Jon Cooper is trying to feel the team's pulse — when to push, when to rest — in order to keep its focus sharp.

"(Bylsma) is absolutely right," Cooper said. "Until you go through it, you can sit here and talk to people about it and read articles on it, but nobody really knows the feeling of playing until the middle of June, coming up empty and then having to start right up again when everybody's had the summer off. Their batteries are able to recharge.

"It's when you come back, there's that excitement you're coming back to camp. It seems to end quickly, and all of a sudden, Game 10 feels like Game 40."

Captain Steven Stamkos said the coaching staff does a great job of giving the players the proper amount of rest and knowing "when to have tough practices, when to lay off."

"We have a lot of young guys, too," Stamkos said. "We should be as hungry as ever to come back this year and prove that we can do it again."

But the biggest issue is mental, said veteran center Valtteri Filppula, who was on the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Red Wings teams that went to back-to-back finals.

"You had a good playoff run that was the most exciting time. And now you're thinking you have to play 82 games really well to be able to have that chance to have a great time again," Filppula said.

The Lightning isn't the only team to go through this. As Cooper notes, most Cup final runners­up in the past decade got off to "mildly mediocre" starts the next season. The 2007-08 Senators were an exception. They were 13-2-0 in their first 15 games, but coach John Paddock was fired midseason and they were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

"We can't just play it off like, 'Okay, after Christmas, we'll just put on the afterburners and be fine,' " Stamkos said.

But how do you keep the players from getting burned out?

"We didn't have success," Bylsma said, "So I don't have the right answer for you."

The Lightning hopes it does.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Updated: 3 hours ago
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: 7 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 ...
Published: 06/21/18
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