Sunday, May 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

New NHL division makes Lightning frequent fliers

Soon after the NHL schedule was released, Lightning coach Jon Cooper, his assistants, general manager Steve Yzerman and team services director Ryan Belec held a strategy session. How best, they mulled, to use the time between road games to get players in an efficient manner from one city to the next, to accommodate practices while allowing for rest and recovery. "Sleep," Cooper said, "is paramount." The calculations were urgent this season because of the league's new division alignments and Tampa Bay's assignment to the eight-team Atlantic Division, the quirkiest — and most unfairly drawn — of the four divisions. It is unfair because the Lightning and Panthers are lumped in with the Bruins, Sabres, Canadiens, Senators, Maple Leafs and Red Wings, a division so spread out, Tampa Bay and Florida must fly past the entire Metropolitan Division to reach their division foes.

The result: The Lightning's average flying distance to division cities is 1,011 miles, second in the league to the Panthers' 1,094 miles, according to travelmath.com.

Compare that with the tightly clustered Metropolitan Division of the Flyers, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Penguins, Blue Jackets, Capitals and Hurricanes. Philadelphia's average distance between division cities is a league-smallest 207 miles. The Rangers, Islanders and Devils are in such proximity, players can drive to games if they desire.

The Lightning has no such luxury.

Is it unfair?

"I don't know," captain Marty St. Louis said. "Life is unfair."

"I think it's unfair to the owner," Cooper said. "He's the one who has to shell out for the planes, where there are owners who only have to shell out for a bus. To me that's unfair. But it's the price of doing business."

Here is a look at the Lightning's itinerary:

League to the rescue

When the new divisions were announced, the league assured it would help the Lightning as much as possible minimize its travel demands, and Cooper said that was accomplished.

The team plays 12 back-to-back games, compared with 14 for the Flyers. That's not a huge difference, but Tampa Bay goes into Canada only four times, with games nicely clustered. There also is a seven-game homestand in October and a streak of eight of 10 at home in March and April.

"In my opinion, they looked after us as best they could," Cooper said. "They didn't make us go in and out of Canada all the time, so that shortens the load going through customs."

Frequent fliers

The Lightning will fly 43,102 miles this season, 12th in the 30-team league, according to ontheforecheck.com, but second most in the Eastern Conference behind the Panthers.

"We don't have the easiest travel, that's for sure," St. Louis said. "So, you have to manage the body. It's the old cliche: hydrate a lot, get your sleep. It's what you do away from the rink that is going to put you in as optimal condition as you can."

Stay or go?

For Cooper, the biggest travel question was whether to leave cities immediately after games (favored by former coach Guy Boucher) or stay overnight and fly out the next day (favored by former coach John Tortorella).

It is not a black and white issue, especially when considering a four-game November trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim.

"The argument is, 'Okay, if you come home (to Tampa) right after the (Anaheim) game and get home at 6 a.m., or do you stay the night, fly the next day and make it a more realistic day?" Cooper said. "Then you have to balance do we play the next night or have the day off?"

Even with two days off after the Anaheim game, the Lightning will not stay the night so as not to kill the entire next day traveling.

Unfriendly destinations

Have you looked at how the Lightning has fared in some of its new division cities? It is not pretty.

Tampa Bay is 1-13-0 with a tie in Detroit, 4-26-3 with six ties in Boston, 11-23-4 in Ottawa, 12-19-4 with a tie in Toronto, 13-21-2 with two ties in Buffalo.

"We've got a tough division," right wing B.J. Crombeen said. "But we've got a good team here. Nobody is happy with how last year went (missing the playoffs), and we've got something to prove. It's good to face good competition. It'll bring the best out of us."

Metropolitan diary

It is easy to say, as many Lightning players did, that all teams have travel burdens, but consider this travel-light stretch for the Rangers from Jan. 19 to March 5: nine home games, "road" games against the Devils and the Islanders at Yankee Stadium, a road game at Philadelphia. The only game in that stretch to which players won't be able to reach by car, bus or train is Feb. 7 in Pittsburgh.

Add the Olympic break from Feb. 9-25 and the Rangers might be the best-rested team in the league.

The Lightning in that stretch? Four home games and nine road games, three in Canada and five in either the central or mountain time zones.

Bottom line

No one at the Lightning is whining, and, really, players said, why should they?

"For the most part it's going to be pretty even throughout the league," center Nate Thompson said. "Everyone is going through pretty much the same thing."

And it's not like players rough it on the road. Chartered airplanes are tricked out with all first-class seats, and, as Cooper noted, "With the hotels we stay at in this league, there shouldn't be much complaining."

There also is this:

"We get up every day and the sun is shining," Cooper said of living in Florida. "There's no snow on the ground. So, there's give and take all around. I would probably take that to fly the extra hour and a half."

Here is the travel the Lightning faces to cities in its realignment-created division. The average distance is 1,011 miles. Only the Panthers' is longer (1,094).

   
Comments
Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

WINNIPEG — Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western C...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

TAMPA – Capitals G Braden Holtby basically summed up playoff life for the Capitals after Saturday's Game 5 loss in the Eastern Conference final when he said the team never makes it easy for itself."No, we don't," coach Barry Trotz agreed Sunday...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

TAMPA — The Lightning is a win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Its Game 5 win Saturday, to take a 3-2 lead over the Washington Capitals, was another chapter of a story being written on the fly."Think about Game 1 in New Jersey,"...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

TAMPA — Alex Ovechkin headed toward the Capitals' locker room two hours before the start of Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final with the swagger of an elite athlete that suggested he was about take over a game and make life misera...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Gam...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

TAMPA — Dan Girardi knew where the puck was heading. It was heading to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer on net, so Girardi did the only thing he could do. He blocked it.With his rump."It hit me right in the cheek," said Girardi, the Lightning defe...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Faster than Justify down the stretch at the Preakness, quicker than Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle at Windsor Castle, the Lightning jumped on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. No runaway gallop. No funny hats. Just ho...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

TAMPA — They're called grinders. Pluggers. Checkers.They're lunch-pail guys. Like 9-to-5ers. They get up every day and go to work. They punch in and punch out for no glory or credit. But the business would fall apart without them.They're the fo...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

TAMPA — Cedric Paquette needed only 19 seconds to put the Lightning on the scoreboard Saturday night, coming up with the second-fastest playoff goal in franchise history.The only goal faster? Tampa Bay's Adam Hall needed only 13 seconds to scor...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win

Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win

It's one thing to get a quick goal from one of your big guns, but when the goal scorer is a grinder like Cedric Paquette, who was only on the ice at the start to counter the Capitals' top line, that just sends a jolt through the bench.The Caps' first...
Published: 05/19/18