Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Serious method in Lightning's fun approach to shootouts

NEWARK, N.J. — Considering the cheering, good-natured taunting and stick-tapping celebrations that accompany the shootout competition at the end of Lightning practices, you would assume it is not entirely serious business.

But there is a lot more going on than a good time. Skaters say they use the competitions to work on their moves. Goalies work on techniques.

Most important, coach Jon Cooper is keeping a mental scoreboard so when faced with a shootout he has the data with which to pick his shooters.

"If you do well in practice, you will get the opportunity to do it in a game," Cooper said.

The strategy was on display Sunday as Cooper chose two defensemen — Sami Salo and Victor Hedman, both recent practice winners — among the four shooters used in the shootout victory over the Panthers.

Neither scored, but there is a bigger picture: the Lightning (8-3) is 4-0 this season in overtime games, including 2-0 in shootouts with goals on three of six shots. Goalies have saved six of seven shots.

Granted, the sample size is small, but in a league with so much parity those extra points might be huge in a playoff race.

"We take it seriously, at least I do," Salo said of the practices. "It's a time for guys to practice their skills. It's such an important part of the game now with the chance to get the extra point."

Shootouts have not been particularly kind to Tampa Bay, which faces the Devils tonight at the Prudential Center.

The team is 37-36 since 2005-06, when the tie-breaking gimmick was introduced, but just 17-29 since 2008-09. Players such as Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were so ineffective — a combined 20-for-108 through last season — they mostly were left out of the rotation.

"It's a skill," said Cooper, in his first full season as Lightning coach. "Sometimes guys that score tons in a game or in their career are not always great shootout guys, and there are a lot of guys out there that come the 60-minute game couldn't put a ball in the ocean. But come to a shootout they know exactly what they're doing, and (the practice competition) is a good way to find out who those guys are."

Of course, the fun of such a competition doesn't come close to producing the pressure of a game situation.

But as Stamkos noted, "It is a huge practice tool. It's, obviously, something I've struggled with in the past and practice helps trying to get certain moves coming in."

It paid off for Stamkos, who is 6-for-28 in his career in shootouts but in his first try of the season scored the winner against the Panthers by approaching goalie Jacob Markstrom with speed and with a sleek deke to his forehand.

"We tell guys don't take practice off when we do shootouts," Cooper said. "It's a skill that can be worked on, and that's why we do it."

KUDOS FOR STAMKOS: The league named Stamkos the first star of the week for the week ending Sunday, with three goals and seven points in three games, all victories. It is the third time in Stamkos' career he was so honored.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team what's the statistic to watch in tonight's Game 7 of the Lightning-Capitals series (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Here's their answers. Share yours in the comments section below:Martin Fennelly, columnist:&#...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Who is the most compelling personality in Lightning-Capitals Game 7?We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for their answer. Who's yours? Please share in the comments section and feel free to take issue with our answers.JOIN the Lightning Strike...
Published: 05/23/18
The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

As the Lightning and Capitals prepare for their series finale Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, here's a by-the-numbers look at each team's Game 7 history.5-2The Lightning's record in Game 7s. It has never lost at home (3-0).+5The Lightning's...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secrets. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning knows all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

TAMPA — Welcome to Game 7, the most fun a player can have if he's fortunate enough to play in one. At least, that is how Lightning D Anton Stralman sees tonight's Eastern Conference final finale."I take pleasure in playing a Game 7," Stralman s...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

TAMPA — He's the Lightning's best player. He's its most important player.Well, other than goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That's a given. Every team relies most heavily on its goalie.But if the Lightning is going win a nerve-racking, heart-stopping,...
Published: 05/22/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

The Lightning misses an opportunity to close out the Capitals in Washington, so there will be a Game 7 in Tampa on Wednesday night with a berth in the Stanley Cup final on the line.Andrei Vasilevskiy was fantastic, but the Lightning couldn't match th...
Published: 05/22/18
Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

For the 33rd time in NHL history, a Stanley Cup semifinal series is headed to a Game 7, where the home teams are 21-11.The Lightning and Capitals meet Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in a win-or-go home game to decide who plays Vegas in the Stanley C...
Published: 05/22/18
Stanley Cup final schedule: Tampa Bay-Washington winner vs. Vegas

Stanley Cup final schedule: Tampa Bay-Washington winner vs. Vegas

Here's the schedule for the Stanley Cup final, which starts Monday — in Tampa Bay if the Lightning wins Wednesday and in Vegas if it doesn't:Lightning-Capitals winner vs. Golden Knights(All games on NBC at 8 p.m. ET)Monday, May 28Wednesday, May...
Published: 05/22/18
How to watch Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals Game 7: Game time, TV, live stream

How to watch Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals Game 7: Game time, TV, live stream

There will be a Game 7 in Tampa Wednesday because the Capitals "were the more desperate team," because Alex Ovechkin was running over Lightning players all night Monday in Washington and because Caps goalie Braden Holtby played to perfection.Washingt...
Published: 05/22/18