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)

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Ryan Malone has noteworthy praise for interim coach Rich Tocchet

PITTSBURGH — The knock on former Lightning coach Barry Melrose was his lack of preparation, personally and of the team. That is why Ryan Malone's comments about interim coach Rick Tocchet are so noteworthy.

"He's been a great coach preparing us the right way," Malone said before Tuesday's 2-0 victory over the Penguins at Mellon Arena.

"I kind of feel bad for him a little bit. The numbers and wins haven't been there for him, but the coaches have done everything they possibly could to turn this around for us. It's our job as players to get the job done."

There are subtle signs of improvement despite a 3-9-5 mark under Tocchet, compared with Melrose's 5-7-4.

Tampa Bay allowed an average 35.7 shots in Melrose's 16 games, with one game fewer than 30. The team has allowed an average 31.5 shots in Tocchet's 17 games, with four fewer than 30, including a season-low 15 against the Penguins.

That is 35 fewer total shots allowed (536-571) despite playing one more game. That is not only the defense playing better but forwards committing to helping out in the defensive zone.

"He's straightforward," Malone said of Tocchet. "He's not asking for a lot. You give everything in the tank and there's no questions asked."

DAYS OFF: By rule, NHL teams cannot practice, play or travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. That means Tampa Bay will not skate until the morning of Friday's game at Sunrise against the Panthers.

What does Tocchet hope the players do with their time off?

"Just reflect on the first (33) games, just what it takes to win and how bad it's been so far," he said. "When (the score has) been 1-1 with 10 minutes left, what is your thought process? Are you giving it all you have to block that shot or go to the net?"

Despite being 20 points out of first in the Southeast and 12 out of a playoff spot, with six teams to leapfrog, Tocchet said he is not throwing in the towel. His frame of reference? The Capitals, who last season went from last in the division to first in the final three months.

The difference is that after 33 games, Washington was only nine points out of the Southeast lead and six out of the playoffs.

"Is it tough? Are the odds against us? Yes," Tocchet said. "Are we going to be a story or just another statistic that doesn't make the playoffs?"

ON THE BENCH: Ice time for Steven Stamkos has fallen off a cliff, with the rookie getting just 7:47 against the Penguins and averaging 11:13 in his past five games.

"It definitely has something to do with the way I've been playing," Stamkos said. "I don't think I've been playing up to my capability. The last few games it just seems like I'm struggling a bit."

Stamkos, 18, has three goals and 13 points but just one assist in his past five games and three shots; he has zero shots in his past two games.

"It's hard when you're a first-year player to come in and focus," Tocchet said. "You play a lot more games. The pressure is on. I put him in a lot of situations, and he's been struggling the last couple of weeks. We have to take a little pressure off him."

If that means playing Stamkos less, so be it, Tocchet said.

"It's okay for him to play 10 to 12 minutes. He's going to be a hell of a hockey player, but we can't be scared of the word 'process.' Vinny Lecavalier struggled his first year. It's a process, and we can't be scared to go through the process with him."

EFFICIENT EFFORT: LW Matt Pettinger made the most of his time against the Penguins with a goal, four shots and seven hits in 10:27 of ice time.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Ryan Malone has noteworthy praise for interim coach Rich Tocchet 12/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 6:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'


    Times sports columnist Tom Jones looks back at Tuesday night's episode of Hard Knocks, the HBO show that is following the Bucs in training camp.

    Best moment

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.
  2. Rays journal: Offense shows signs of waking up in win over Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The drought was so severe that it's still probably too soon to say the Rays are out of it, but scoring a half-dozen runs in Tuesday's 6-5 win over the Blue Jays was another promising sign.

    Corey Dickerson high-fives Wilson Ramos after hitting a solo home run in the third inning, putting the Rays up 2-1.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    C Wilson Ramos, coming off right knee surgery, often takes it easy on the bases, though it's not always a good look. But he hustled when he needed to Tuesday and got the Rays a run by beating out a two-out infield single, finishing with three more hits.

  4. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  5. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

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

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman laughs after Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran reached first on an infield single during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)