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Four things we’ve learned about the Lightning

Stay away from rush judgements three games in, but we’ve learned some things
The Lightning's Tyler Johnson, moving past Carolina Hurricanes' Martin Necas in Sunday's game, is among the players calling for the Bolts to get back to basics. After three games, Tampa Bay is 1-1-1. [KARL B DEBLAKER | AP]
Published Oct. 7
Updated Oct. 7

Three games are not enough to make judgments. They are enough to see there are issues for this team, and also some bright sides.

The Lightning didn’t bury all of their dead

They started training camp with a lot of talk of lessons learned. Braydon Coburn said the playoff sweep was the Lighting’s dead and it was time to bury it. But maybe it’s more of the undead.

MORE LIGHTNING: Don't miss a thing. Subscribe now using promo code GOBOLTS to get three months of digital access for $14.

Old habits die hard and some of the Lightning’s aren’t going away. They know it. Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson specifically owned it after Sunday’s loss.

The over-reliance on strong goalies bit them last year and has already done so in this young season. Andrei Vaskilevskiy pulled out a win even as the Lightning gave up 37 shots on Thursday. Curtis McElhinney wasn’t as lucky on Sunday.

Repeatedly last year, the Lightning said they needed to play a simpler game, take the shots they had, stop trying to make highlight reel plays when good-enough was in front of them. They did it in spurts. Already, they have fallen into that familiar groove.

On the other side, the Lightning talked a good game about defensive responsibility. Again, coming from a simple approach and attention to detail. The defensive game was mostly in order on Saturday, but the details cropped up as penalties and cost them.

The Lightning hasn’t fulfilled their potential, yet. It’s early, but they need to figure it out. It would be good if they started with their next game in Toronto on Thursday.

The power play has some work to do

The power play was one of the Lightning’s greatest strengths last season. It looked good in the first game (1-3 with two more goals just after the penalty expired) but less so in the last two games.

MORE LIGHTNING: Stamkos says this will be a really bad year if the Lighting don't change things

The Lightning was 1-for-4 on Sunday, and didn’t even get a shot in the other three. They didn’t have many chances on Saturday, but had nothing going on the one power play.

The power play is at it’s best when it’s shooting. It’s one of the most obvious areas in which players fall into the habit of passing up okay shots to look for the perfect one.

Kevin Shattenkirk has an offensive impact

Shattenkirk came with offensive credentials, but he hadn’t produced in the past couple of years. He dealt with injuries those two years, and you can never know how a player will come back from that.

In three games, Shattenkirk has demonstrated an ability to create shots. He only had one on Sunday but that one was a goal and the whole team struggled with shots. Shattenkirk put five shots on net each Saturday and Thursday.

“Shattenkirk has a strong ability to get his shot through,” Cooper said. “That’s a huge asset for him and he needs to continue to do that.”

MORE LIGHTING: Good news on the Brayden Point front. Where should Steven Stamkos play? Can the Lightning still roll four lines?

He added that there’s some work to do defensively, but some of that comes from finding your way in a new system.

Curtis McElhinney can win the Lightning games

It might be a stretch to call this something we learned. McElhinney had proven himself a good goalie — last year, he recorded a .912 save percentage and .934 the season before. But now we’ve seen it.

He was peppered constantly, frequently making multiple saves on one play. McElhinney did his best to steal the Lightning a win on Sunday and he almost succeeded.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.


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