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Sweden trip turned out to be just what the Lightning needed

The team got practice, a reset and bonding from the week in Stockholm.
Patrick Maroon of Tampa Bay Lightning against Buffalo on Nov. 9 in Stockholm. [JONAS LJUNGDAHL | Bildbyran via ZUMA Press]
Published Nov. 11

STOCKHOLM — Nine days ago, as the Lightning boarded a plan to Stockholm, this seemed like the worst possible timing.

They had lost four of their last six games and weren’t playing great. They had been traveling most of the first month of the season, with a nine-day trip through Canada and five in New York. A home stand seemed in order, not a on another continent.

“In a funny way, this was what our team needed,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. “It was a very fun trip, to say the least. We definitely became tighter as a group this trip and you saw it on the ice with the way we played.”

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He followed that up by saying it’ll also be nice to be home. Those three games in New York feel like a month ago at this point, something coach Jon Cooper echoed.

This trip offered the Lightning three things: a break from the routine, practice time and the ultimate bonding experience. The usual school of thought says it’s good to hop right into another game and shake off a bad one. Turns out, the Lightning needed the opposite.

“We were able to do a mental reset,” forward Tyler Johnson said. “That definitely benefited us.”

Likewise, most of group has been together for a few years now, and this season started with enough travel to bond. There’s something different about exploring a new city, though, especially when you have multiple nights without a game.

“Those kinds of bonds are what make the difference come adversity,” team owner Jeff Vinik said. “When you know your teammate has your back, that bond may have been formed at 2 in the morning at some club in Stockholm.”

In addition to clubs, the team wandered Gamla stan, the Old Town, in groups, trying out food from the list defenseman Victor Hedman had emailed everyone.

One of the biggest elements Stamkos saw working well in these two consistent wins was that the team coming together as a group, picking each other up and having each other’s back.

Teams practice all season, but they rarely get a chance to string practices together. Early on this season, the Lightning has been practicing hard and long. They went back to the usual length of 45 minutes or so on this trip, with four sessions in five days.

Cooper saw the effect in the two wins. He saw the pieces the team has talked about emerge on the ice together. The trick is not leaving it behind in Sweden.

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“It’s not just a one night thing,” he said. “It needs to be next Thursday and then it needs to be next Saturday. That’s what we’re looking for.”

The first step will be catching up on sleep. That started with Sunday’s 11-hour flight, then with the two days off before returning to practice Wednesday.

Stamkos wants to see this team, including himself, carry the same enthusiasm. They wanted to do the right things in the two games against Buffalo and it showed.

“It’s not necessarily the final result, it’s how we play getting there,” Cooper said. “If we continue to play well, points will follow.”


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman celebrates his goal against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. The goal was Hedman's 100th of his career. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    The loss to Minnesota puts a damper on the milestone, but he’s the first Tampa Bay defenseman to do it.
  2. Hedman scores his 100th career goal as the Bolts are defeated
  3. This undated photo provided by the Cook County Jail in Grand Marais, Minn., shows Mark Pavelich. The family of Pavelich, a player on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey team, believes concussions and blows he received during his playing career have contributed to his current legal troubles. He is charged with beating a neighbor with a metal pole.  (Cook County Jail via AP) AP
    The family of Mark Pavelich, who assisted on the winning goal in the 1980 victory over the Soviet Union, believes he has been affected by repeated concussions from his playing days.
  4. Predators center Ryan Johansen was fined $5,000 for elbowing the Lightning's Brayden Point in the head in Tuesday's game. MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP
    Point left Tuesday’s game but returned.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning center Cory Conacher (89) warms up before an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. JASON BEHNKEN  |  AP
    That is a good sign about the status of Alex Killorn, who has been out with a lower-body injury.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) looks on as the St. Louis Blues celebrates their shorthanded goal scored by Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) during second period action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in Tampa.  DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The standings can be misleading and the team has been playing well, even if it’s not winning at a rate Tampa Bay is accustomed to winning.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88), of Russia, blocks a shot by Nashville Predators center Calle Jarnkrok (19), of Sweden, in the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP
    Tampa Bay had lost three straight before posting a 3-2 overtime victory over the Predators.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning center Cory Conacher (89) on the ice against the St. Louis Blues during first period action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    The forward has been recalled three times in the first two months of the season.
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) shoots and scores beating St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) to pull the Lightning within one goal during third period action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Diana C. Nearhos | Steven Stamkos had another round of strong comments, these ones centering around the pronoun “I.”
  10. Lori Graves will fill in on the organ at Amalie Arena for a few Lightning games. MARI FAIELLO  |  TIMES
    Krystof Srebrakowski is unavailable for personal reasons, so Graves steps in.