The Lightning got back to work today at noon after returning home from Atlanta around 10:45 p.m. or so last night. Everyone was pretty worn out by the end of the trip, but the team’s 5-1 win against the Thrashers had everyone upbeat. The Lightning practiced today for about an hour and 15 minutes followed by a 20-minute workout in the gym.
After practice Head Coach Rick Tocchet praised the work of Adam Oates, who has been helping the team with the power play as a favor for Tocchet. A quick look at the preseason stats shows that the accolades are warranted. As of today, Tampa Bay is fourth in the NHL in preseason power play, converting on 10 of 41 chances for a 24.4 percentage. For the record, the Lightning finished the regular season with a 17.8 percentage a year ago. The most impressive outburst of the preseason came last night in Atlanta when the Bolts scored three goals with the man advantage, including two from Steven Stamkos. Last night the power play units seemed to be moving the puck well and players were rotating to create more shooting and passing lanes. It was much different than what we saw for the majority of last season.
Tocchet said that Oates’ system isn’t about having a massive play book, instead focusing and what he called three or four fundamental things. Basically it comes down to forcing teams to pick their poison. If opposing teams want to take Marty St. Louis out of the play then Vinny Lecavalier will be open, if the want to cover Lecavalier then Stamkos will be there and so on. I guess the Thrashers must have been focusing on Lecavalier last night because Stamkos and St. Louis combined for three power play goals.
Tampa Bay also announced today that they had put Ryan Craig and Adam Hall on waivers, along with Brandon Bochenski. It also released Brett McLean from his try-out. Tocchet said this is the hardest part of the business. It does show however, just how much the Lightning’s depth has improved. When players of this caliber are “on the bubble” there have to be some pretty skilled players in front of them. In Craig’s case, maybe getting the chance to play big minutes in the AHL for some time will benefit him after having played just 61 games in the previous two seasons due to injury. Tocchet did say that he didn’t think we’ve seen the last of them and they could easily be back further down the road.
Tomorrow is an off-day for the team and the players will not skate Wednesday either, instead assembling for a meeting and an off-ice workout.