If preseason games are for identifying weaknesses to correct before the start of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have plenty to work on over the next two weeks.
Tampa Bay was shut out 3-0 in its preseason opener against the Carolina Hurricanes at AMALIE Arena, the Canes scoring 1:19 into the contest and tacking on two more goals in the third period to win handily. The Lightning generated little offensively and what rhythm they were able to get into with the puck was quickly snuffed by the number of penalties they took.
The Bolts won't have much time to dwell on tonight's defeat. They're back in action against these same Hurricanes Wednesday when they travel to Raleigh.
We'll explore where the Lightning need the most improvement in the rematch with the Canes in Three Things we learned from a preseason-opening loss.
1. BEELINE TO THE BOX
The Tampa Bay Lightning entered 2019 training camp with a number of areas they needed to improve if they wanted to take that next step and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.
The most important was getting better defensively.
But a secondary deficiency from 2018-19 was their propensity for taking too many penalties.
Limiting their time in the penalty box was something the Lightning wanted to focus on coming into the season, players and coaches alike stated. The results Tuesday suggest they need more work in this area.
Tampa Bay took six penalties against Carolina, including three in the third period alone. The Bolts' penalty kill, ranked first in the NHL last season, held up admirably given the circumstances. The Hurricanes, however, finally broke through on power play number five, Lucas Wallmark shooting past Lightning goalie Scott Wedgewood on a rush to net Carolina's second goal and effectively ice the game for the Canes.
"The penalties, that was the big thing. That was something we'd been addressing in the preseason. That was probably the most disappointing thing in the game," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I'm not judging it by the wins and losses. We've got a lot of young guys out there, a lot of guys who were nervous. I think it's easier for the younger guys to play a game on the road than it is to play at home. But the amount of penalties we took, that was disappointing."
2. SHOT DISPARITY
Tampa Bay mustered just 15 shots in the shutout loss to the Hurricanes, a number of the Lightning's inability to get shots on net attributed to the number of penalties taken.
Carolina, though, fired off 37 shots at Wedgewood, who performed well in his first game action in over four months, stopping 34 of the 37 pucks that came his way.
The fact the Hurricanes more than doubled the Lightning's shot total is concerning. Sure, Carolina is known as a team with a high shot volume, but Tuesday's shot disparity seemed particularly glaring.
"Did they really have a lot of dangerous shots from the slot? I'm not sure about that. We should look at it. But, I think a lot of them was a lot of point shots that were just low to high, quick shot to the net," Lightning forward Danick Martel said. "Hopefully, we just bring this down, but I don't think that's a big thing in the first few games of preseason."
To be sure, a majority of Carolina's chances came from the outside. But the Hurricanes were able to score twice from these situations as shots from distance produced rebounds that the Canes were able to cash in for their first and third goals.
The Lightning said they wanted to focus on defense at the start of training camp. Part of that is limiting the number of shots that make their way to their goaltender, and it's an area they'll have to improve on to perform the way they'd like to play.
3. CONCERN FOR KILLORN?
Lightning forward Alex Killorn left the game midway through the second period and didn't return, players like Mathieu Joseph and Alex Barre-Boulet getting an opportunity to skate on the top line alongside Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos in his place.
After the game, Cooper was asked if there was a concern Killorn might miss an extended amount of time, but the head coach indicated the staff kept Killorn out for precautionary reasons.
"I don't think it was serious," Cooper said. "It's preseason."
We'll have a better idea of what happened to Killorn when the team practices Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum ahead of the trip to Raleigh, so be sure to keep it locked to TampaBayLightning.com for updates on his status.