If hockey had a reset button, the Tampa Bay Lightning surely would have pushed it following their uninspiring performance in Game 3 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
The Lightning looked lethargic, passive and out of gas in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings and fell behind 2-1 in their best-of-seven, First Round series.
The good news is, the Lightning get another crack at Detroit in Joe Louis on Thursday and a chance to level the series before heading back to Amalie Arena, where the Bolts have been near-unbeatable this season.
In today’s 3 Things, we’ll took a look at what went wrong in Game 3 and ways the Bolts can rebound for Game 4.
1. LACK OF AGGRESSION
Following a loss in the series opener, Tampa Bay looked to attack from the opening puck drop in Game 2. The Lightning tried and succeeded in outmuscling the Red Wings, a mindset highlighted by Steven Stamkos’ headlock on Kyle Quincey with Brian Boyle and Danny DeKeyser scrapping on the ice in the background less than three minutes into the game.
As Boyle skated to the penalty box, he pointed at the Detroit bench, a gesture letting the Red Wings know there would be more of the same for the duration of the game.
Unfortunately, that attitude didn’t carry over into Game 3 for the Lightning.
The Bolts looked apprehensive in Joe Louis, their wait-and-see mentality playing right into the hands of the Red Wings, who used the energy from their home crowd to take the game to the Lightning from the start.
In Game 2, the Lightning outhit Detroit 34-to-25.
In Game 3, the roles were reversed, the Red Wings holding a decided 48-to-26 advantage in hits.
“I think we knew what to expect heading in,” Stamkos said. “Guys were ready to play, it just didn’t translate on the ice. Not the effort that we wanted but we have to look ourselves in the mirror and realize what each individual brings to this team that’s made us successful all year, whether it’s producing -- and obviously I want to be a part of that -- or competing or taking the body. It’s just guys have settled into roles at this time of year, and we need everyone to take that step and bring to the table what they’ve done all year that’s been successful.”
If the Lightning can return to the way they played in Game 2, their chances for success going forward will be much higher.
2. NO PUCK LUCK
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper often talks about the importance of teams creating their own good fortune by doing the little things like going to the dirty areas, getting in front of net and looking for tips or rebounds to get on the board.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay didn’t do enough work in those dirty areas.
Subsequently, the Lightning weren’t rewarded.
Detroit’s first goal came from a fortuitous deflection off Pavel Datsyuk. At the blue line, Tomas Tatar sent a slap shot toward goal while Datsyuk was tied up with Bolts defenseman Anton Stralman in the right circle. The puck hit off the back of Datsyuk’s right leg, a shot “he didn’t see” according to Cooper, catching Ben Bishop off guard at the near post.
“It hits off the back of his leg, and it’s an inch inside the post,” Cooper said. “We had open nets that (were) an inch outside the post.”
The Lightning had no such puck luck. Early in the second period on a power play, Victor Hedman lined up a shot from the left circle but hit the outside of the post. The Bolts best scoring chance came a little later on a five-on-three when Tyler Johnson got an open look from nearly the same spot as Hedman but sent his shot off the crossbar and out of play.
“We just couldn’t find a way to will one in,” Cooper said. “When we had the look, it either hit a stick or hit the post or went wide and that was tough.”
The Lightning were unlucky in Game 3 to be sure, but by crashing the goal more frequently, they can reverse their fortune in the series’ remaining games.
3. STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Collectively, the Lightning had one of their worst passing efforts all season in Game 3, their passes either too far in front or a step behind the intended recipient and routinely picked off by the waiting Red Wings.
As a result, the Lightning struggled to get into the offensive zone, and, when they did, the puck didn’t stay there very long.
Detroit did a great job of clogging up the neutral zone, too, ensuring the Lightning weren’t going to move the puck as smoothly as they did in Game 2.
“They play a little better gap than I thought, and we had less room out there,” Stralman said. “They’re a good team, they do that. At the same time, we tried to force it a little bit too much going through (the neutral zone) instead of chipping it in and going and getting it.”
Lightning forward Ryan Callahan echoed Stralman’s sentiments.
“It was tight out there, it definitely was,” Callahan said. “They’re a good team through the neutral zone. We’ve got to be better through there, getting pucks deep. I think that’s when we have our success is when we get pucks behind their D and try to hunt them down. You’ve got to give them credit too. They’re good in the neutral zone.”