Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher isn’t one to live in the past, but if necessary, he will go back in time to rediscover what works.
With the Lightning, 3-4-2 away from home this season, facing off against St. Louis on Saturday in the first of two road games, Boucher said he will return to utilizing the pregame routine he instituted a year ago in his first season with the Bolts to break the team’s habit of starting slow on the road.
Last season, the team won 21 times outside the St. Pete Times Forum, which came one away from tying the single-season franchise record. But with Tampa Bay being outscored 18-11 in the first period through 15 games this season, the idea is one the head coach hopes will yield different results.
“We need to wake up the mind before we get to the rink,” Boucher said. “That way we don’t wake up in the middle of the second period.”
Although still early in the young season, Tampa Bay seems to already be suffering from what Boucher calls “coma mode.”
To combat the unfavorable practice, the Bolts will have fewer gameday morning skates, but more team activation exercises, which are designed to build chemistry among teammates. Such activities are often unrelated to hockey and take place outside of the rink.
For example, prior to Sunday’s afternoon matinee in Sunrise against the Panthers, the Lightning held a shirts-and-skins touch football game. Last season, before an October game in Phoenix, the team went go-kart racing and also played street hockey a few hundred yards from the White House steps in preparation for a game against the division-rival Capitals.
Boucher also will insist that his players eat breakfast in the morning before a game.
“A lot of our guys don’t eat breakfast in the morning,” he said. “It’s the most important meal of the day. If you miss it, you’re not giving yourself a chance to be at your best.”
The majority of the players seem to be on board.
Centers Dominic Moore and Steven Stamkos said they would participate this weekend, as the Bolts face both the Blues and the Winnipeg Jets in a span of three days.
Stamkos also noted though, that regardless of what the team’s morning routine consists of, the players must be ready to go for each game, which includes getting off to better starts.