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Mishkin's Moments: Mailbag

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning

Let’s head to the mailbag this week.

Dear Mish:
My family and I were at the Ottawa game and I had to scratch my head to find anything good out of it.  I just don’t know what fell apart.  But the main question I have is why was Vinny Lecavalier playing defense and goaltender tonight? Vinny was in the net behind Smith at one point.  How does GM Brian Lawton get his highest paid player to contribute more?

Brent McDonald

Thanks for writing.  It’s true that the Ottawa game was a rough one for the Lightning and their fans.  This is my take on what happened.  Entering that game, the Lightning were coming off two straight come-from-behind wins and feeling good about their overall play in three of the previous four contests.  (The players conceded that they weren’t at their best during the first two periods in the win over Florida, but played a terrific third and gladly took the two points).  The Lightning dominated the first four minutes of the game against the Senators – I’m hard-pressed to remember any substantial possession time for the Sens in the Lightning zone during those opening minutes.  But then, the Lightning turned the puck over at their defensive blue line and Daniel Alfredsson quickly slid a pass to Alex Kovalev, who redirected it into the Lightning net.  It was the Senators’ first shot of the game.  It was a significant play because it completely turned momentum around.  The Sens controlled most of the rest of the period and built a 2-0 lead en route to the 7-1 final.  Why couldn’t the Lightning reverse momentum again?  It’s a fair question.  My hunch is that this group is in the early stages of learning how to win.  Part of that process is dealing with momentum surges and adversity, especially on the road.  I have confidence that they will get there – we’ve seen flashes of the team’s capability already this year.  After two tough losses on the road, they’ve spent this week rebuilding the blocks necessary to regain some of that lost swagger.

I’m at a loss how to respond to your first comment about Lecavalier.  I don’t recall any point in the Ottawa game when he was “behind Smith” and “in the net”.  As for your question about how Brian Lawton gets Vinny to contribute more, I’d answer that in a couple of ways.  First off, it’s not really the GM’s responsibility to “motivate” the players.  That’s more of an issue for the coach, but frankly, at the NHL level, most players motivate themselves.  Second, through seven games, Vinny has yet to score a goal, but his play was quite strong through the first several contests of the year.  Up until the Ottawa game, Vinny was leading the team in shots.  During two games against Carolina, he matched up against Eric Staal and held Staal without a point (Staal scored a power play goal during the October 10 game in Tampa).  I can assure you that nobody is more frustrated than Vinny about his goal total.  We’ll see how things go on Thursday when he’ll be on a line with Marty St. Louis and rookie James Wright.

Dear Dave:
Hi, my name is Mher Nahabedian, I'm a Lightning Fan from Montreal. I just want to say, what Coach Adam Oates is doing with the Power Play squad is pretty impressive. Obviously during his playing days, he was a huge power play player himself, bringing a lot of scoring for his team and setting tactical plays. If the Bolts can manage to play as he used to with his power play teammates, I think, that is the situation that is going to save us in the games whether it's our night or not.  It's just like the Montreal Canadiens two seasons ago where they finished first in the East. They did not have all the best players in the world, just a couple of veterans who helped around with the younger guys on the power play, and they became first at one point in the league in scoring on power plays.  I have one question... Would it be better to put 4 forwards and one defenseman, and let one of the 4 forwards be a sharp shooter? Such as Vinny or Marty?  Thank you.

Dear Mher:
Thanks for the comments and the question.  The Lightning have showed signs that they can boast a lethal and scary power play.  They’ve netted power play goals in six of their seven games so far this year.  The Lightning do in fact use a four forward-one defenseman scheme on the power play and it has worked well in terms of their offensive zone puck movement and ability to generate scoring chances.  (They’ve also yielded three shorthanded goals, but head coach Rick Tocchet told me before the Pittsburgh game on October 17 that he didn’t see it as a cause-and-effect).  The bottom line is this: Adam Oates has a terrific hockey mind and is a power play expert (the guy doesn’t rank sixth in all-time assists for nothing).  Also, he’s got tremendous weapons with which he can work.  As I alluded to in an earlier column, Oates has only scratched the surface of what he hopes to bring to this unit.  All NHL teams want a good power play – you’re right, it can save you on nights when things aren’t otherwise going your way.  In my opinion, the Lightning’s power play is already good – and it’s going to get better.

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