Entering the fourth week of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning has their first four-day break between games of the campaign. After suffering a 5-0 whitewash to the Boston Bruins, their second loss to the Bolts’ Atlantic Division foe this year, practice was high-tempo and included an off-ice workout in addition to their 10:15 a.m. skate.
The team as a whole felt undoubtedly troubled after Saturday’s loss and used it to set the tone for Monday’s practice, where the unspoken message was that a lot more is expected of the Bolts in the weeks ahead.
“We need to make sure we’re coming in prepared and executing the way we know we’re capable of,” Ryan Malone said. “To have a performance like that, we kind of embarrassed ourselves and they let us know we’re capable of more. I’m sure it’s very frustrating for the coaching staff as well.”
Allowing five goals on 22 Boston shots, the blame did not fall simply on netminders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback, but the five-man defensive unit that is the mainstay of head coach Jon Cooper’s system. Five players on the Lightning were at least minus-2 Saturday, with defenseman Victor Hedman finding himself on the ice for all five Bruins’ goals.
“They spent way more time in our zone and in front of our net and we didn’t get much going on in front of theirs,” Valtteri Filppula said. “Our goalies saw way too many pucks and we didn’t shoot enough. All around it wasn’t a good game so there are not a lot of good things to say about it.”
Though Tampa Bay’s overall performance Saturday was arguably the least productive of the seven games they have played so far, the Bolts are more focused on picking up the pieces and improving before Thursday’s bout with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“As the season continues there’s lot of ups and downs and we try to keep even keel and learn from the mistakes,” Malone said. “If this happens in another showing then there’s some cause for concern, but we have a great group of guys and bad things are going to happen, hopefully long and in between, but they will happen, we just have to make sure we respond correctly.”
“We had a tough one Saturday and we recognized that and I felt the way we came out and skated today,” Cooper said. “Today’s practice was no picnic and they gamed it out, so I like that in our guys.”
Seeing immediate improvements after disappointing losses have been an encouraging sign for the Lightning. They just hope it is something that will come far and in between, as they hope to make every game a full-on 60 minute battle.
The Bolts decided to opt out of an on-ice practice Tuesday and change the pace with some off-site activities that include fishing and a barbecue.
“We’ve been in an ice rink for a month and a half and this is the only situation we’ve seen each other,” Cooper said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever even had a conversation with any of these guys outside the walls of the arena. I want to kind of take the player-coach hat off a little bit and find out a little bit more about these guys and their families.”
Cooper has been a big believer in team bonding and has often found ways to implement it into the season. During training camp, the team also planned a golf outing while in Estero, Florida. He also talked about the importance of getting the entire family involved, not just the teammates.
“Anytime you can bring family members, and have them get to know me a little bit better, it makes everybody feel a bit more a part of this,” he said.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Steven Stamkos quickly exited the Tampa Bay Times Forum Monday after practice to make a trip to Toronto for the unveiling of Samsung Canada’s Samsung Galaxy Team Canada athletes. A sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1988, Samsung Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, is launching their national Olympic Winter Games campaign, which includes Stamkos and a handful of other Winter Games’ participants.
Thursday is Breast Cancer Awareness night at the Times Forum with 5,000 pink bandanas being giveaway at the gates for their 7:30 p.m. contest versus the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.