Putting a young team on the ice usually takes one of two routes. The first scenario is the group can find out they are in over their heads, while the second presents the idea that maybe they are just as good as the seasoned teams that have already built a well-established name for themselves.
As of now it seems that the Lightning have taken the latter route. Posting a 5-2-0 record through seven games, Tampa Bay’s compete level seems to be taking a step in the right direction.
“It’s huge to get a good start to the season,” defenseman Andrej Sustr said. “You want to start off on a good note and I think we did, even with a tough road trip and having some tough opportunities at home. We just got to make sure we keep it going and stay consistent.”
Exposing themselves to a variety of game situations already will help them keep that consistency that this youth-filled roster is hungry to find. It also creates a team who remains poised despite what may be on the line, and in the Bolts’ case, it is earning points early into their 82-game calendar.
“Good teams have to find a way to win,” center Tyler Johnson said. “You’re going to have comeback games; you’re going to have to learn how to play with the lead; that shows character.”
And with character comes a certain presence - an attitude - that this team is starting to build and head coach Jon Cooper was hoping would develop.
“We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves now and it brings a little bit of an attitude in the room,” Cooper said. “You look at teams like the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings and they lose a game and they’re almost like, ‘what happened out there?’ and that’s the direction we’re going.”
Ben Bishop showed a little of that confidence Thursday when he bounced a puck off his stick and into his glove effortlessly when making a save.
“He’s feeling the vibe right now and I like it,” Cooper said. “He’s calm in the net. Probably at that moment he let everyone know he’s feeling it and it is fun to watch. You want to get a little swag going and I’m a big fan of it.”
Now the Bolts will try and see if they can keep rolling and continue the confidence against two teams where they felt they didn’t have the best showings, the Bruins and Blackhawks.
“We’re always looking forward to playing against those big teams,” Sustr said. “You want to make a name for yourself and come up with a win.”
If they continue to grind away at their schedule with the same work ethic as they have been, it will certainly be a name that the teams they have faced in October will not forget.
Brett Connolly practiced for the second straight day after being recalled Wednesday night from Syracuse. Connolly found his place in the lineup last night, in place of P.C. Labrie, on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen.
It is still uncertain what Connolly’s role will be with the team moving forward, but Cooper said he was happy with his overall performance in his season debut against the Minnesota Wild.
“I thought he contributed,” Cooper said. “It’s just tough because when you’re playing your first game there’s nerves and everything else that comes with it. He’s going to be in this league it’s not if, it’s just when and I was happy with the way he played.”
Connolly logged 9:38 of total ice time in the contest.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Forwards Valtteri Filppula and Martin St. Louis did not partake in the Bolts practice Friday, taking a maintenance day instead.
After skating in Thursday’s game, St. Louis reported that everything was okay on his end. His participation prior to the contest was considered a game-time decision. It was then ruled he was good to go, skating 21:29 in the win.