After a day off Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning went back to the ice Monday morning in preparation for the third game of their seven-game homestand versus the Los Angeles Kings at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday.
The practice reflected a message that head coach Jon Cooper wanted to emphasize, heading into a week where he hopes, at the very least, to win two out of the three games they are slated to play in, discipline and consistency on special teams.
“You work extremely hard to win a hockey game or at the very least, make it to overtime,” Cooper said. “We did a couple undisciplined things to lessen our chance, which ultimately led to our loss.”
“From penalties to defensive zone and offensive zone coverage, to the penalty kill and the power-play, it’s a combination of everything,” Eric Brewer added. “We’re just trying to make consistent plays and put the odds in all aspects of our game in our favor.”
While a few penalties did not help Tampa Bay’s cause, the blame was not put solely on the Bolts who committed the errors, the penalty kill unit was held accountable too.
“I’m not pinning it on the guys who took the penalties, but also the guys for not killing them off,” he said.
These specific losing moments always present teachable tools, yet the attitude has changed in the locker room for the Lightning. A loss is a loss, and the Bolts prefer to win at all costs.
“I don’t know if maybe in the past, you lose to a team like Pittsburgh and it’s like, ‘oh well you gave it the good old college try,’” Cooper said. “It’s no longer a feeling of good effort in our locker room. They expect to win the game.”
I don’t know if maybe in the past, you lose to a team like Pittsburgh and it’s like, ‘oh well you gave it the good old college try. It’s no longer a feeling of good effort in our locker room. They expect to win the game. - Jon Cooper
The Lightning must fill in the holes on the penalty kill and keep their emotions in check during crucial moments in the game. If Tampa Bay can do that and not forget about the other parts of their system, being a top-tier team is an attainable goal.
“Pittsburgh is a good team,” B.J. Crombeen said. “A team we’re trying to put ourselves on the same level as. There are things we can clean up and things we can be better at and if we do that we’ll be right up there in the upper echelon.”
Netminder Ben Bishop returned to the ice for Monday’s practice, saying there “were no problems.”
“We’ll just see how I react to the skate,” Bishop continued. “I’ll take it one day at a time and see how it feels in the morning.”
Bishop missed the Bolts last contest with a lower body injury and was eager to get back into game action after winning his first three starts of the season.
“I was able to watch, but you don’t want to be in that situation ever,” he said. “My leg feels better though, so I just need to be happy with that.”
One part of their game that the Bolts have consistently found success in has been their offense in even strength situations.
“I really like the way we’ve been playing team defense even strength, let alone our goalies have played well five-on-five,” Cooper said.
The Lightning have allowed only five even strength goals through five games thus far.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Bishop is available for Tuesday’s game versus the Los Angeles Kings, according to Cooper.
The Lightning spent time working on player positioning during Monday’s practice, even flipping their sticks around and holding them backwards as a way to get players to not be as dependent on them during game situations.
There were some lighthearted moments in practice Monday with Cooper getting some chuckles from the Bolts as he asked, “who are five guys in blue jerseys who want to be on the power-play?” Teammates immediately skated over to where Cooper was, as he responded, “good, that’s what I like to see.”