In every game during its Second Round series, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been outshot by the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs, in fact, are averaging 9.2 more shots per game than the Lightning.
This recent trend is a relatively new development for a Bolts team that registered more shots on goal than the opposition in 45 of 82 regular season games and five of seven contests in the First Round series versus Detroit.
On Monday, a day before the Lightning look to close out the Canadiens at home in Game 6, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said his team needs to put more pressure on Habs goalie Carey Price. The Lightning had a pair of quality chances in Game 5 – notably Brenden Morrow’s doorstep backhander that Price got his right leg pad on and Valtteri Filppula’s open net chance following a cross-ice pass from Steven Stamkos that Price swiped out of midair – but need more if they wish to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
“We can’t just sit here and rely on six to eight chances a game of which only three are Grade A’s,” Cooper said. “We’re a much better team than that, and we’ve proven that before. We need to start getting that number up to 14, 15, 16 chances a game where eight of them are big-time chances and that’s what we’re used to and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”
Another area the Lightning have been lacking is in their ability to follow up missed opportunities with rebound shots. The Bolts are firing away from the point, but more often than not, those chances are one and done as Price blocks them away and the Canadiens are off and skating the other way.
“We realize with Price, even if we do get a lot of those big chances, he’s going to make a lot of saves,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “We’re more worried about our second-chance opportunities and getting some traffic in front of him.”
Getting more pucks on net will help take the pressure off the Lightning defense as well Braydon Coburn said.
“You always want to make sure that you’re sending as many opportunities to the net as you can and creating as many chances as you can, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “Usually when you control the puck and you control the play and you’re playing in their zone, that’s the best defense you can have. If we can control those possession numbers and really force the issue in the offensive zone, that’ll help our cause for sure.”
A FIRE INSIDE
Cooper said the mood in the Lightning locker room was different following Game 5 than the Game 4 loss, so much so that it wasn’t necessary for him to give a post-game pep talk.
“It was a genuine (ticked)-off attitude when we lost Game 5,” Cooper said. “I could just tell there was nothing that really needed to be said. Guys were angry and it’s carried over. I like our mojo right now.”
Asked if he would like his team to have a foul disposition before Game 6, Cooper replied: “I do. I want to be an angry team.”
Killorn said there is “a ton of urgency” to close out the Canadiens in Game 6 and not risk a winner-take-all Game 7 in Montreal’s Bell Centre.
“We don’t want to get back on the plane,” Killorn said. “We don’t want to go to Montreal for Game 7. We realize what our crowd can bring to us in this Game 6, and we really want to finish it tomorrow night.”
The day off Sunday was good for the Lightning to get rested and ready for what is sure to be the most intense game of the series on Tuesday.
“I thought we zipped it around really well today (at practice), and hopefully that carries into tomorrow,” Cooper said.
Asked whether his team feels any pressure going into Game 6 having failed in two opportunities to close out its Second Round series against Montreal, Cooper replied that both teams should be feeling the tension.
“This is why we’re in this,” Cooper said. “This is why I coach, the competitive aspect going in and trying to drop a plan and get a group of guys together to go in and beat another team excites the hell out of me, excites our guys. That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re just going to try and win a hockey game tomorrow night. And as for the pressure, I guess as I said before, the losing team can always look back and say, ‘Oh man, we didn’t meet up with the pressure I guess.’”
Coburn has been on both sides of the coin while with Philadelphia, having been up three-games-to-one only to lose the next two before triumphing in Game 7 (2008) and going into a 3-0 hole before rallying for four-straight wins during the second round of the Flyers’ Stanley Cup Finals season (2010).
He said the Lightning shouldn’t be worried about anything other than executing to the best of its capabilities on Tuesday.
“Focus on the first period, that’s it,” Coburn said. “Go from there, play that first shift and then that’s all you can control.”