The Tampa Bay Lightning held practice on Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum following a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night on home ice.
The win helped improve the Bolts to 4-1-0 on the year, while the club remained unbeaten on home ice.
Although players and coaches acknowledged that they are pleased with the fast start, there is always more work to be done, which was on display at Monday’s practice.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
Recognizing that Sunday’s 5-1 win against the Flyers was perhaps the team’s best game thus far through the five-game season, head coach Guy Boucher said Monday that he would keep the same lineup and the same goaltender in for Tuesday’s game against the in-state rival Florida Panthers.
That includes BJ Crombeen, who did not skate on Monday, although Boucher said he does expect him to play on Tuesday against Florida.
Initially, it was Boucher’s idea to have every single player crack the lineup within the first three games, but as the season goes along, more and more lines continue to click while personnel continues to jell.
“It’s not a knock against the guys who aren’t playing, it’s just the guys that are on, it’s hard to take them out,” Boucher said. “I want to give [playing time] to some guys who aren’t getting any, but I can’t take it away from the guys who are doing their job.”
An area of weakness, at least statistically last season, the Lightning power play through five games is much improved.
Entering Monday’s games, the Bolts unit with the man advantage ranked fourth in the NHL at 28.0 percent, up drastically from where it finished at the conclusion of last season, which was 25th at 15.2 percent.
Although this season has only provided a small five-game sample, it is evident during games that the team has had an easier time entering the zone, as well as making the most of its defensemen’s abilities to quarterback the play and spark the transition to offense by moving the puck up to the forwards that was for the most part, absent last season.
“We always knew we had the talent, but this year our defensemen that we added have been huge for us,” forward Steven Stamkos said. “It’s a huge part in winning games in this league, so as long as we don’t get satisfied and keep doing the things that have made it successful so far, we should stay right at the top of the league.”
Vincent Lecavalier’s fight in the first period of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn was just the Lightning captain’s 22nd of his career, and first since February 3, 2009 against the Islanders’ Tim Jackman.
Lecavalier said it’s all part of the job that comes with being captain, but in reality, it was much more.
Through the first five games, head coach Guy Boucher has raved about Lecavalier’s play, which is not only limited to scoring. Thus far, he’s been throwing checks, crashing the net, and as Boucher said last week, “leading as captain through the winning things, not the flashy things.”
All of it, however, has been recognized by teammates.
“Everyone sees Vinny as our leader, and for him to go out there and defend himself and not back down, the whole bench was on its feet,” Steven Stamkos said.
The NHL revealed Monday its Three Stars of the Week for the period ending January 27, and after a sizzling start, Lightning forward Martin St. Louis made the list.
St. Louis tied for second in the NHL with eight assists and ranked third with 11 points as the Lightning won four of five games to open the season. He scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added an assist in a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals on January 19 and recorded a goal and an assist in a 4-3 defeat at the New York Islanders on January 21.
St. Louis then picked up two helpers in a 6-4 victory against the Ottawa Senators on January 25 and closed the week with four assists in a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
St. Louis was named along with also San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.