Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's light side pokes through

BRANDON — Instead of shrill whistles and barking coaches, there was laughter.

Instead of precise passing and skating drills, there was, at times, what seemed like chaos.

Suffice it to say, the Lightning on Friday at the Ice Sports Forum looked and acted nothing like a team that has lost seven of nine games, is on a 4-12-1 streak and is starting to lose its grip on the playoff race.

That was because instead of practice, the ice was split in half for pickup games for those who wanted to play. Coach Guy Boucher wasn't even on the ice.

"It takes you back to when you were a kid and just the fun aspects of hockey," defenseman Matt Carle said. "Just go out and have some laughs where we're not harping on systems. It's more a mental break than anything."

Tampa Bay could use it after Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Jets, after which center Steven Stamkos said the Lightning, if it hopes to make the playoffs, must win as many as 17 of its final 24 games.

As if that weren't sobering enough, the team is two points from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

"It's a deep hole," wing Marty St. Louis said. "Our playoffs have started."

The thing is, players and coaches insist the team is playing better than when it was 6-1-0.

Five-on-five play, according to St. Louis, is "a thousand times better" than the start of the season. The defense is better, too, Boucher said, noting the Jets had only nine scoring chances and only two he characterized as Grade A. The Lightning, Boucher said, had 15 scoring chances, 11 of which were Grade A.

So, why isn't the team winning? Well, goaltending has been inconsistent — Anders Lindback allowed two soft goals against Winnipeg — and the power play has disappeared, part of a larger problem of missed scoring opportunities.

The numbers are staggering. While the Lightning went 6-1-0, the power play was 12-for-35 (34.3 percent). Since then it is 7-for-61 (11.5), 3-for-28 at home, including 0-for-14 in its past three games.

"It hurts because we make one mistake and it's in the back of our net, and we miss all these opportunities in the offensive zone," Boucher said. "We had 11 (Grade) A scoring chances (against the Jets), so it's tough to come in here and start whipping our players and telling them how bad they are. That's why (Friday) we don't need to go in and practice D zone or whatever."

Which brings us back to a day of shinny hockey.

"We don't want to have a lot of long faces and dwell on it," right wing Teddy Purcell said of the Winnipeg loss. "You have to kind of reset and get ready to go again (tonight)."

"We have to move on," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "We can't be stuck in what we did in the past."

As for the future, which starts tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Canadiens, No. 1 in the East, Lecavalier said, "I think we can be very dangerous."

"We can put a string (of wins) together," St. Louis said. "There's no doubt we can."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Lightning's light side pokes through 03/08/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 12:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals in 2009. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also …

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, holds the AFC Championship trophy? as he celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.? (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) FBO247
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener

    College

    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    The University of South Florida Bulls take a moment on the field just prior to their game against Tulane in the American Athletic Conference Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Clearwater.