I think that moving Vincent Lecavalier to the third line seriously backfired. Not on him specifically, though. Vinny had five shots on goal and was trying to play more physical, though he was a -3 on the night. And frankly, I thought that, so far, he's had the most chemistry with Stephane Veilleux and Drew Miller. No, moving Lecavalier to the third line backfired on the rest of the team.
The first rule of trying to manipulate your team is you've got to really know your team. And while Martin St. Louis might be the heart and soul of the Lightning, Lecavalier is their identity. He's their top guy, their star, their captain. And if he's not on their top line in that role, no matter how poorly he may or may not be playing, then suddenly they're not who they think they are anymore.
(Sports psychology should really be referred to as sports sociology when it comes to team sports - but I guess that's an entirely different story.)
The bottom line is that Lecavalier was moved to the third line, and the team crumbled like a bunch of stale cookies. St. Louis played particularly poorly - for him. He was still better than half the league, though. He did snap his 11-game point scoring streak, however.
Jeff Halpern seemed to be one of the few exceptions. He thrived with James Wright and Alex Tanguay. And Tanguay seemed to have played a bit better as well. Halpern scored his first goal of the season, which was a long time in coming.
The forward lines, while looking very insecure, are in a good configuration. As they stand right now, how they were tonight was the best so far this season in terms of chemistry. And yes, I can say that with a straight face even after watching the entire game.
The real problem, besides confidence, is the defense. I'm not sure what's going on with that. And I don't think the defensemen themselves know, either. I used to watch Mattias Ohlund very regularly when I lived in Washington State, so I'm very familiar with how he plays, and he's playing very poorly as compared to his time with the Vancouver Canucks.
And the rest of the defense doesn't look much better. They're good players, but they seem to lack direction and focus. Many of the mistakes that have led to goals so far this season have been made by the defense. And quite a few of the penalties that have been taken have also mostly been made by the defense.
And I think that's the problem for Mike Smith. The defense is inconsistent, so he's inconsistent - and lacking in confidence as well. Antero Niittymaki's steady and no-nonsense play probably doesn't help him much, either. At this point, the most consistent player for the Lightning has been Niittymaki.
The next game is against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tomorrow at 7:30 pm ET.