The Lightning lost with 38 seconds left in the game. It seems as if most of the goals that have been allowed by them have been in the last three minutes of the period. I know that the players keep track of how much time is left on the clock. Could it be them letting up thinking the period's almost over? It appears that way from the outside looking in, at least.
Some might blame the untimely penalties in this game for the loss, but I blame the lack of direction on the power play and the penalty kill. At this point, it looks like the guys are just thrown out there with a "go kill this any way you can" sort of mentality. There doesn't seem to be any kind of game plan for it. So much for Adam Oates stabilizing things, huh?
Generally speaking, though, there doesn't seem to be any on-ice direction with the team as a whole. Either they're not listening to the coaches and following their instructions, or there are no instructions to follow. Last night's game really reminded me of watching a junior hockey game. For those not familiar with junior hockey, a similar correlation would be going to a college football game and it seeming like a high school game. Talent isn't necessarily the issue, but lack of knowledge is.
27 games in, I see three thing going wrong with this team, and they're all from a coaching perspective. One, Rick Tocchet has no patience. He's looking for a quick fix to get the team going. Which is why no one played on the same line for long in this game. I think every forward took a turn at every single forward position, and played with every single other forward, over the course of the game.
The quick fix method just doesn't work. Athletes are creatures of habit - as are we all. How can any hockey player get comfortable with their linemates if they change all the time? How can they develop a good understanding of their linemates' abilities if they don't get to play with them for very long? They can't. So of course the players are just going to wing it and hope for the best.
And do you know what I find interesting? In all the time that Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier have been struggling to score goals, how often have Marty and Vinny actually played together this season? We all know that they have chemistry together - the last few years have more than demonstrated that. So why overlook the obvious and have them play on the same line to get them both going?
Another thing that I've noticed going wrong with this team is a lack of structure. As in, plays and game-situation scenarios. As far as I can tell, there aren't any. There is no official play book. They just sort of make things up on the ice as they go along.
The last thing that I've notice, which I've already mentioned before, is a lack of emphasis on playing a complete game. I'm not talking about playing 60 minutes. I'm talking about playing both offensively and defensively. The focus has clearly been on offense, while little attention has been given to playing defensively.
The forwards only play defense if they think about it - or if they see a need to while on the ice. Like when both of the defensemen are cheating into the zone for an offensive chance, and the forwards see that and back them up at the blue line. Which happens all the time - and it really shouldn't. That's just a complete lack of communication from the bench right there.
The defensemen in general look as if they've been completely neglected by the coaching staff at this point. They don't play games as if they don't know what's expected of them. They just sort of go along with the flow and hope for the best. Again, no on-ice game structure.
The bottom line is that it appears as if the coaches are all winging this. Which is understandable since most of them are new to their roles. The unfortunate part about it is that they're not flexible enough to fix things on the fly. Tocchet changes things up from game to game, sure, but is unable to change it up during the course of a single game. He sticks to the game plan for the entire game instead of abandoning something that doesn't work midway through.
The next game is tonight at home against the New York Islanders. Game time is 7:30 pm. The game thread opens at 7 o'clock for those interested in participating. Stop in if you're not going to the game - it's a good time.
In Lou We Trust [SB Nation New Jersey Devils Site]