It's become a habit that fans have noticed, and I'm pretty sure players have noticed it, because coaching has noticed it to: The quick hole dug by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
To summarize, it goes something like this: Game starts, players skate, Lightning penalty, opponent power play goal, players skate for x minutes, another opposing goal scored. The Lightning fall into a shell for the remainder of the first period, but the hole has been dug. Their comeback attempts through the 2nd and 3rd period have come up short, and while it's fun to watch - especially when the team goes balls-to-the-wall gonzo trying to even the score... It gets frustrating.
It's not like Guy Boucher hasn't noticed things:
The last two games we took penalties right off the bat and the other team gets on the power play, gets momentum and they score. Right away you put yourself behind the eight ball and since you haven't won in a long time, it's the mental part right now that's difficult.
Whenever we do great, it hasn't turned our way. So whenever things don't start our way, it just becomes extremely heavy to bear. And that's what we talked to the players about today [Monday]: It doesn't matter if they score, you gotta play your game right away and not take all that time to get back on track mentally and emotionally, because that's what happens.
The last two games, our first two shifts were great. You look at the first two shifts, we're coming out, we're fine. But the minute we get a penalty or the other team gets a goal, you can feel it. It just deflates real, real fast and we dig ourselves a grave. And it shouldn't be that.
We know we can come back. We're the best team in the league in comebacks in third periods. We showed it again last game. But obviously it's heavier lately because things haven't turned our way and the players know how difficult it's been. We gotta shake it off, no matter how it starts because it's all about the fight. It's a choice you make.
What kind of burden will the Lightning have going against the Bear - the Boston Bruins - tonight?
And the bad news? 29-12-1 in 42 games played, a +70 goal differential, 13-5-0 on the road, and 7-3-0 in their past 10. The reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins are not slowing down for anyone or anything, let alone the Tampa Bay Lightning. Will it be Tim Thomas or
Pekka Rinne Tuukka Rask in net for the Bruins? Does it matter? (Editors note: Big, stinking, Finnish player screw-up on this preview. Apologies)
It's insurmountable odds like that which could be a catalyst for the Bolts to rise to the occasion... But the injury-riddled lineup isn't what took the Bruins to 7 games in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. Whatever, don't think about it in those terms. In fact, that may be the trick to playing the Bruins and competing: forget the recent history, forget the grudges and drama. If the Bolts play them without succumbing to stupid penalties and digging a hole early on, they could very well steal a point or perhaps two.
I'm not holding my breath, though.
Ryan Shannon and J.T. Wyman remain out with their respective injuries, but things have brightened a bit this morning - both players skated in the optional morning-skate today, albeit in red, no-contact jerseys. That's an improvement over solo-practices, separate from the team.
Mathieu Garon starts in goal for the Lightning tonight, and Trevor Smith makes his season debut. We talked yesterday about Trevor's numbers this season for the Norfolk Admirals. He'll be lined up with Ads teammate Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Bolts rookie Brett Connolly tonight.