The Lightning can still turn it around, but may have run out of time

Jim McIsaac

A shortened 48-game season doesn't allow for many mistakes, so it may be too late for playoffs, but the Lightning can still end the season on a winning note.

As I was watching the Lightning play the past couple of games, a thought/remembrance occurred to me.

When I was in college, one of the quarterbacks - we'll call him "Steve" - had an interception problem. In the first six or seven games or so of the season, he had something like 13 interceptions. It was an obvious issue, but no one could figure out why that was.

The rivalry game of that season was in Seattle (I went to a state school in Washington State). It was a neutral site, and so many people who normally wouldn't have made the trek to either school were there. I happened to be sitting next to an ex-wide receiver who had graduated the year before and his wife.

Naturally, we got to talking about Steve's interception problem. And, having played with the guy himself, he couldn't figure out the issue, either. So I pointed it out to him: Steve was throwing the ball to where he expected the receiver to be, not to where he actually was. He was finishing the play in his head and not taking real-world considerations into account. Such as, you know, the opposing team's defense?

This guy must've said something to someone, because Steve threw two interceptions in the final five or six games of the season.

If you want to know why the Tampa Bay Lightning keep turning the puck over, it's because they keep dishing passes to where they think guys ought to be, not to where they actually are. They keep trying to pass through opposing players, not around them. And, naturally, since the opposing player is there, he picks off the puck.

There are other issues, of course, but passing is a very big one. The no-look drop passes at the blue line are killing them more often than not. They lack some chemistry and definitely timing, and they're trying to be tricky with plays when it just constantly keeps blowing up in their faces.

They're definitely playing better overall defensively, which is a big improvement, but that needs to continue progressing.

The other big problem is a lack of getting shots on net. They lack confidence right now, and it's turning into a downward spiral. Getting more shots off will help, but the lack of confidence makes them want to pass the puck away instead of shoot.

I think the forwards - all of them - need to make a deliberate quota for themselves of a shot on goal per period. Even if there's no apparent shot for them to take, they ought to still take it. Right now, the point ought to be putting the opposing goalie to work. Eventually, some of those shots will go in, but they need to start taking them first.

The other thing is patience, and this is also a confidence issue. They need to slow things down, wait for plays to develop, and then make a pass. They're getting rid of the puck as fast as they can, and that's not doing anyone any good. Well, it's doing whatever team they're playing against a lot of good, but that's not a good thing for the Lightning.

Honestly, while I know their record is dismal and people are starting to give up on them, it's the little things that are killing them right now. They've collectively lost their grasp of the basics, and it's not pretty. They're not as bad as their recent record indicates, that's for sure. While they may run out of time to right the ship and make playoffs this year, things are improving. Even if it's just in baby-step increments.

Now, hopefully, they can come up with some consistent leadership to fill the massive hole captain Vincent Lecavalier leaves while he's out.

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