I stated weeks ago that puck possession was an issue. Others have cited goaltending repeatedly; there were several venting about defense during the game thread on Thursday night against the New York Rangers... And coaching, the elephant that's starting to stick it's trunk in the room.
I can keep elaborating on the minutiae, but that was done yesterday, which was something I was trying to segue into. I'm a believer in what Cassie (and Dan Rosen, for that matter) wrote: there's an offense first mentality at play and it's working against the Lightning... And likely has been for longer than the rut that this team has been in.
The attack caught teams off guard to start this abbreviated season... But that lasted only so long. We're at a point now that playing a more conservative game is going to be a necessity to get back on track.
Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy (yeah, I know, I know... wrong sport, but it works for this adage so please zip it) used to be really great with his clichés after losses by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dungy's Buccaneer teams seemed to employ a strictly conservative offense and defense, and it worked for them (well, on defense... The offense? Not so much, but that's a story for another time and for another blog)... And when a loss happened, he would blame departing from the conservative philosophy:
"We tried to do some things and they didn't work out, we need to get back to basics and work on our fundamentals." That's a paraphrasing of what Dungy would say without fail during a poor showing.
My point is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are well away from basics. As Rosen said, being all-offense will not work, and we're seeing that night in and night out. It's time for the Bolts to step back and mute the run-and-gun style that's been too loose and wild for the team's own good. Once they get the fundamentals down you can build on it with riskier play.
But, really, get fundamentals down first - like clearing the crease of opponents. Or make it a living hell for anyone who wants to sweep across or park in the slot and take free shots on goal.
Get those passes down to basic, close range ones and not the zone-to-zone long-range ones that have turned into dump-ins and consistent turnovers. And stop the risky through-traffic passes when you're in trouble. Sometimes it's better to carry the puck and battle instead of ditching it carelessly.
The fundamental of puck possession over the loosey-goosey run-and-gun style that all too often has the puck slip away while players pour on all the speed they have, essentially wasting energy and wasting time.
And the most basic thing of all - the puck and the opponent in your end is a bad thing. Even worse, is the puck being shot by the opponent at your net. Prevent that from happening. It might even lead to some offensive chances.
I don't hold out high hopes for the Lightning in Boston this afternoon as it stands (maybe there's a freak blizzard that postpones the game? Hey, stranger things have happened). Playing the B's last week in Tampa wasn't exactly a horrible game, but it wasn't a close one either. If the Lightning needs to use these 60 minutes as practice to get back to doing the fundamentals right - so be it.
From what Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reported via Twitter yesterday, Guy Boucher had his skaters focusing on the defense during practice Friday. It wasn't a casual affair.
Mathieu Garon will get his third consecutive start in net for the Lightning, and he's earned it. Thursday's shooting gallery in the Lightning zone was slowed by Garon and Garon alone. Sure, the Bolts let in 4 goals... But without Garon's theatrics, it easily could have been 8.
The Bolts sent Richard Panik back to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday, and Pierre-Cedric Labrie is expected to play against the Bruins.
Tuukka Rask gets the day off for Boston (as the B's are starting a back-to-back set) and Anton Khudobin will get the start for Boston in goal. Khudobin has appeared in only 3 games this season so far, posting a 2.70 GAA and .905 save percentage.
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