The Tampa Bay Lightning officially started training camp for the 2013-2014 season on Thursday as players returned to the ice for coached practices and workouts at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Despite it being the first day of what will be a grueling three week training camp.
Coach Jon Cooper said there was already a theme for training camp this season and it doesn't have to do with scoring more goals. Instead, Cooper wants the team to have a defense-first mentality. He made that apparent on the first day of training camp as the team ended practice with an interesting drill.
The defending players were using the butt-end of their sticks in their own zone instead of their blades.
"We weren't really caring if guys were scoring in that situation, we were only caring when guys can't handle the puck their body position has to be in the right spot or then they are really in trouble."
Going back to the basics doesn't sound like a bad idea. Afterall, the Bolts have given up a whopping 425 goals in the last two seasons. That shouldn't sit well with any coach.
According to Cooper, the shift to defense-first thinking might be a hard habit to instill, but he wants everyone on the team working toward improving the team's goals-against average.
"It is not as fun playing D, it's much more fun scoring goals, but to win in this league it is premium to keep that puck out of your net," he said. "All these guys are gifted offensive players, but I would rather have the gifted offensive player and teach him D than to have the guy who can't score and teach him how to score."
Going into the summer, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said that it was possible for goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback to carry the workload this season. Obviously, on day No.1 no one knows if this will in fact happen or not but Cooper agrees with Yzerman's statement.
"If that is our winning formula then that's how we do it," Cooper said. "I did it with Syracuse and it worked out very well there winning the Calder Cup."
Feeling a little older
Valtteri Filppula is used to playing with guys much older than him as he did in Detroit, but the youth movement in Tampa Bay made the 29-year-old left wing feel a bit older than he is.
"I feel older and I think it is weird for me because I am one of the oldest guys now," laughed Filppula.
Filppula skated with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell on Thursday. This could possibly be Tampa Bay's second line combo this season.
The days ahead: Friday's practices are closed to the public. The Lightning will hold fan fest at the Tampa Bay Times Forum from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m...Tampa Bay's first preseason game is Sept. 18th in Orlando against the St. Louis Blues.