The Tampa Bay Lightning emerged from the first two games against Pittsburgh feeling a little disappointed by their effort in the second game, a little relieved to have a 1-1 series split, and definitely thinking hard about the rest of the series. When reporters met the team at the airport today, a few of the players weighed in about their assessment of the Penguins strengths, and about where their focus will be for the rest of the games against Pittsburgh.
Summing it up best, Tyler Johnson said that it was a lot like playing against his own team. All of the strengths the Bolts exhibited in game 1 came back to haunt them in game 2, but in a gold uniform. How to stop them?
"I think it's just playing with the puck," Johnson said, "Being able to support each other, being able to help each other, and making the simple plays. You can't fuel their transition game because it is one of the best in the league. They're very talented at it. You know, in a way, it's a lot like us. We feed off turnovers as well. So it's kind of like playing with each other. We just got to do a better job of working with each other and helping each other out."
Johnson specifically mentioned the Penguins' speed, something that hastens in-game decision-making and sometimes causes turnovers if the decision is wrong. Long stretch-passes like the ones that Hedman made in game 1 were scarce in game 2, because the Penguins took control of that part of the ice.
"They're clogging the lanes with their speed," Johnson said, "They're forcing you to make decisions quickly, and then we're not doing a good enough job supporting one another. We're too far from each other. When you're trying to make those long passes, those passes that are difficult sometimes under pressure, they do a great job of corralling the puck."
Victor Hedman, the focus of a lot of Pittsburgh's attention from the last game, agreed, but said that the solution is simple -- shoot the puck. "Turnovers feeds right into their game," he said. "I think we're under 20 shots in both games, and that's not good enough. Passing up a little bit too much."
Hedman pondered that the team has to figure out a way to get and keep the puck. "For us, it's all about puck possession, like you guys said," Hedman said. "If you don't have the puck, it's tough to shoot, but at the same time, you can't pass up other opportunities when you have a chance to shoot. When you shoot the puck, it's going to create scrambles and chaos on their end. That's what it did to us."
Not all was negative about their effort. Hedman liked the way the Bolts came back in the first period after being down, mentioning that it showed the team's strength. He also said that with Stralman back, there's an element of comfort from the chemistry. "We've been playing together almost two years. We have a chemistry going into last season. It's going to be the same."
Are the Bolts at all frustrated by the split? Hedman said that the team is calm, and has shown maturity about the loss in game 2, which is a huge positive in what promises to be a long series. "That's how it goes. There's going to be ups and downs, and we had a good experience going through this last year. You can tell the guys are not too rattled about it.
"We've just got to refocus and get ready for this."