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Lightning Round: three losses in a row, what’s going on?

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Mitchell Stephens has been called up again.

NHL: FEB 25 Maple Leafs at Lightning
TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) watches Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) control the puck during the NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning on February 25, 2020 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their first game after winning 11 games in a row, it was a disappointing moment knowing the streak was gone, but expected because the team’s luck had to run out eventually. Going up against the Vegas Golden Knights, it was a stomachable loss, especially considering the team got their chances at 5v5 and on special teams but just couldn’t convert on the night. The Knights are first in the Pacific Division and been really strong in the second half of the season. The Bolts came apart a little bit later in the game, and while it’s not ideal for the Lightning to fall victim to such games, they can happen inside a hostile opponent’s rink.

“I thought, despite the shot share in the game marginally favouring the Lightning, that they were the second-most dangerous team on the ice in this game. They had chances, but they were from the slot, not in front of the net, and Marc-Andre Fleury never seemed fluttered by the traffic around him.” [Raw Charge]

Move forward two days and the Lightning are hoping to close out their Western road trip in style. Style it was not as the Lightning got trampled 7-3 to the Arizona Coyotes. It wasn’t a good loss to say the least — it was the first time the Lightning have given up seven goals in a game to a team that hadn’t scored more than three in a month — but again there were excuses to that game. Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t have his best game, the team has been banged up, and the Coyotes have been voodoo against the Lightning since last season (I’ll never forget those two blowouts I had to recap for).

“The Lightning allowed another goal at the end of the game when the team missed another rush by the Coyotes players. Garland and Stepan ran away on a 2-on-1 break. Conor Garland could have tried to complete a hat-trick here, but delivered the puck to Stepan who blasted a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Coyotes secured a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.” [Raw Charge]

So yeah, two losses in a row, that’s not the worst thing in the world. The Lightning can definitely stop this slide no problem. Uh oh, why are we losing to the Leafs? Another unlucky night, this time the streaky Maple Leafs first line and top pairing scored them four goals. In this one, we started to see some worrying signs. The penalty kill has slowly been getting less effective and in that game the PK went 2/4 and the power play went 0/3. And for the icing on the cake, Steven Stamkos left the game after re-aggravating an old injury.

“Tampa Bay did struggle with Toronto’s two bottom lines in zone time. The lines of Ondrej-Palat-Barclay Goodrow-Tyler Johnson and Pat Maroon-Cedric Paquette-Yanni Gourde were caved in. Both lines generated two attempts for and five against. They did manage to keep the Leafs to the perimeter of the zone, but it mattered little on Jake Muzzin’s goal.” [Raw Charge]

Three losses. Three understandable losses, but three losses nonetheless. Of course, if these three losses were mixed in with the 11 wins earlier in the month, the Lightning would still be winners of 11 in 14, but losing three games in a row sucks.

So what’s the solution?

This team needs to work on their special teams a lot more in practice, including getting their new guys involved and up to par with the system. They also need to stay out of the box. The past three games they’ve given up 13 power play opportunities and been scored on five times (38% of the time). I know being a tougher team to play against will work better in the playoffs, but discipline also needs to be practiced in order to not be reckless when the time comes.

t.cann112 made a good observation in the Morning After Thoughts article of the Leafs loss. Pointing out that the Lightning seemed to move away from the style of game they’ve bested the Leafs in every time for the past few years. I’m glad they have the option to play the other way, but the depth players who can do it best can’t be scratched.

“The fourth line last night definitely stunk it up early on. They were hemmed in most of the time they were on the ice. At one point they had Goodrow, Paquette, Maroon, Bogo and Coburn on the ice together and it was as slow and disastrous as it sounds. I get adding #grit and what not, but no need to overload on it against a very fast and skilled Toronto team. They played better as the game went on but they were definitely a liability last night at first.” [Raw Charge #comment!]

The Lightning have been good at out-shooting their competition and getting those shots from better areas of the ice than they’re giving up, but they’ve been losing games due to their play away from 5v5. That’s something actionable they can improve on. Hopefully this team is able to coalesce after adding the trio of players at the trade deadline. And maybe throw some holy water on the guys with injuries, too.

Lightning Links

  • Mitchell Stephens was called up yesterday after prognosis of the Stamkos injury wasn’t that it was nothing. We’ll know more at morning skate and in the coming days how bad the Stamkos injury is. As usual. [NHL dot com]
  • Justin explains what effect the NHL trade deadline had on the Syracuse Crunch moving forward for the rest of the season. If you haven’t heard, the Crunch have recently climbed into a playoff spot and are barely clinging onto the position. [Raw Charge]
  • “Bolts & Mosaic hit 6 million meals donated through Goals for Food program.” is always a headline you want to click on and read. [NHL dot com]
  • And lastly, some sweet wallpapers for your phone. I love the Brayden Point one.

Around the League

  • Marc-Andre Fleury shutout the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-0 win. Flower stopped a combined nine shots from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Sabres were, uh, not good in this game.

  • And the LA Kings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1, surviving a 22-36 onslaught in shots. Up-and-comer Cal Petersen finished the night with a .976 save percentage (35/36) in the win.