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Lightning Round: Don’t let the last game overshadow a successful road trip

A loss isn’t the best way to end a road trip, but it’s not the end of the world.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Following the game on Thursday, both Ondrej Palat and Coach Jon Cooper mentioned that the Tampa Bay Lightning finished the road trip by picking up nine out of twelve points. That’s pretty good! Two of the points that they didn’t earn came last night when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings, 6-4. Not the best way to finish things off, but it’s not the end of the world.

It seems like the Lightning have picked up points against the Red Wings in every game since Sergei Federov wore the red and white so perhaps the hockey gods decided that it was simply time for Detroit to walk away with a clean two points. Granted, the Lightning helped the gods out by turning pucks over at a less than ideal rate. Detroit took advantage of seemingly every turnover by putting the puck in the back of the net.

On a whole the players interviewed following the game (Palat and Steven Stamkos) weren’t terribly upset about the outcome. Sure, they wanted to win, but for the most part they thought the effort and the process were there, they just didn’t get the breaks. Coach Cooper semi-agreed with them, but didn’t seem overly pleased with the turnovers. He has preached process over outcome since last season and he acknowledged that sometimes adhering to the process doesn’t result in a victory.

Curtis McElhinney didn’t have a great game (nor did Jan Rutta), but he was also hung out to dry by the team in front of him on several occasions and the Red Wings were, in Coach Cooper’s words, “extremely efficient” with their scoring chances. Is it time to fire McElhinney and Rutta into the sun? No. Curtis had a couple of game like this last season before stabilizing his play and carrying the Lightning in a few games. We’re so used to Andrei Vasilevskiy bailing his teammates out, that when a normal goaltender enters the game, the disparity seems a lot greater than it actually is.

The Lightning are fine. While they did concede first place to the Carolina Hurricanes (who are riding a season-high seven-game winning streak) they still have a game in hand to their former Southeast Division rivals. Tampa Bay is returning home to actual fans in the building. They will get a boost out of that. They will watch their Stanley Cup banner finally reach the rafters, that’s always cool. They survived the longest road trip of the season rather well.

I fully expect the Lightning to come out flying against the Nashville Predators, and some of the breaks they didn’t get on Thursday night go their way on Saturday. It should be a fun atmosphere, and the 3,800 fans in the building will sound like 38,000.

Lightning Links

Lightning point streak ends at nine games

Turnovers are the great equalizer in the NHL. Tampa Bay is a better team than Detroit, but give any NHL team extra chances and they will make you pay. The Bolts gave it a go at the end of the game with goals from Brayden Point and Palat, but it wasn’t enough. Take the tape, burn it, and move on to Nashville.

Wings wallop Bolt, 6-4

From the Detroit side of the ledger, a surprising outburst of offense and steady goaltending by Johnathan Bernier propelled the Wings to victory. “Wallop” may be a bit strong, but let them have this one. It’s been a long season in Detroit.

Lightning assign Barre-Boulet to Syracuse

Crunch fans rejoice! There is offensive help heading your way. The Lightning don’t want Barre-Boulet lingering on the taxi squad and playing every third or fourth game. So, off to Syracuse he goes to play 20 minutes a night or so. Hardev will have more on this in his Crunch preview later today.

Tyler Johnson flourishing in the middle

TJ has been the good teammate over the last few seasons as he’s moved to a wing position to accommodate the plethora of centers the Lightning have in the system. If we’ve learned anything over this road trip it’s that he really thrives in the middle of the ice.

Hockey Headlines

NHL expects next season to start on time

With more teams allowing fans this season, vaccines rolling out fairly quickly, and things getting better by the day, the NHL is cautiously optimistic that hockey will be way more normal next season. As in a full 82-game schedule, regular divisions, and more outdoor games (that probably won’t feature the Lightning, but that’s a gripe for another day). Here’s to hoping all their dreams come true.

Jordan Binnington, Blues agree to contract

The St. Louis Blues believe they have their franchise goaltender. Binnington agreed to a six-year, $36 million contract on Thursday. Binnington was set to be a free agent following the season and the $6 million AAV deal he signed isn’t a huge raise over the $4.4 million he was making this season.

How’s Patrick Laine doing in Columbus?

Well, at least it’s not at zero, yet.

Love him or hate him, Stephen A. Smith expressed more enthusiasm in four minutes than all of the NBC staff has during their entire tenure of holding the national broadcast rights. If “Damn it, it’s the Kracken!” isn’t in Seattle’s marking next season, something has gone horribly wrong.