There may not have been a better time for the Tampa Bay Lightning to have a little break in their schedule. After 15 games in 27 days to start the month of March, the Lightning finally get a couple of days off in a row. Despite winning ten of those fifteen games (and picking up a point in a shootout loss) there were some bad habits creeping into their play.
For most of their recent play they were either able to outscore or out-goalie their issues, most notably penalties, and still pick up their wins. However, in their last two games before this mini-break, their bad habits cost them some points.
After spending the better part of the last three weeks either playing a game, traveling, or skating in optional practices, it’s understandable that they’ve gotten away from what’s made them one of the best teams in the league. Every once in a while, every team needs to hit the reset button. A day off. A full team practice. Those things tend to do wonders for teams that are scuffling a bit.
In a sense, they are kind of in the same spot they were in prior to The Pause last season. If you remember, towards the end of February they went through a four-game losing streak, and lost seven out of ten games before play was stopped. Injuries had mounted up and they were just out of sorts a bit. You know, kind of like this year.
Not only will the two days off give Erik Cernak and Ryan McDonagh a chance to get healthier (along with Mitchell Stephens) but, they can also have a nice long session on the ice where the coaches can work on some of the things that have led to their hiccups on the ice.
Penalties are a symptom of a deeper issue. Usually it’s bad positioning or laziness. Lack of competitiveness is rarely an issue with Jon Cooper’s teams, so they will most likely spend much of Monday working on their schemes and refreshing their defensive zone coverage so that everyone gets back on the same page.
They will most likely work on their special teams as well, especially their penalty kill. Even with the players that are out of the line-up, the Lightning shouldn’t be giving up as many power play goals as they have over the last two weeks. Hopefully, the coaching staff has identified what the issue is and will work with them to correct it.
With a stretch of games against Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville the Lightning should have a solid chance to turn their recent skid around. We’re in the doldrums of this shortened season right now and the Bolts need to find a way to keep the motivation going in order to close out the season strong.
Update your calendars! The Lightning have made a small adjustment to their schedule. They will now end the regular season with two games against the Panthers. This could actually be a battle for first place. Who would have thunk it?
The #TBLightning’s May 6 game at at Florida is now scheduled for May 10 at 7 p.m. #GoBolts are now slated to end regular season schedule with two games against the #FlaPanthers in Sunrise on May 8 & 10.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) March 28, 2021
Coach Cooper wasn’t happy with the last game. For the past few weeks the coaching staff has been jotting down things that they need to work on. Expect that to happen during Monday’s practice.
How the Lightning’s patience with Jon Cooper paid off (subscription required)
In 609 career games Jon Cooper’s point percentage was .652. There is only one name higher on the list of NHL games - Scotty Bowman. A nice look at Coop’s journey.
It wasn’t a bad night for Lightning prospect Gage Concalves. Overage Gage picked up his first career hat trick as the Everett Silvertips beat the Tri-City Americans, 6=1
Power play goal & his second of the night for @TBLightning prospect @GageGoncalves! 3-0 for the @WHLSilvertips! pic.twitter.com/G2qexGsguY— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 28, 2021
Aaron Ekblad stretchered off of the ice
One of the Lightning’s chief rivals for first place in the Central Division suffered a huge loss on Sunday. Aaron Ekblad was taken off the ice during the Florida Panthers game against the Dallas Stars after he fell awkwardly on his left leg.
Along with the Lightning/Panthers schedule change, a whole host of rescheduled games were announced on Sunday. The regular season was extended by a day to May 11th as the league updated a host of games from the North Division.
Chicago gets a big piece of their offense back
As the ‘Hawks make a push for a playoff spot they need help up front. Young center Kirby Dach could be that help. The second-year player returned to the line-up after a lengthy time on the injured list due to a wrist fracture suffered in the World Junior tournament.
Jack Edwards is all of us. Oh, god, we actually agree with Jack Edwards
Refs missed a penalty and Jack Edwards was uhhhhh.... not happy pic.twitter.com/Ys6RzWwmGl— Duck Duck Gusev (@DuckDuckGusev) March 28, 2021