The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently riding a two-game losing streak. One more and folks will be recycling #FireCooper on social media. Over the past few seasons one of the hallmarks of the squad has been their ability to prevent long losing streaks during a season. In their record setting season of 2018-19 their longest streak without a point was two games. Last season they did have a stretch of four games without recording at least one point while this year they have now have two streaks of two games without a win or extra-time loss.
Their ability to turn the page and move on from bad performances has been key to their success as they find ways to grind out points even when things aren’t going their way. That hasn’t always been the case, though. There were some truly bad times in the franchise history. Spurred on by the recent woes of the Buffalo Sabres (18 games and counting without a win), it’s a good time to check the record books and look at the Lightning’s longest streak without a win.
We could go straight losing streak, as in games in which they lost outright and that would be impressive. During the 1997-98 season they lost 13 straight games from January 3rd (4-1 loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) to February 2nd (7-3 loss to Buffalo). They did have an overtime loss during that stretch, but back in those days a loss was a loss and there were no extra points for getting to overtime. The Bolts “snapped” the losing streak with a 3-3 tie with Carolina in the next game and promptly lost the following match 5-4 to the Red Wings before finally beating the Washington Capitals 4-3. That’s 15 games without a win. Good, but not the record for the franchise.
That record was set earlier in the same season. That’s right, the Lightning didn’t win for over a month in the second half of a season and it wasn’t the worst part of their year! From October 10th, 1997 to November 17th, 1997 the Tampa Bay Lightning compiled a 0-15-1 record. Sixteen straight games without finding the win column. Their lone point came in a 2-2 tie with the Boston Bruins six games into the stretch.
They weren’t really close to winning many of the other 15 games as only two of their losses were by one goal and only once did they go into the third period with a lead. The worst part of the streak came when they lost 5-0 to the Devils and then 7-1 to the Flyers three nights later. They only scored 22 goals during the 16 games and were shut out twice with Mike Dunham getting the honors for the Devils and Chris Osgood doing the deed for the Red Wings. Their power play was a dismal 8.6% . Surely their defense kept them in games, right? Nope, they surrendered 64 goals for an average of 4 goals allowed per game.
While their starts were ok (they outscored opponents 11-10 in the first period) they had serious trouble with the rest of the game. In the second period they were outscored 29-6, and in the third, 25-5.
The Lightning netminders did a pretty good job of splitting the heartache. Daren Puppa started nine games and lost all nine while posting an .862 SV% and 3.59 GAA. His partner in crime, Corey Schwab, started seven games, lost six (and had the tie) while putting up a slightly better .867 SV%, but worse 3.67 GAA.
Two players managed more than six points over that stretch: Alex Selivanov (4 goals, 5 assists) and Mikael Renberg (2 goals, 7 assists). Mikael Andersson managed to play in 15 of the 16 games and not record a point. While plus/minus might be a flawed stat, Jamie Huscroft posting a +3 in 13 games while averaging 15 minutes of ice time might be the greatest stat in franchise history, yes even more so than Nikita Kucherov’s 128 points.
Three different head coaches lost games for the Lightning during the streak. First it was Terry Crisp, fired after the first eight games without a win. Interim coach Rick Peterson lost the next six, and then Jacques Demers mopped up the final two losses.
Oddly enough, the season had started pretty well as the Bolts went 2-1-1 in their first four games before the losing streak. Unfortunately, injuries to Brian Bradley and Dino Ciccarelli hampered the offense and a lack of discipline crippled their work ethic. Shortly after taking over, Demers fined eight players for being late to a practice and stripped the captain’s “C” from Renberg as well as an “A” from fan-favorite, Rob Zamuner.
A few days after Demers laid down the law, they finally snapped the pointless streak as they beat the New York Rangers 6-3 behind Zamuner’s first career hat trick. They won again in their next game, 4-3 over Calgary, but it would be more than a month before they won back-to-back games again.
At least all of that losing paid off with a draft that netted them Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards, pretty good consolation prizes for a horrible season. Maybe Buffalo fans will be rewarded in similar fashion for the horror they are witnessing now.
The top pick for the Lightning in their most recent draft will need shoulder surgery that will require a six-month recovery. The 18-year-old appeared in two games for the Crunch this season before reporting to Spokane for another season in junior hockey.
Another way to put it, could John Tortorella’s job be on the line if they get swept by the Lightning? Yes, yes it could be.
A veteran (Gemel Smith) and a rookie (Declan McDonnell) continue to impress for the Syracuse Crunch.
The Lightning will dedicate the game that night to celebrate inclusion and the idea that any and all are welcome in the sport of hockey. Players will use special Pride tape during the morning skate and warmups with a selection of the stick being auctioned off for charity.
At least they made it to overtime.
It’s a tremendous loss for a team fighting for the top of the Central Division. It could also lead to them being a big player at the trade deadline as they look to fill the hole on defense.
Hey, remember that losing streak I rambled on about to lead off this post? One of those losses was against the San Jose Sharks. A young kid by the name of Patrick Marleau played 10:36 in the 3-1 Sharks victory. He’s still playing. On Monday he moved into second place in games played in the NHL, passing Mark Messier with 1,757 games played. Next up - Gordie Howe and 1,767, a mark he could pass this season.
Could you name which teams Christian Wolanin and Mike Amadio were on before the trade without looking it up? The answer was Ottawa and Los Angeles. They’ve now switched sweaters.
First Star: Adam Fox
Second Star: Martin Necas (with an assist from the Lightning)
Third Star: Juuse Saros