For Tampa Bay, Chicago the key is desperation

by Gary Shelton on June 9, 2015 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Tuesday, 3:26 p.m.

Steven Stamkos has watched the growth of the young Lightning./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Steven Stamkos has watched the growth of the young Lightning/ANDREW J. KRAMER

The biggest motivator they have is that hollowed out feeling of plummeting downward.

It is then, in that moment of abject desperation, that the Tampa Bay Lightning is at its best. It is then, when there is nothing left to do but to fight, that they play the finest hockey of their season.

This is the feeling that fuels them, that motivates them, that focuses them. The mouth is dry. The eyes are wide. The palms are damp. And wow, look at them go.

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We'll see.

Through the playoffs, said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, that sort of desperation has been a fertilizer for the growth of a young hockey team. And it is true that Tampa Bay seems like a better hockey team now than it did against Detroit.

“I think at some point, the ebbs and flow of the playoffs, teams are going to have success and some are going to struggle,'' said Cooper. “It's the one that consistently have success that are going to move on. I truly believe we've grown as a team through some of our struggles. You just think of last night's game. We're in a pretty hostile environment. It's a 1-1 game. We go down in the third.

“There was no hang the head. It was “Okay, now we've got to dig the heels in and go get this one. That's what I love about this group. It's just the never say die. In some of these situations we've gone through in the playoffs, maybe early, some of these games, we didn't have the ability to come back. But with every day and every game, this team keeps growing. It's a lot of fun to be behind the bench with them.''

Lightning center Steven Stamkos, too, talked about the team's ability to deal with a 2-1 lead without letting up.

“We've been able to grow as a team through all these different experiences in the playoffs,'' Stamkos said. “You kind of get the ball rolling. Who knows what's going to happen next game? We have to be prepared for either being up 3-1 or the series being tied.

“We've had that same mentality coming into every game. You can only control your structure, your work ethic, your compete. Whatever happens happens. It's a roller-coaster of emotions throughout these playoffs. Our group has responded every time, whether it be a big win or a tough loss. Last game was a big win for our group.''

This game, of course, the desperation is on the side of the Blackhawks. This time, it is Chicago that is up against it, that will have to fight its way out.

“They're going to come out extremely hard,'' Stamkos said. “ This is the situation we were in in game 1. We found a way to respond. They're going to respond. This is going to be a good test for this group. We seem to rise to the occasion every round.''

The latest challenge? It's responding to the challenge of a team that has won as much as Chicago, in its building, with its desperation.

“We're a long ways away yet,'' said Lightning forward Brendan Morrow. “The locker room over there, there's no panic in their game right now. They've been here before. They know what it takes .So we know we've got a tough road ahead of us. I know we're not there yet. We've got to get greedy and get another one. That's our focus.''

Game time is 8 p.m.

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