Tampa Bay lost a game, but only a game

by Gary Shelton on April 18, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Boyle is only non-Triplet with a goal in the series.

Boyle is only non-Triplet with a goal in the series.

Monday, 6 a.m.

And now, we may assume, the sky is falling.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has lost, and they looked rather feeble in doing it. And so now there will be those who will shake their heads, and tell you that they knew it all the time. They will say this team is held together by string and crazy glue, and it was bound to fall apart any moment. Fans are like that. They love to be the voices of doom.

They will point out that, actually, not many players outside of the

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Triplets line have scored. And when the Triplets are shut down, the Lightning is shut down.

They will tell you that this team has spent so much time in the penalty box they should change their name to the Cooper Gang.

They will tell you that Detroit had an edge that can carry a team through a series.

They will tell you that for all the times goaltender Ben Bishop holds an opponent to two goals or less, he has lost 13 times while doing so.

And, yeah, that's all true.

Lightning needs Jonathan Drouin, others, to score.

Lightning needs Jonathan Drouin, others, to score./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

On the other hand, did you really think the Lightning was going to sweep the Red Wings? Did you think Detroit was going to surrender?

Come on. It's as simple as this: Tampa Bay had a lousy night in Detroit. You know how many people who live in Detroit have a lousy night several times a week? This was one game, and as disappointing as it was, it was the bumping of a toe. The Lightning didn't lose the series. They just lost a game. They continue to lead the series.

This shouldn't surprise you. Hockey games are usually won by the team to which it matters the most. It's a passion sport, an ad lib sport, less about the plays that the coach is making than the grind of the players. But keep this in mind. Joe Louis Arena doesn't matter. All the Lightning has to do is win its two home games, and it wins the series.

“They were desperate to win a hockey game,” said Jon Cooper. “We came in to play a hockey game.”

Yeah, yeah. It would have been nice if the Lightning was one of those smothering teams that sensed blood in the water and moved in for the kill. It isn't. As long as the Lightning is alive, it will be in hard-scrabble games.

Granted, Detroit could win this series. There really isn't a lot of difference between the Lightning and Red Wings. But Tampa Bay still has the edge. If it can keep its cool against a team that is determined to be physical, then they can buy enough space to beat this team.

“They played really hard,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Their desperation level was higher than us. The more desperate team won.”

The Red Wings turned to goaltender Petr Mrasek, who shut out the Bolts. With 16 shots, however, Cooper said “I'm not even sure they needed a goaltender.”

Tonight, they competed a lot harder than we did and that’s what it boils down to,’’ Johnson said. “We did not compete to the best that we can do and you are not going to score when you do that. I don’t think anything structurally or anything like that. It boils down to being competitive.’’

Okay, okay. If I'm Jon Cooper, I tell my team that someone who isn't a Triplet has to score. Brian Boyle has one goal this series, but everyone else who isn't Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov or Alex Killorn is still waiting to score. Where is Valterri Filppula? Where is Ryan Callahan? Where is Ondrej Palat?

I also tell them this: Don't worry about matching Detroit cheap-shot-for-cheap-shot. I know. It's frustrating. But in this series, with this roster, it doesn't pay to brawl. Be Gandhi. That will just earn you penalty minutes, which reduces the amount of time you can find space.

“They shut us down in the neutral zone, they were on top of us and we didn’t get enough pucks behind them,’’ right wing Ryan Callahan said. “We were turning over a lot of pucks in the neutral zone and when you do that, they seem to transition pretty well off of that and counter.’’

Bottom line: Game Four is going to be hard. The Lightning has been shut out three times in its last six games there. But Tampa Bay has to re-establish its identity. No, this isn't the greatest Tampa Bay team, but this certainly isn't the greatest Detroit team, either.

This Lightning team is better than Detroit. It's faster. It's smarter.

And if the Bolts let this team beat them, well, shame on them.

Ben Bishop has been hard on the Red Wings the last two years./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Ben Bishop has been hard on the Red Wings the last two years./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Barry McDowell April 18, 2016 at 5:36 pm

I’m definitely a gloomer when it comes to the Lightning this year. Too inconsistent and too many nights without urgency. I think the Wings will be more urgent and will move on.


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