Despite the fact the “defensive hockey” is touted as the style of Stanley Cup champions, it has one major flaw: you must play perfectly. It leaves no room for error. This is the lesson the Bolts have learned during their now four game losing streak after tonight’s shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.
The Lightning did nearly everything right tonight. They scored the first goal, in the first period (a Bergenheim tip off a St. Louis point shot on the power play). They kept control of the puck, and generally kept the play in the Caps zone. The tempo was good, and they didn’t let themselves get caught up in a track meet they likely wouldn’t have won.
They took only three penalties through regulation (and one necessary one in overtime). Roloson was stopping shots, and the Lightning were limiting second and third opportunities for the Capitals.
Then they made a mistake, just one, and gave Alexander Semin just the tiniest smidgen of space with about five minutes to go in regulation. He buried it in off the post. The Capitals would go on to win the game off an Alex Ovechkin shootout goal, the only player to score in the skills competition.
The Lightning got the one goal, but they failed to build on it. They were controlling well, but it was almost as if a fear of making that one crucial mistake was holding them back a little bit. That was what killed them in the end, and they are now officially slumping.
Every team goes through slumps, but this is precisely the wrong time. With just a few weeks left in the season, Tampa is going to be jostling for playoff position. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be a problem, but clearly the higher the seeding, the better. And with some bubble teams surging, a playoff spot shouldn’t be taken for granted, even if it is extremely unlikely that they will be done mid-April.
While it is promising to know the Lightning realize they will have to be playing this kind of hockey soon, it is concerning that they are losing this style of play. They aren’t quite there yet, but that’s what these last few weeks are for; to tune up before the quest for the Cup begins. I have little doubt the Lightning will be ready to answer the call when it comes. Be sure to check out Capitals Outsider for the flipside boxscore recap.
1st: Braden Holtby
2nd: Alexander Semin
3rd: Dwayne Roloson
Highlights courtesy of NHL.com