With four out of the six preseason games over, The Lightning have a couple of days before they have to hit the ice again in Montreal to face The Canadiens. They had an early Monday practice, then flew out to a mountain resort in Canada. There they are having some team bonding, ‘guy time’ according to Forward Ryan Malone. While he is looking forward to pulling pranks on the new guys, everyone is looking forward to getting to know them better. After Monday’s practice Head Coach Guy Boucher said that they love their families, but at home there are kids and distractions. When they’re on the road, all they have is each other. They’ll be training hard on the ice and off in team building exorcises that will challenge both their minds and their bodies. They will have a break on Wednesday before getting back to work on Thursday and having their fifth preseason game. This game will be a tie breaker in what has been a bumpy off season. In the first two preseason games The Lightning took on The St. Louis Blues. The third and fourth were against state rivals The Florida Panthers. For the fifth and sixth they will take on The Montreal Canadiens. Let’s take a brief look at the preseason games that have been play so far. On Tuesday, September 20, The Lightning went up to St. Louis. Evengy Grachev made the first goal, assisted by Langenbrunner and Backes in a power play. The Bolts had the chance to tie it up when St. Louis Ponich got sent to the box for hooking Dominic Moore. Tampa had three penalties in the first period, St. Louis had four. The Lightning were unable to take advantage of the power play and remained scoreless until the second period. Steve Downie scored a power play goal, assisted by Kubina and Clark. Mathieu Garon made his debut as Tampa’s goal tender, and was switched half way through the game to give Jaroslav Janus some ice time. Matt D’Agnastini of The Blues got their lead back with a goal assisted by Cheechoot an McRae. Tampa had one penalty in the second period, St. Louis had three. In the third quarter Evengy Grachev scored again, assisted by Langenbrunner and Backes just as before. The penalties stayed low in the third. The Blues only had one and The Lightning didn’t have any. Final Score: 1-3 St. Louis.
The next night The Lightning hosted The Blues at The Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. It was the first ever NHL game to be played there. With 11,688 fans in attendance, despite being an hour away from Tampa, it made the team feel at home according to several members and staff. In the first period St. Louis’ Nikita Nikitin scored a power play goal assisted by Stewart and Pietrangelo. Tampa’s Mattias Ohlund got 5 minutes for elbowing and ejected from the game for misconduct. Teddy Purcell had to sit in for his penalty. St. Louis’ Stefan Della Rovere served two minutes for roughing. Patrick Berglund got two minutes for cross checking. In the second period Tampa had a power play goal scored by Marc-Andre Bergeron, with assists by Bruno Gervais and Blair Jones. St. Louis answered that goal when Ian Cole moved in on the power play, assisted by Stewart and Grachev. Oullete of Tampa got a two minute penalty for slashing, Crombeen of St. Louis also served two minutes for roughing. The Blue’s Barret Jackman had two penalties. One was for tripping and the other was for slashing. In the third period Cory Conacher scored for Tampa, assisted by Connolly and Bergeron. St. Louis’ Chris Stewart, assisted by Sterling replied to Tampa’s score with a goal of his own. Tampa shot back as Eric Brewer made a power play goal, assisted by Stamkos and Lecavelier. St. Louis re-gained the lead when Adam Cracknell got a puck unassisted. After the game, Coach Boucher had nothing to say but praise for Cory Conacher. ” I was happy to see him get rewarded”, said Coach Boucher, “He’s been fighting every day in camp, and I think he’s making it evident that he wants to be here.” The three players who stuck out to me in this game were Bruno Gervais, Cory Conacher, and Matt Gilroy. Gilroy is amazing at holding players off, defending the goal, and penalty kills. He has great speed an is a puck thief. He can turn plays around by stealing the puck from the opposing team , and that is going to help The Bolts tremendously. There was a lot of sloppy plays by veteran players. The lines looked unorganized and guys that usually flow together looked like they had not practiced. They may seem a bit rusty coming off of the off season, but I can assure you that they have been working very hard every day in practice. Even on the weekends. The chemistry will kick back in and the electricity will flow. The final score was 4-3 Blues.
On Friday, September 23, they made their preseason home debut. The Lightning came ready to fight for their reputation and keep the confidence of their fans. The first period against The Panthers was scary to say the least as Tampa had five penalties. With the help of Matt Gilroy, they were penalty killing machines! Florida went scoreless and gave Tampa one shot at a power play, in which they took advantage of. Mattias Ritola scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Kubina and Connolly. When Tampa came out for the second period, I don’t know what was said in the locker room. Or perhaps it was something unsaid. Their batteries were charged and they finally began to play some hockey! They only gave up one penalty in which they defended their ice and didn’t let The Panthers score on the power play. Ryan Shannon scored his first goal in Bolt Blue! With assists by Kubina and Bergeron, it was an exciting time. Ryan is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Assisted by Stamkos and Clark, he made his second goal. What a magical night for him playing for the first time as a Bolt in The St. Pete Times Forum. He’s a great addition to the team. On the ice it’s all about his amazing speed and accuracy. Off the ice he is very humble. Though he seems a bit shy, he’s one of the nicest guys on the team and does everything that he can to connect with his fans. Florida had three penalties in the second period. They tried to make a come back in the third with no penalties and two goals. The first was a power play goal scored by Jack Skille, assisted by Robak. The second was scored by Michal Repik with the assists by Robak and Derlyuk. Tampa got two penalties but also scored twice. Carter Ashton, fighting for a roster spot, scored a goal assisted by Eric Brewer. Our fierce captain Vinny Lecavalier scored his first goal of the (pre)season assisted by Purcell and Hedman. There were some mistakes, like the goal Tampa bad taken away because of a penalty, and the ‘too many men on the ice’ call. All in all they looked much better. The lines were organized, they kept better control of the puck, and they passed well. Dwayne Roloson played the whole game and stopped thirty-one shots. Their team work lead to a 5-2 victory.
They were victorious with another win over The Panthers on September 24th. In the first period Pavel Kubina scored, assisted by Malone and Downie. Florida’s David Booth made a goal with assists by Kopecky and Kennedy. Both teams had one penalty in that period. They again shared an equal amount of penalty time in the second with three penalties each. However the scoring was not! Kris Versteeg put The Panthers up by one with a assists by Weiss and Fleischmann, then Thomas Kopecky strengthened that lead by two, assisted by Kennedy and Booth. Brett Connolly saw an opportunity to score in a power play and succeeded with assists by Shannon and Stamkos. The third period seemed to be all about Tampa Bay. They gave Florida two shots at a power play, in which they did not capitalize. Florida was careful not to give up any penalty time themselves. Tampa dominated, not only tying up the score, but gaining the lead and winning the game. Tom Pyatt scored the first goal assisted by Ritola. Mattias Ritola got his own goal shortly after with an assist by Downie. Good things come in threes! Teddy Purcell proved that with his amazing score assisted by Conacher and Ritola. It was a wonderful night for Mattias Ritola who is one of the ones trying to prove to the organization that he’d be essential to the team. The final score was 5-2 Lightning.
Starting off the preseason with two straight losses for the first time in the history of the franchise, it certainly helped boost morale with the last two wins. Especially that amazing come back in game four. Though most of the team have played together in the past, they are coming off of a long, hot summer. They need to build that chemistry on the ice with the new guys, and to do that, they need to build relationships off ice. Coach Boucher is putting them through a hard training camp at the mountain resort. It’s not a vacation. They will get one day to do activities on their own, but the rest of the time it’s for training. “We’re far from where we were at the end of the year last year. Our work ethic, our relentlessness, our details are… they’re not there right now.”, Coach Boucher explained after Monday’s practice in Brandon, Florida. He went on to say “Every year, every league that I’ve been in, you always expect your guys to be where they were and they’re not.” He went on to say “They forget about the details, they’re not relentless, they work hard, and that’s not good enough. So it’s my job to make sure that we get to that point and obviously I’m not a very patient man when it comes to work ethic.” “They know it’s… it’s time, it’s time. The fun’s over.”