It’s no secret that The Lightning have been struggling through this first part of the season, and the problem seems to lie in the defense. At least that is what everyone is saying from the fans to the media to the team members themselves. One thing is clear. They play a completely different game at home. Out of eight games away, they have won only two. However out of the four games played at home they have one three. What is it about the St. Pete Times Forum, soon to be called The Tampa Bay Times Forum, that makes them play so much better? Coach Boucher, along with several of the guys, touched on that and what he sees they need to do to better their games on the road in post practice interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday they had the toughest practice yet of the season. Coach Boucher was definitely not happy in his post game interview after Tuesday’s loss to The Carolina Hurricanes. He made the point known that he feels the team only actually played in one period. The first two periods they might as well have not come out on the ice, because it was only in the third that they actually played. He said that he doesn’t wait for things to change, he’s going to make them change. And changes were made immediately on Wednesday with that tough practice, and Mattias Ritola being sent to Norfolk on waivers. He has cleared waivers and is expected to start playing for The Norfolk Admirals soon, joining Dana Tyrell, Radko Gudas, Cory Conacher, several other young Lightning-to-be favorites.
Practice on Wednesday opened up with a fifteen minute warm-up, just like before the games. Then they had drills to simulate game situations. Coach Boucher wanted the competition drive high, and that he got when Dominic Moore and Ryan Malone almost got into a fight before competing in a drill. There was exchanging of words, shoving, and grabbing of clothes before teammates rushed in to break them up. The coaches said that they got the result that they wanted. In a post practice interview, Brett Connolly said “Defensively we’re more reliable right now at home, and on the road it seems to not be the same. We’re looking to work some kinks out in our game and be ready to compete harder on the road so, again, that was the message today in practice. So we’re looking forward to the next road game and making the difference on the road.” “We have to compete harder.”, said Steven Stamkos, “If you look at our games on the road compared to the games at home there’s a big difference in how we’re approaching the game and how we’re coming in the games competitively. Our compete level is a lot higher at home. You see the results of the last three games at home have been very positive and the last couple on the road haven’t, so we have to find a way to have that same mentality heading into road games.”
It was another tough practice today, but not as tough as yesterday’s. They emphasized on the defense, and how different they play at home versus how they play when they are on the road. Coach Boucher said that the guys feel that when they are home in front of their fans, they have to be close to perfect. Defense is first mentality. When they review video clips, it’s a different clip at a home game than one on the road. In the same situation. It’s a mindset. The energy at home is great. The guys smile when they see the lightning coming from the ceiling, they hear the organ, they get just as excited about all of the new additions as the fans do. They feel it when the fans are into the game, and they feed off of that excitement and energy. “But Eventually”, Boucher said, “weather it wears out or not because you’re used to it, it can’t change our game.” If only they could package up some of that excitement, literally put lightning in a bottle, and take it on the road with them. Maybe that would help the situation. Coach Boucher said that they have addressed the issue. Obviously tomorrow’s game against The Chicago Blackhawks will be a home game, so the real test will be Sunday’s game against The Florida Panthers. It will be on their turf. The Litter Box, as we here in Tampa have nicknamed it. Captain Vinny Lecavalier admits that they haven’t gotten great results this year and he thinks they can do better. It lies in the details. They need to play a better game defensively. Teddy Purcell said that they had to get back to basics. “When things aren’t going well you gotta keep it simple. Once you start having some success, when the other seams open up, then the more plays open. ”
Tomorrow’s game against The Chicago Blackhawks will be a tough one, as they have won three out of five games on the road. They have won eight out of the thirteen games that they have played so far this season.
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