We can muse about a number of things that are ailing the Tampa Bay Lightning early in the 2023-24 season, such as how to win a faceoff in overtime, but one of the areas that have collapsed early on is holding onto a lead after two periods.
What was once a strength for Jon Cooper and company has become a liability overnight that the squad has to fix if it wants to be legit contenders in 2023-24.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Aaaaaaand, it’s gone
When the Lightning won the Stanley Cup during the 2021 season, they were 26-0-0 when leading after two periods. During the 2021-22 campaign, Tampa was 33-1-4 when leading after two periods. Last season, the Bolts were 28-1-2.
The early returns for the 2023-24 season aren’t great. Seven times the Lightning have taken a lead into the third period, and only four times have they emerged the winners with a record of 4-1-2.
We can muse on whether it is effort, focus, or bad luck. And while those three all factor in, the Lightning’s tactics need to be revised too.
Over the past few years, the Lightning have been able to turtle and rely on Andrei Vasilevskiy to bail them out and take them home for the victory. He’s still out, and while Jonas Johnasson has been capable in his place, he’s not the type of netminder a team wants to turtle and rely on to bring them home.
In their home loss to Toronto last month, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave up 20 shots in the third period as the Maple Leafs roared back.
Last week against Columbus, Tampa was outshot 12-6 in the final frame.
And last night, in another collapse against Toronto, it was a 12-6 deficit in the second period that allowed to get Toronto within striking distance, and only after two quick-strike goals in the third did the Tampa Bay Lightning come out of their shell.
But as we saw in the playoffs last season, even Vasilevskiy is prone to having his shell crack when having to turtle too often.
The tactic may have worked in the past, but all great teams have to adapt at some point, and it may be that time for Tampa.