The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to be hitting a wall. They have seemingly lost all their swagger and confidence, and it remains to be seen how the team will bounce back from blowout losses to both the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes since the All-Star break. The team also suffered a devastating loss at home to a young and inexperienced Sabres team.
Even star forward Steven Stamkos has admitted as much: “When things start to go wrong, it can get in your head a little bit…. When guys aren’t thinking that we’re going to have success, it usually doesn’t lead to success.” Coming from the mouth of a multiple Stanley Cup winner, this cannot be disconcerting to say the least.
Coach Jon Cooper
Now that the trade deadline has passed, there is not much Coach Jon Cooper can do to turn things around via the roster. Cooper has tried to juggle lines as he has had to deal with injuries to key players like Victor Hedman.
Another big storyline coming out of Tampa was how Coach Jon Cooper benched his entire first line for the entire third period in the 5-3 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Cooper explained the decision the following way:
“Well, as coaches, you’ve got to put your team in the best position to win and 99.9% of the time, those guys give us the best chance to win when they’re on the ice. I just felt, in the third period, they weren’t giving us the best chance to win. This team has been unbelievable for a decade. You take the three Finals. Well, there’s a reason a lot of that’s happened. We have a set of standards here that everybody adheres to, and it’s not pick and choose. It’s everybody. It’s how it was for today. Like I said, those guys are an extremely important part of our team, but for 20 minutes tonight, I thought the other guys could get it done and you know what? They almost did.”
Cooper is actually right, the Lightning trailed 5-1 entering the third period and the final score was 5-3. Nothing has swung the pendulum away from this current downturn, but Cooper would be the only coach that can turn the tides.
So, what does this mean for the Lightning as they presumably enter the playoffs? For starters, they will have to regroup, shore up their defense, stay out of the penalty box and see a massive team effort to get by their predicted playoff opponents, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are extra hungry as they have not gotten past the first round in the playoffs since 2004.
The Lightning’s 5 game losing skid may be a bad omen that translates into a quick loss in the first round, signaling the end of a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey dynasty.
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