Why Lightning shouldn’t hit panic button despite rough stretch

Getting your top three hitters out of a bad motivational tactic followed by a 6-0 loss at the hands of one of your top contenders for conference dominance usually gives enough reason to panic. But when you’re an Eastern Conference class like the Tampa Bay Lightning, a win finds a way to cure everything, and while they just survived the weekend to hell, count the three-time conference champion at your own risk.

Lightning head coach John Cooper benched Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Braden Point for the third period of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Sabers, believing a trio of superstars did not put the team in a better position to win. That rationale could be easily manipulated, but Cooper is one of the most transparent quotes in the league and explained that the standard is the standard, regardless of your resume.

“This team has been incredible throughout the decade,” Lightning head coach John Cooper said of his decision to keep his star forwards on the bench. “You will win three finals. Well, there’s a reason a lot of this happened. We have a set of standards that everyone adheres to. It’s not a choice. This is all”.

Cooper’s decision didn’t pay immediate dividends—the Carolinas dominated Tampa Bay the next night to a 6-0 win—but that may say more about the Hurricanes’ clinical defense than the Lightning as a whole. Tampa Bay only hit 14 shots, but this team is full of years of confidence.

“We’re in a rut right now and at some point you just have to get out of it,” Cooper said after the crushing defeat on Sunday. “The guys have a daily routine. They’re used to playing and when it’s a little off, guys start asking themselves questions.

“We’re just not playing right now, so it’s slowing down our game. As coaches, we need to instill some confidence in these guys. We have a group of veterans, so everything will be fine. “

The Tampa Bay stars — yes, those who made it to the bench — along with Viktor Hedman (more on him below) and Andrey Vasilevsky are often cited as the main causes of the dynasty. Under Cooper’s watch, the Lightning’s calling card was often the flexibility of its lineup, as they moved Stamkos and Point throughout the lineup to give forward groups a different look, batting until the combination stuck. Not only can the Bolts move Stamkos and Point down three scoring lanes, they can also get past Alex Killorn, staunch guard Anthony Cirelli and just under 30-goal winger Brandon Hagel all over the roster. . Cooper has plenty of time to experiment with his lines, and the league playoff format helps him.

The Lightning are on a five-game losing streak, but the three-time Eastern Conference champions aren't worried about their long-term success.  (Getty images)
The Lightning are on a five-game losing streak, but the three-time Eastern Conference champions aren’t worried about their long-term success. (Getty images)

Barring further disasters, we know the Lightning will take on the Maple Leafs in the first round for the second year in a row. Aside from the fact that both teams are using the last 19 games of the regular season to test their optimal lineups, there is little to lose. Tampa Bay would eventually pull out of the tailspin and then adapt their game plan to crush Toronto’s slightly superior shot. The two teams were considered even last season, an idea reinforced by a classic seven-game play that saw depth forward Nick Paul act as an unlikely hero, scoring a brace for the Lightning in a 2-1 win in Game 7. This year, the Maple Leafs and Lightning are once again as evenly matched as possible, and Toronto is likely to have home-ice advantage again, and losing five games in the regular season won’t shake a group that has won the conference three. years in a row.

The Tampa Bay trio of star forwards haven’t played poorly this season either. Kucherov is third in NHL scoring with 88 points, Point is 16th with 73 points and Stamkos is 27th with 65 points. Point is one of the top 10 individual scoring chance creators in 5-on-5 matches, while Hagel, Killorn, Nick Paul and Ross Colton provided the additional output that was expected of them. It’s too early to write off Lightning.

If there is anything that is of legitimate concern, it is Victor Hedman’s injury. Headman got awkwardly entangled with Hurricanes forward Andrey Svechnikov, dropped out of Sunday’s game, returned for one shift, before finally leaving the competition. Hedman isn’t playing at Norris’ level this year, and it could be argued that Mikhail Sergachev is Tampa Bay’s best defenseman at the moment, but he still provides an elite offense for his position and is a staple of the dynasty. Hedman will be re-priced on Monday, and if he’s OK for the playoffs, we don’t expect any major cracks in the armor.

Andrei Vasilevsky is the trump card of Lightning. Boston’s Linus Ullmark is Vezina’s all-time favorite this season, and New York’s Igor Shesterkin won the award last year, but any day now, Vasilevsky is still the best goaltender in the world. Vasilevskiy ranks sixth in over-expected batting thanks to MoneyPack, and he would be the almost unanimous choice of the goaltender you want during playoff play. Vasilevsky won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2021 and could take his game to the next level at any moment. You can bench the top three forwards, but Vasya will always find a way to help his team out – it has often been said that it’s unfair that a team as talented as the Lightning also boast a world-class goaltender in the prime of their career. . When you think the sky is falling, remember that Vasilevsky is ready to pick up the pieces.

A five-game losing streak would be a concern for any team, but the Lightning have a championship determination that few others have, along with a playoff foe that is set in stone. Let’s see what happens this spring, but if the Lightning beats the Maple Leafs again, this March drift will prove to be an aberration.

Source: sports.yahoo.com

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