The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their most extended road trip of the season tonight with a stop in Calgary to take on a Flames team sitting atop the Pacific Division.
The Lightning was again victimized by a slow start in Winnipeg. They played one of their worst games of the season in falling to the Winnipeg Jets 7-4.
Although the Lightning is 1-1 on the current road trip, they have looked like anything but Stanley Cup Champions going back to the 5-1 loss to the Penguins last Thursday.
The Lightning has scored 14 goals the last four games, so it’s not fair to blame the offense. The defense has not played defense the way they are capable of playing, and as a result, the Bolts are in their worst funk of the season.
Nothing seems to be going right defensively. They are out of position, falling all over the ice, and not getting bodies in front of the net.
The slow starts put the team in a big hole early, and they have to play catch up the rest of the game. Pat Maroon talked it about at length following the loss in Winnipeg. “I don’t know why we’re doing it, but, as players, it’s on us. We need to take full responsibility for it. I mean, it’s getting out of control now. It’s hurting us. Down 3-1 ten minutes into the game is unacceptable, but we keep doing the same thing. When’s enough, enough? We’ve got to respond somehow.”
The Lightning allowed the Blackhawks to take a 1-0 lead in Chicago before coming back and tying the game in the second period.
In Winnipeg, the Bolts allowed the Jets to take a 2-0 lead and trailed at one point 3-1 before tying it up late in the first period.
What is causing these slow starts for the Lightning? At times it looks as if the team would rather be anywhere else but on the ice playing an NHL game.
Ryan McDonagh knows that the Lightning has to play better to start the game. “It’s not winning hockey. We need to take a good look at ourselves and change something up, do something different to get ourselves mentally engaged and playing with some pace and playing with some determination at the start of a game.”
The Lightning is very secure as far as a playoff spot goes. It would take an epic collapse for the Bolts to miss the playoffs.
Many are expecting this team to flick a switch when the playoffs start and play championship hockey. It’s not that easy.
Ask the 2019 Lightning about that. They had one of the best seasons in NHL history and were beaten by the number eight seed, the Columbus Blue Jackets, in four straight games in the first round of the playoffs.
Hopefully, this team can fix what ails them and get back to playing championship hockey.
The Bolts are in Calgary tonight, a place they have had success going 8-2-2 since the 2003-04 season. The Lightning has also won four out of the last five games in Calgary and beat the Flames 4-1 earlier this season in Tampa.
After the game in Calgary, the Western Canada swing continues in Edmonton and Vancouver before the road trip wraps up in Seattle.