The Tampa Bay Lightning has 18 wins, five losses, and two ties as the team closes in on the season’s halfway point.
On most nights, the Lightning has been the better team on the ice.
That was not the case Thursday night when the Lightning dropped a 6-4 decision on the road to the Detroit Red Wings.
The captain Steven Stamkos spoke to the media after the game and just chalked it to one of those nights.
“Maybe it caught up to us a little bit tonight where we hadn’t played our best for 60 minutes as of late. We’ve been getting some wins, so maybe it was bound to happen that we have a game like this. I thought tonight was better than some of our other outings where we relied on special teams or goaltending. We’ll stick with it here and get back to it. It’s a long road trip, so to get the points that we did out of it is great, and hopefully, we can get back to some home cooking here and enjoy some games at home.”
The Lightning was able to get points in all about one game on the seven-game road trip.
At the 25 game mark, the Lightning is once again the NHL’s top team in almost every category.
The Lightning is plus 34 in goal differential and number one in goals scored per game at 3.64. The Lightning is also allowing the third-fewest goals per game at 2.24. The Lightning led in that category until the Red Wings Scored six on Thursday night.
The Lightning special team’s play has been solid again this season. The Bolts have the second-best penalty kill at 87.5 percent, and the number four power-play clicking at 28.1 percent.
Lightning GM Julien BriseBois met with the media in his annual mid-season press conference. He talked about everything from Nikita Kucherov’s rehab to the possibility of a deal at the trade deadline.
In his opening remarks, BriseBois talked about what he thinks the Lightning can improve to make them a better team.
“When I look at the points of emphasis that we believe help us be successful, (these) are areas where we need to excel at—limiting the number of quality scoring chances against, battling hard physically, and managing the game. When I look at the numbers for our players this year versus last year, I see a lot of consistency. I see very similar numbers.”
There was talk that there may be a hangover effect on the Lightning from winning the Stanley Cup. That has not been the case, according to BriseBois.
“I see them interact amongst themselves, and I watch them practice. I watch them play games, and I see no signs of complacency after winning a championship. I see steely resolve. I see a humble confidence. And I see a hunger for more. I see it in our players. I see it in our coaches. I see it in our staff.”
BriseBois highlighted the Lightning giving their opponents too many power play opportunities as the number one opportunity for this Lightning team the rest of the season.
“We are providing the other team with too many power-play opportunities. Hopefully, that’s something we can rein in the second half of the season and make life a little easier on ourselves.”
BriseBois then talked about an area of the team’s play that has improved significantly. “There’s one area where we significantly improved, and it goes to us battling physically harder, and that’s in the trenches in front of both nets. In the defensive zone, we’re doing a much better job boxing out, and in the offensive zone, we’re doing a much better job getting to the front of the net, screening shots, tipping pucks, so that’s a positive trend; for our group.”
BriseBois said that he might be looking to add a player to the roster if it makes sense but feels that this team is primed for another Stanley Cup run.
“If there is an opportunity for us to add a player that will make our team better and we can find a way to make it work cap-wise, we’re going to do it. But at the same time, I do want to manage expectations because we have zero dollars of cap space, and that’s going to be the biggest challenge to us doing anything trade-wise between now and the deadline.”
“The good news is the team we have right now as assembled has a reasonable reason to believe that it can chase down another Stanley Cup. It’s got a roster filled with players that have proven they can win a championship.”
Nikita Kucherov is skating and is on track to rejoin the Lightning in time for the playoffs. Adding one of the best players in the world is better than any deal the Lightning could make at the trade deadline.
BriseBois talked about Nikita Kucherov and his rehab. “He’s skating, so it’s getting those muscles to start firing up again. It is a process. It’s a long rehab. It’s a significant injury. Many hockey players have gone through it, including some of our players in years past, Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde, to mention two of them. As of now, everything indicates that he is right on track and he will make a full recovery.”
The Lightning return home Saturday night and will play the first of two against the Nashville Predators. This will be the first game this season that Amalie Arena will welcome fans back into the arena. The Lightning will limit capacity to 3,800 fans.
The Lightning will also raise the Stanley Cup Championship banner to the rafters Saturday night. The organization was waiting till fans were allowed inside the arena to raise the banner to the rafters