ON THE ROAD WITH DAVE MISHKIN
|Tampa Bay Lightning @ Detroit Red Wings
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned how the Lightning had played well for the majority of every game during the current losing streak. Their defeats had been the result of either a fantastic goaltending performance or the opposition taking advantage of a momentum surge to score multiple goals in a short period of time.
Still, not withstanding the results in those four games prior to the Chicago game, the Lightning had executed their team system pretty well. Last night, however, that trend ended – against the Blackhawks the Lightning simply didn’t play well enough to win. There were two costly first period turnovers that led to a pair of Chicago odd-man rush goals. An icing to start the second period resulted in a third Hawks goal right off the ensuing faceoff. Then in the third period, Chicago added two more goals off the rush.
Avoiding those types of miscues will be critical tonight against the dangerous and opportunistic Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings have scored a league-high 81 goals (tied with Carolina) and boast a lineup filled with skilled players who will make the opposition pay for their mistakes.
The best course of action for the Lightning, then, will be to play a solid, simple game. It’s an old but true adage; when you’re struggling, go back to basics. Those basics include a defense-first mentality (or making sure the forwards are “underneath the puck”, as John Tortorella puts it), a North-South approach to moving the puck up the ice and a concentration on controlling and protecting the puck in the offensive zone. These things will result in few turnovers and increased scoring chances in the offensive zone. It’s also the best way for the players to build a foundation of renewed confidence, which can waver when a team feels stuck in a losing streak.