On The Road With Dave Mishkin
Tampa Bay Lightning
@ Philadelphia Flyers
Greetings from Philadelphia, where the Lightning square off against the Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center. It’s the final contest in the four-game regular season series – the Bolts have taken two of the first three meetings.
In his meeting with the media prior to last Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh, John Tortorella stated that the team’s two primary objectives in the final month of the regular season were a) to improve upon its situational play and b) re-establish a winning culture in the locker room.
The first area has badly hurt the Lightning this year, especially in the third period. At points throughout the year, the Lightning have failed to make key plays at key times and, in turn, have allowed the opposition to make those plays. So during these final 16 regular season games, Tortorella wants his club to be in a variety of third period situations (up by a goal, tied or even down by a goal), so the players can learn how to better react in those specific situations.
Achieving better results with first objective can help the Lightning move in the right direction regarding the second one. A “winning culture”, as Tortorella defines it, is an intangible component. It’s a mindset and belief that no matter what the circumstance, your team is going to find a way to win. It’s a swagger, one that existed during the Lightning’s 2003-04 Stanley Cup season. As Tortorella told us in the media, the 2007-08 Lightning haven’t had that winning culture and, if the organization is going to get back to top of the league, they need to recreate that culture. It’s neither an easy nor a quick process, which is why Torts feels that it’s crucial that the “recreating” begins now.
The Flyers are holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by one point over the Buffalo Sabres. Due to a variety of injuries, the Flyers will play tonight’s game without several of their top players. Simon Gagne is out for the year with a concussion. Leading scorer Mike Richards (torn hamstring) and Joffrey Lupul (high ankle sprain) are also sidelined. Derian Hatcher has been out since February with a knee problem. And Danny Briere didn’t play in Tuesday’s loss to Buffalo due to a bad shoulder. He could possibly play tonight. Still, the Flyers had gone 3-0-1 in their last four games prior to the Buffalo game and will certainly be a desperate team tonight. So for Tampa Bay, in addition to playing a sound situational game, the Lightning must match Philadelphia’s desperation level