Four-game road trip that begins Tuesday will test Lightning’s character
Guy Boucher relishes the thought of taking on a good challenge.
“It reveals character,” he says.
But what’s even more telling, he added, is how his team reacts to one.
And with the Lightning heading out on a four-game road trip that kicks off Tuesday in Philadelphia, that’s what Boucher is about to find out.
After nearly sweeping a season-high homestand during which it took four of five games and eight out of a possible 10 points, Tampa Bay’s first real test comes this week as the team will play at Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, and New York as part of a stretch that comprises four games in six days.
Unlike the scenarios, though, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum last week where opponents often faced the Lightning to conclude the second half of a back-to-back set, none of the teams on this trip play the day before.
It is worth noting too, that each of the four clubs, with the exception of Philadelphia, entered Monday’s action with point totals equivalent to or better than the team in the eighth position in the standings, meaning the Lightning will be facing clubs that up to this point through the young season, are among the best in their conference.
The key, then, is one that has resonated throughout the locker room this past week from both coaches and players alike:
“Stick to the structure, focus on our own game, and don’t worry about what we can’t control,” forward Teddy Purcell said.
That even applies to the opponents on the schedule themselves, which includes a Flyers team that will be out looking to avenge an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Lightning a week ago; the reigning Eastern Conference champion Devils; the first-place Bruins; and, of course, the Rangers, which handed the Bolts their first loss on home ice and just their second defeat of the season on Saturday night.
Keep in mind that Tampa Bay will also play Boston and New York back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, before returning home.
“It’s going to be a tough trip, and although we had a good homestand, it’s still going to be important to earn those points,” said goaltender Mathieu Garon, who is likely to get a start in net over the weekend by nature of the team playing on consecutive nights.
In order for the team to do that, it cannot afford to miss out on scoring chances as it did in Saturday’s hard-fought 3-2 loss to the Rangers, a game in which passes were a bit off, and the team as a whole seemed just a few steps behind.
Instead, the team will have to rely on what has worked to its advantage through just eight games this season.
That includes a power-play that entered Monday ranked first in the league at 36.1 percent, a penalty kill that was 10th at 83.3 percent, and an NHL-best total of 39 goals scored.
“All of that is really a tribute to the guys in the room buying in and sticking to the system,” forward Adam Hall said. “We’ve really been doing a good job with a lot of things, but to win on the road and to win in this league, you have to do those things consistently.”
Even if that means having to pass a quick test.