There are seventeen games left in the NHL season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have played 65 games most of them without their best scorer in Steven Stamkos and with a captain who didn’t want to be there in Martin St. Louis along with at least 8 or more rookies in the lineup night in and night out. Oh, and they are in the playoff hunt.
Right now, the Lightning sit in the top Wild Card spot and two behind the Montreal Canadians for the last division spot with a game in hand. It’s a great spot to be in as many picked them to finish outside looking in and the Bolts have proved those naysayers wrong.
Fans, though, seem a little frustrated of late and for good reason. Jon Cooper’s squad hasn’t played that well since the Olympic break with only one win to show for it.
In the seven games played, the Bolts have led in six of seven games and have seen their lead evaporate quickly. They have allowed 10 goals in each of the middle frames alone. Even in their win against the Dallas Stars, they nearly blew that lead until Sami Salo notched the fourth and final goal against Kari Lehtonen.
It’s a frustrating scene to watch unfold as this team has exceeded all expectations and is still playoff bound but one must think they are suffering from a lack of focus. Their focus seems to dwindle as the game goes on and they haven’t been successful in playing with a lead. This type of play has removed them from a secure playoff spot and leaving a decent amount of points on the table as they have played some really good teams and have been not only in the game but looked like they could pull off a win.
Cooper has mentioned that this team needs to “play like the goalie is pulled all 60 minutes” and they really do. It seems, the urgency and focus shows up when the team is already down by one and realize they have blown their lead.
In order for the Lightning to make the playoffs, they will need to focus and play successfully with a lead. It’s going to be challenging at first because of the chemistry needing to happen with a very different lineup but this is another trial the Lightning will have to go through. It may even be their toughest trial yet as a playoff berth is on the line.
They have the talent to win and they have been putting forth the physical effort in all games, they just need the mental part of the game to catch up. Steven Stamkos is back from injury, will need some more games to adjust, and newly acquired Ryan Callahan as well. They have games to do it and some breathing room but really the team needs to get back in the win column and start acquiring two points instead of one.
That’s the number of chances left for the Lightning to cap off an incredible storybook season filled with adversary, triumph and change. They have risen to the occasion before and will need to do so again.
At this stage of the season, it’s for keeps.