Many of you have asked the question over the past week; what exactly has happened to this hockey team? It is a fair question, and one that I think is pretty difficult to answer. Last night, after the Lightning’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Lightning forward Martin St. Louis may have given the best explanation yet as to what is “wrong” when he spoke to the assembled media. (This quote was part of the game story, but it was powerful enough that I thought it deserved its own post.)
“That game coming back from a tough road trip is always hard,” St. Louis said. “Obviously we need to fight the mental part of the game a little bit, be a little more resilient, a little more determined. I think our early success this season, I think it is haunting us a little bit. We almost had it too easy too quick. I don’t want to take away from any of our wins, but we didn’t have to earn them as much our power play was strong and we were putting away teams early in the game. They were easier games, so to speak, and we played some hard games here on this road trip. We realized how hard you have to play in this league if you want to win, but I felt that we stayed with it in the third and played for each other and turned it around a little bit and got a point out of it and that’s a positive.”
St. Louis brings up some good points there. Maybe the Lightning did have it too easy too quick with the early home stand. Perhaps what this team is going through right now is what will be best for them in the long term of this shortened season.
Things are not really as bad as they may appear at the moment. Let’s look back at the recent road skid. In Philadelphia, the Lightning lost a close, tight game. In New Jersey, the Lightning was in that game for most of the first two and a half periods before some unique officiating got them in trouble. The Rangers game at Madison Square Garden really was the only “stinker” of the bunch. Last night against the Canadiens, the Lightning got into an early hole because of some more unique officiating that that they nearly were able to climb out of late.
So, while some are pushing the panic button, perhaps the best answer to these struggles is that the early success is haunting the team a bit. Perhaps the early success also raised expectations a bit more than they should.