The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a tailspin and losing altitude quickly.
Once 6-1-0 and leading the Southeast Division, the Bolts appeared to be firing on all cylinders heading into a four-game road trip that included games against the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.
But it was all a mirage.
In their first seven games, Tampa Bay faced three teams on the second night of a back-to-back, two backup goalies and played five home games. You could see where we might have mistaken them for being a team they were not.
At home, it seemed all the bounces went their way, every mistake did not come back to bite them and they made big plays at the right times.
I guess you could say the law of averages brought the Lightning back down to Earth.
Rather than rag on the rest of the division for starting poorly enough that all four teams still trail the reeling Bolts, I will focus on Tampa Bay.
There is no doubt this hockey team has a good offense (although they have only scored six goals in the last four games). They have the firepower to score and still lead the National Hockey League in goals despite their recent cold streak.
No single person is to blame for Tampa Bay’s struggles.
Poor defense, awful decision-making, terrible passing, untimely soft goals and passiveness have led the team down the wrong path.
Guy Boucher has underwhelming as a coach, losing his cool and incurring a penalty against the Devils on Thursday night and then inexplicably starting goaltender Mathieu Garon on Sunday night before realizing well into the second period that Anders Lindback should have been in net against New York and putting him in the game.
If this team does not get their act together soon, they will be so far down the wrong path that this shortened season will be lost.
The good news for the Lightning is that they are still in first, they have tasted success and they just got demolished by the Rangers.
The cushion they built up in the first couple weeks of the season has worn thin and they need to pick up the play. But the early season success should give them something to study and try to return to.
However, the best gift of all was being spanked by the Rangers Sunday night. This is the wake-up call this team needs right now.
They have not played aggressively enough, have made way too many lazy mistakes of late and have not put forth an effort worthy of a win in over a week. In this lockout-shortened season, that means four (five counting the postponed Boston game) games down the drain.
The Bolts will fly back to Tampa, practice Monday and take on the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. They have to go back to the fundamentals and make the easy plays. Being at home will help, but the onus is on the team to get things done and come away Tampa Bay’s first victory since February 1.
The rest of the league is not waiting around for the Lightning to start playing well again. If Tampa Bay keeps nose-diving towards mediocrity, they won’t be looking down on teams much longer.
- Left Wing Carl Hagelin scored two goals (2,3) and RW Arron Asham scored his first goal as a member of the Rangers
- Goalie Henrik Lundqvist saved 19 of 20 shots
- Center Alex Killorn had two shots and an assist in his NHL debut for the Lightning
- New York out-shot Tampa Bay 32-20 in the game
- The Rangers will travel to Boston where they will take on the Boston Bruins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET