For the Tampa Bay Lightning, first place in the Atlantic Division must be the kiss of death. I mean, how else can one explain their turnover-filled, unaggressive and just plain embarrassing performance, which resulted in a 2-1 loss Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils‘ struggling offense?
Martin St. Louis‘ giveaway at the blue line proved costly, as Jaromir Jagr broke away to score what ended up being the game winner. A likely Hall of Famer and last season’s Art Ross Trophy winner, this marked his first big blunder of the still young 2013-2014 season.
Though easy to pin the blame on St. Louis, it’s not all his fault. Much of the team, minus Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop possibly, looked dead. They weren’t hitting, rarely battled for puck possession and got caught flat-footed more often than not. Combine that with their fancy passing, no shooting approach and you’d think this Lightning team was competing for style points, not trying to win a hockey game.
Sound familiar? That might be because this is exactly what plagued the Lightning much of last year, beginning with their first road trip after a long, successful homestand. It all snowballed from there, eventually costing former coach Guy Boucher his job and leaving fans scratching their collective heads wondering what just happened.
Now, I’m not saying the same thing will happen this season. Head coach Jon Cooper has actually done quite well at getting the guys to bounce back strong following embarrassing defeats. Look at their 5-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins for proof, considering they went on a three-game win streak afterward.
Regardless, this loss must have Lightning fans holding their breath waiting to see what might happen next. Can Tampa Bay put this horrible showing behind them prior to Friday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes or is this the start of another nightmarish five months? Depending upon their ability to make adjustments, it could go either way.