Facing their toughest test of the season against four quality Western Conference opponents, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not only losing but looking absolutely horrible in the process. Obviously, the absence of Steven Stamkos hurts, but that’s only a small part of this team’s overall problem. The biggest issue right now is a severe lack of veteran leadership.
Starting at the top with captain Martin St. Louis, who played his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday night, the Lightning veterans aren’t doing what it takes to give their team a fighting chance. That was on full display Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks, when the top line of St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Valtteri Filppula combined for three giveaways and zero points, likely contributing to each one’s awful minus-3 rating.
It’s not all on those three, however. Defensively, the team failed to give goaltender Anders Lindback much support in terms of clearing the puck out of harms way. Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman were the biggest culprits, treating the puck like candy on Halloween. Which is to say they had no problem giving it away, evidenced in their five combined giveaways and non-existent point total.
This is only one game, yes, but it was also the contest the Lightning showed any jump at all, outshooting the Sharks by a slim margin. So why couldn’t they generate more than a single goal? Possibly there’s a lack of leadership from those expected to step up and provide a spark when needed most. Or in this case, carry the load with a key piece sidelined for awhile due to injury.
Can the Lightning’s veterans right the ship by performing the way they’re expected to, or is this the start of another miserably long season? Whatever happens, Tampa Bay’s fate lies in the hands of guys who, for the most part, have proven they can beat the odds when nobody expects it.