TAMPA, Fla. | As part of a 6-1 start, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored 37 goals. As they slid back down to earth, maybe the high-octane offense was the problem.
“We just started with too many goals at the beginning. It made it look something different,” coach Guy Boucher said Thursday. “At the beginning just scoring all these goals and everything was going in, we were looking great. But there was no team in the history of the league that had that much average of goals per game. We should’ve been a little bit more calmer about our expectations.”
The expectations for the Lightning, according to what Boucher say of experts’ opinions, was to be between seventh and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Going into their game against the Washington Capitals, they’re sitting ninth, just outside of a playoff position.
If at this point in a regular, 82-game season Tampa Bay was sitting in this spot, two points back of the Southeast Division lead, “Everybody would have taken it. Everybody,” Boucher said.
But a five-game skid is hard to take.
“Life is perception, you choose what you want,” Boucher said. “We can’t just sink lower than really what the circumstances are, and that’s our choice. We need to have some enthusiasm and some work ethic.”
Missing goals that were coming easy earlier in the season is one problem that is frustrating players, Boucher said. Amid struggles and an influx of new players, the Lightning are trying to “find an identity.”
For most of the year, their identity in net was Anders Lindback, the 6-foot-6 Swede who could be the answer to Tampa Bay’s recent goaltending woes. But Lindback missed Thursday’s morning skate with an illness, so backup Mathieu Garon starts against the Caps.
Adding illness to adversity doesn’t help.
“We just got to make sure that we don’t get disappointed so much with one bad thing happening,” Boucher said. “So again this morning we show up here and Lindback is sick. So what are we going to do with that? It ain’t gonna bring me down, I can tell you that. Let’s go.”
As for Boucher’s message to his players about competing in Lindback’s absence?
“I don’t even think he has to say anything,” center Steven Stamkos said. “I think we know as a group that we have full confidence in Matty. He’s played great this year. It’s just going to be another game. We don’t worry about things we can’t control.”
Boucher isn’t. Asked about the Lightning acquiring goaltender Cedrick Desjardins for Dustin Tokarski, the coach deferred to general manager Steve Yzerman because “right now I’m focused on the two guys that are here, and today there was only one.”
That one is Garon, who will be making just his fourth start of the season.
“Short notice or not, Mathieu is a professional. He’s the ultimate professional, really,” Boucher said. “He gets prepared. He’s ready to go now. Mathieu can’t put too much pressure on himself. He already does. He’s one of those guys that takes care of everything and has got to relax. Relax and just free your mind.”
Lindback was healthy enough to serve as the backup. But Boucher wasn’t worried about that problem Thursday morning.
“Right now Garon’s in nets,” he said. “That’s what I control. The rest, it’s somebody else’s business right now.”
Boucher’s business is getting his team back on track. He’s sticking with a positive frame of mind in his attempt to do that.
“We decide how we perceive things and what we want to do with them and how we’re going to approach adversity,” Boucher said. “And my choice is very simple: we have an amazing opportunity every day or every minute of the day to turn things around and make it ours.”