Tampa Bay Lightning: A Lesson Learned in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

Bob FoxContributor IJune 6, 2015

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper talks during a news conference at the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Tampa, Fla., Thursday, June 4, 2015. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Lightning 2-1 in Game 1 Wednesday night. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Yes, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Wednesday night. A bad sign for the Bolts?

Not really. Why? The Lightning also lost the first game in the series that they played against the Detroit Red Wings (also at Amalie Arena). The Bolts also lost the first game of the series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Bolts have shown the ability to bounce back this postseason. In fact, the Bolts have been near-perfect in games following a loss, going 7-1 in the 2015 playoffs. The only back-to-back losses came in Games 4 and 5 vs. Montreal when the Lightning already had a 3-0 series lead.

In this Stanley Cup Final, the Bolts and Hawks are almost mirror images of one another. Of the top 25 scorers in the Stanley Cup playoffs so far, 14 of those players are either on the Lightning or the Blackhawks. Look at the production from the Bolts. Tyler Johnson has 12 goals and 21 total points, which leads everyone. Nikita Kucherov has nine goals and 10 assists. Alex Killorn has 17 points in the playoffs, as does Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Ondrej Palat has 15 points. Valtteri Filppula has 12 points.

The Blackhawks have also produced. Patrick Kane has 10 goals and 10 assists. Defenseman Duncan Keith has 19 points with two goals and 17 assists. Jonathan Toews has 18 points. Marian Hossa has 13 points, while Patrick Sharp has 12 points. Former Bolt Brad Richards has 11 points, while Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw each have 10 points.

On defense, Keith has been exceptional with his play, not only with his 19 points, but also with his plus-14 plus/minus rating. Victor Hedman has been very solid on defensive end for the Bolts as well, and he has 10 points and has a plus-10 rating.

The Lightning have seen the "Triplets" line doing most of the damage for the team in the offensive zone this postseason. Between Johnson, Kucherov and Palat, the three have combined for 55 points in the playoffs.  That being said, they were shut out in Game 1. The Triplets need to make some noise on Saturday night in terms of points.

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The Filppula line, with Stamkos and Killorn, has also been very effective this postseason, with 46 points between the trio. But it also would help if another forward on the Lightning's third or fourth line like Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Cedric Paquette or J.T Brown had a big goal.

Those four players have only produced eight points between them. That's what the Blackhawks' role players did on Wednesday night, as Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette each had a key goal on the third line of the Blackhawks. 

The Lightning learned an important lesson in defeat, as they lost a 1-0 lead in the third period by giving up two goals (to Teravainen and Vermette) in less than two minutes with about six-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.

Head coach John Cooper talked about why the game unfolded the way it did in his press conference Thursday with the media:

To be honest, a little bit of human nature might have taken over. Our goal was to keep playing the way we were playing and had played the first two periods. What had worked for us a little bit in the past, maybe we sat back and thought, "This is going to work for us again."

As I look back on the tape, we didn't give up a lot to them, but we gave up a lot of time of possession. Unfortunately it was the turnovers. Regardless if we didn't have the puck or not, if you're going to turn the puck over in that area, there's a good chance it's going to end up in the net. That was our big issue. Did we play a little bit in our end too much? There's no question we did. As these playoffs have gone on, it's just another learning experience after another learning experience. We found out if we're going to play passive in the third period against Chicago, it may not work out too well for us. We're confident in our defensive abilities. We've shown it in the playoffs. A good team got the better of us last night. We just got to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Cooper has all the confidence in the world that his Bolts will bounce back:

We just played Mike Babcock and the storied Detroit Red Wings. We just played the Montreal Canadiens. Enough said. We just played the New York Rangers and beat them in their building.

This team, as you said, we respect everybody. There is no fear in the room. Especially after playing last night's game where you are feeling out your opponent a little bit.

We didn't come here to come in second. We came here to win this.

Cooper has won a championship at every level he has coached at in hockey. He's won with the St. Louis Bandits (NAHL), the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) and the Norfolk Admirals (AHL).

A number of players on the current Lightning played under Cooper at Norfolk when the team won the Calder Cup. This would include Johnson, Palat, Killorn and defenseman Mark Barberio.

Cooper has also coached his current team to three series victories in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. One series went six games (Montreal Canadiens), while the other two (Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers) went seven games.

Between those matchups and the one game against the Blackhawks, Cooper has seen the Lightning play 21 playoff games this postseason.

He has seen the team bounce back, time and time again.

As Cooper said, "As these playoffs have gone on, it's just another learning experience after another learning experience."

We will find out Saturday night how well Cooper has prepared his team after the painful lessons learned from Game 1.

If recent history is any gauge, expect to see a very good effort by the Bolts.

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