The Tampa Bay Lightning have been struggling to win games, with the biggest issue being their inability to play up to team standards. Nothing screams this more than their current four-game losing streak while being outscored 21 to 11.
Everything reached a boiling point after a second period which saw the Lightning give up three straight goals to a Buffalo Sabres team fighting to make the postseason, turning a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 deficit.
Coach Jon Cooper decided then to send a message to his team that their recent play wouldn’t cut it going forward. For the entire third period, he benched his top three players, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos.
When asked about the move postgame, he said those three were not giving it to the standard this franchise has set the past few years you can’t go out there, per Lightning beat writer Chris Krenn.
Now, don’t get his comments wrong. The whole team has been atrocious defensively. These players aren’t the only ones making mistakes. They were the only ones not giving 100 percent in this particular game.
Point, Kucherov, and Stamkos are leaders on this Lightning team. They will likely take this as a learning moment and answer the bell.
As for the rest of the team, this should serve as a reminder that coasting into the playoffs isn’t a recipe for success. If they choose to, there’s a good chance that they will be a healthy scratch or benched themselves.
Will the Lightning team get the message? They have a chance to start answering that tomorrow, with a 3 pm matinee game versus the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.