Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 02/18/11 at 11:32 AM ET
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman spoke Thursday morning about just wanting to get the game against his former club over with.
Without a doubt, after a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the visiting Detroit Red Wings, Yzerman’s Bolts are happy to move on.
While he has continually insisted that the showdown with the team for which he became an icon during his playing career was not a big deal, it had to at least be a little weird for Yzerman to see his Lightning facing his Wings.
Come to think of it, there was a little bit of weird for all involved throughout the evening, beginning with an ovation for Yzerman himself, shown briefly on the LightningVision scoreboard, that seemed almost like a “Thank you” from longtime Detroit fans and bested anything in recent memory from the home crowd in appreciation.
Journey may have fabricated “South Detroit” in their overplayed anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’” but it sure seemed like that was a very real location for last night’s game – and the temporary mailing address for the St. Pete Times Forum.
A formidable sea of red is expected any time Detroit is in town but last night’s crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Red Wings. It wasn’t completely unreasonable to expect the goal horn to blare each time the Wings scored – not with the roar of the crowd that came along with each tally. At one point, there was an audible chorus of boos toward a Lightning logo flashed on the screen that the home fans were not able to drown out.
But bizarro-world truly came to life when the octopi began hitting the ice. Yes, Detroit’s time-honored tradition of tossing dead mollusks onto the playing surface to celebrate Red Wing successes apparently travels well too, as three octopuses made their way to ice level on Thursday. [Note: In researching for today’s piece, it has become clear that both octopi and octopuses are acceptable plural forms of octopus. Learn something new every day…]
All in good fun, one must suppose. Until, that is, a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning ice crew did his best Al Sobotka impersonation when cleaning up one of the fallen cephalopods, picking it up from the ice and twirling it over his head as he skated off, much to the delight of the invading, already frenzied Red Wing portion of the crowd and incensing Lightning fans and fellow employees alike.
The team would not provide an official comment on the incident but it was clear that officials were none too pleased with the stunt. Almost certainly, the employee will be disciplined.
Having so many of the opposition’s fans in the building cannot be an excuse for the Lightning, naturally, and captain Vincent Lecavalier effectively shrugged it off post-game.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Lecavalier said, having played here his entire career, noting that, here in Florida, we see a similar turnout from fans from Philadelphia, New York, Montreal and so on regularly.
More importantly, both Lecavalier and head coach Guy Boucher expect the club to learn from a team that Boucher calls “The standard in our league.”
“I thought we played a pretty good game but obviously that’s not good enough against Detroit,” said Lecavalier. “Our standards have to be even higher. We need to learn from this. “
Added Boucher, “We just got beat by a better team than us. This is the best team in the league – the most experienced.”
“We want to get this team to that level. We don’t know when it’s going to happen but, certainly, we’ve made giant leaps being where we are right now.”
The loss very well can be an impactful learning tool for the Bolts, who can start with taking a step or two toward Detroit’s level of composure, discipline and functionality as a unit, the latter something Lecavalier touched on specifically.
“They really play as a unit of five on the ice,” he said. “We started doing that in the second and we got our opportunities. We’ll learn from that.”
“Our goal is to get [to Detroit’s level] and get better.”
For all of the success that Tampa Bay has had this season (none of which should be discounted, of course), Thursday night was a small taste of humble pie and a reminder that reaching that upper echelon – the Detroit standard, if you will – is still somewhere in the distance for the Lightning.
And that’s a lesson that is already abundantly clear to the head coach.
“We have a ways to go get to that level.”
With two months until the playoffs, a few steps in that direction, at least, would serve the Lightning quite well.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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