On the one hand, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the NHL history record with 62 wins last season. On the other hand, it was swiftly swept in four games in the first round of the playoffs.
With a group whose core has essentially remained intact, we can ask in what state of mind we approach the season.
It's visibly lucid, is not it, Ryan McDonagh?
"You have to change things, because in the end it did not work. Yes, we had an excellent season, but a great season does not guarantee anything when important games come. If we arrive with the same approach that did not work last season, this is the first step towards failure. "
Intensity on the menu
To add to the need to change things, the Lightning does not start at the height of expectations. The team is 2-2-1. One of the three losses was suffered by the Ottawa Senators, who are not exactly a powerhouse this season.
After giving his men away on Sunday, head coach Jon Cooper organized a very intense training session yesterday at the Bell Center, including a two-on-two restricted-space exercise.
"It's hard to completely change our identity, because we were successful last year," said Cooper. The season has not finished in the desired way, so we have to add things to be stronger, more competitive. But it's done everyday. We had it against Toronto last Thursday, but we did not have it two days later (in Ottawa). "
This defeat in Ottawa seemed to have left a particularly bitter taste. "We needed a bit of work against the Senators, so we worked on that today (yesterday). We skated a lot, "said striker Mathieu Joseph.
No doubt: expectations remain high for the Lightning. After all, the team includes the latest Hart and Art-Ross Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Victor Hedman, the Norris Trophy year after year winner. The eldest of this elite trio, Hedman, is only 28 years old …
But Joseph shines when we talk about expectations.
"That's you, the high expectations! It is in our team that we have expectations, launched the Quebecois. We do not rely on what is said outside on Twitter. Yes, we want to win games, but we want to win in the right way.
"Last year we had 62 wins, including maybe 10 in overtime, that could have gone both ways (13 in overtime or shootout). There are 5 to 10 more wins that should not have been won. We want to win the right way, it requires adjustments and maybe that's why we play for, 500. "
In defense of the Lightning, the NHL has not served a very favorable schedule. First, there is this incongruity: the last three preparatory matches AND the first two games of the season were against the Florida Panthers. In addition, after opening the season at home, the team went on the road for six games. Tonight will be the fifth of six games.