Jon Cooper critical of Lightning’s execution in season opener

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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper wants the team to have better execution of the things they spent the offseason working, saying it has to be more consistent than what they showed in the season opener Saturday night.

INTERVIEWER: --one game. But I'm sure if you look at film afterwards, you probably pick up things that you didn't see before, kind of realize. Anything that struck you after watching game one again? Could be positive, or--

JON COOPER: Just a lot of things we've been preaching, a lot of things we've done in the preseason. Especially in our practices, we just-- we didn't execute the games. Execution was a huge one. We just-- I don't have the answer for it because I know we're a much better team than what we showed early on in that game. But we reeled it in, as I said in the second period. But it's just, it's some of those core habits that you need to have instilled that helps you win games in the regular season. And we were just inconsistent on them. So we've just got to keep working on that.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that's a product of, you know, opening night jitters? Even for a veteran team like you guys have, this still [INAUDIBLE]?

JON COOPER: I don't know. It happens when-- You know, the frustrating part was the actual, like, the lack of execution. Just the simple tape to tape pass, the passes and the skates, and they just slowed us down. And give Florida credit, they came inspired and ready to play. But as I said, I really liked our answer. We answered, you know, in the second period. And, you know, penalties took over a little bit in the third. But in the end, you're down a goal at home. Going in third period, you pull out a win. That's a good sign.

INTERVIEWER: Penalty kill didn't work well in this small sample size. But--


INTERVIEWER: --what are you hoping you guys keep doing from what you saw? And kind of--

JON COOPER: Well, a little bit of pressure down ice. I like that. They seemed to-- you know, they were getting in with a little bit of irregularity. We've got to work on that, but then again, you've got to look at the names on the back of the jerseys there. They're some pretty good players.

So when you give up five power plays, you know, I like the way it was early, and a little late, we were starting to get some chances. But we've just got to stick with it. And when the guys start getting a little bit more familiar with how we're going to play down there, I think it's going to get better. But anytime you-- you know-- you can pull the team off the score board with five power plays, you did a pretty good job.

INTERVIEWER: You said during camp that Johnson's kind of positioned to be that kind of a gray area until you figured out how you guys played and everything like that. I know he's on the wing today, I guess, but how do you kind of envision kind of him where he-- because you can play both, but the way you guys are built--

JON COOPER: Just-- he's a-- one of the top players in our team. And we're going to fit him in when-- which gives our team success and him success. Sometimes on the wing, sometimes it's center. Eventually, would I'd like him to be playing in the middle a little more regularly? I would. But in saying that, like, he understands, you know, the positions we're putting him in. He's going to be-- his good chance is going to be in the power play and the penalty kill and playing all sorts of situations.

So he's one of those kids that's just, put me in, coach. Let me know where I'm going. I'll do it for you. We've just got to play him to his strengths. And he had some success [INAUDIBLE] with us last year. And so we'll take a look a little bit now.

INTERVIEWER: [INAUDIBLE] can't be OK for Thursday? I know you've got him--

JON COOPER: Yeah, he's-- it's just got a little injury there in his hand. So that's-- it's nothing long term, which is-- it's tough. You know, it's-- if you saw what happened, you'd--


JON COOPER: --yeah. Like I would-- he's pretty lucky it was only this. So he should be OK.