High-scoring Blues, Lightning look to curtail each other’s offense
TAMPA, Fla. — In the wide-open early stages of the NHL season, goals, shots and scoring chances are aplenty.
Both Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper and St. Louis coach Mike Yeo would like to see their respective teams cut down on those type of chances despite their early-season success in the win column.
The Lightning (3-1-0) are among the highest-scoring teams in the league to start the season, reaching the four-goal mark in each game to this point.
But Tampa Bay has also given up 3.75 goals per game, tied for seventh most in the league in the opening week. The Lightning are also allowing 37.5 shots per game, third most in the league, having permitted 40-or-more twice in the opening four games.
“There are still some areas we’d like to clean up,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who scored his first goal of the season Thursday against Pittsburgh. “Still too many goals against.”
While Cooper indicated after a 5-4 victory over the Penguins that he didn’t have many issues with how the team played, he knows the goals against must be cut down moving forward. But with how the team is playing to this point and the victories that are following, Cooper will continue to work with his team on clamping down defensively.
“I didn’t mind our game,” Cooper said after defeating Pittsburgh. “A majority of our chances that we gave up were given up on the power play, so 5-on-5 we’re doing fine.”
For Yeo and the Blues (4-1-0), who started the season with a four-game winning streak before falling at Florida on Thursday, they have had the same sort of trend in the opening five games of the season.
St. Louis enters Saturday allowing 37.2 shots per game, the fourth-highest average in the league. If not for the strong play of goaltenders Jake Allen and Carter Hutton, who have combined for a .939 save percentage, the Blues’ record might not be as strong. St. Louis has a goal differential of plus-2.
“We have to be sharper,” Yeo told The Athletic St. Louis after the loss to Florida.
The goaltending and offense had covered up many of those defensive breakdowns in the opening four games, but got the Blues exposed in the first loss of the season. The Panthers scored five goals while the Blues were unable to capitalize on their power play, which generated 17 shots on goal, as they close out a six-game road trip at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“For me, we’ve got a chance to have a really good trip or a so-so trip,” Yeo told the St. Louis Dispatch. “The next one is a big one. It’s always going to be about how we respond. We talk about missed chances, but we gave up five goals.”
The Blues, who remain without right wing Alex Steen at least through this game, made one roster move Friday. They sent rookie forward Tage Thompson to San Antonio of the American Hockey League and recalled forward Sammy Blais.