RALEIGH, N.C. — The math seems pretty simple: 100 percent of all shots not taken don’t go in the net.
The issue is not that bad for the Lightning, but it seems that way at times.
Through the first month of the season Tampa Bay ranks 29th in the league averaging 26.3 shots per game. That number is well below expectation level for head coach Jon Cooper and was a particular point of emphasis after Tuesday’s one-goal loss in New Jersey in which Tampa Bay finished with 17 shots on goal, with eight of those coming during a seven-minute spurt at the end of the second period.
“We have a game plan in place and sometimes it gets a little frustrating when we don’t execute our plan,’’ Cooper said. “We’ve pulled out games before when this has happened but you’re not going to pull them all out and you are just limiting your chances to win hockey games by continuing to enter a zone and turn the puck over or try to make too cute of the play.’’
Three times this season the Lightning have registered fewer than 20 shots in a game: Oct. 5 at Chicago, Oct. 14 vs Pittsburgh and Tuesday in New Jersey. And six times Tampa Bay has registered five or fewer shots in a period, including a shotless first period against Chicago and two periods Tuesday in which the Lightning only mustered four shots on goal.
Though Tampa Bay is among the top scoring teams in the league, ranked seventh at 3.17 goals per game, it’s flirting somewhat with danger by failing to generate more shots on goal, which theoretically should increase scoring chances and therefore increase offensive production.
“It seems pretty simple, right,’’ right wing Teddy Purcell said. “You’re not going to score a lot of goals on 20 shots ... so if we get into bad habits of not getting a lot of shots, it’s going to hurt us.
“So we have to get back to our mentality of getting 10 shots a period. That’s what we have to strive for. Sometimes we’re trying to make the perfect pass but sometimes the best plays are just to get the puck on net, retrieve it and get back on that again. That makes us harder to play against.’’
During the first 12 games of the season, and through an 8-4 record which sets a franchise record for wins in October, Tampa Bay has responded to nearly ever challenge put forth by the coaching staff. Whether it was improving the penalty kill, bearing down on the power play, improving power-play faceoffs or getting more goals from the defense, the call has been answered.
To this point, however, this is one issue that has not been resolved by the players and therefore still a work in progress.
“It’s just a mentality and it’s so easy to say, it’s tougher to do,’’ center Steven Stamkos said. “This is a tough league and teams are going to try to take away time and space and prevent good shots, but we have a lot of skill ... and sometimes guys are looking for each other to make those nice plays.
“Sometimes it is kind of dumbing the game down to get shots (and) if you look our percentage is not bad, but it should be a lot better. We should be creating more chances; it seems like we are scoring but not getting the timely ones or the momentum builders by generating shots and I think especially in that area we can improve for sure.’’