TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are just 5-5 at home in the playoffs -- including four games that they've lost by four goals. They have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup final, and they're going to have to take advantage of it.
Tampa Bay is 7-3 on the road in the postseason, including its Game Seven win at Madison Square Garden that wrapped up the Eastern Conference final.
It's a weird turnaround for a Tampa team that was 32-8-1 at home during the regular season for the best record in the league but had an 18-16-7 road mark that was the worst among all playoff teams.
"It's hard to explain because we won 32 games at home and got a little bit maligned for being the team in the playoffs with the worst road record," coach Jon Cooper said after today's optional morning skate. "As it turns out, if it wasn't for our road play, we wouldn't be sitting here."
"We don't have to worry about getting a quick start," said captain Steven Stamkos. "That's been our Achilles heel at home. Not panicking but not sticking to the structure if things don't go well early in the game. It seems on the road we're OK with it being a 0-0 game or one-goal game. We take that on the road. ... It doesn't need to be a show just because we're at home. We just have to find a way to win."
Being fine with a tighter approach is exactly what Cooper talked about for his team, which led the league in goals during the season."
"I don't know if we take a more workmanlike approach to road games. We understand 0-0 is fine with us going into the third," he said. "We'll take a chances with our group. ... Sometimes at home, especially against the Rangers, we've had that thing where we fell behind early and just tried to chase the game. Do we get caught up in our atmosphere and the crowd and everything that's going on? We might. We've been a pretty free-wheeling group when we've been home."
"Our road games, we've been much more patient," Cooper said. "Hopefully we'll have success doing that here or Chicago is going to light us up.
Stamkos said the start won't be judged by scoring but simply by how quick the Lightning are comfortably into the game.
"Let's just get our first shift out of the way," he said. "There will be some nervous energy. It's the same game after that. We've been able to realize that throughout the playoffs."
Cooper talked at length about the matchup problems posted by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and how everyone on his team needs to be aware of them at all times.
But then Cooper added his punchline: "They'll probably see a high dose of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman."