The Tampa Bay Lightning keep falling further down the rabbit hole.
The team dropped to 3-8-2 since January 1st with a 5-2 home loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.
After the game head coach Jon Cooper waxed philosophical. "It's a long year," he said. "It's 82 games, it's ups and downs. When things are going awry a little bit you can't take your focus off the team... we're just a little off-center. It's not going to last forever, but let it be a lesson for myself and everybody. What led to these occurrences? And how now can we try and fix that? That's what were in the process of [doing] now."
Tampa drops to 22-24-6, eight points out of the last Wild Card spot in the East. "I think there's a little bit of, they are just waiting for something bad to happen," Cooper added. "And that's the part they have to get over. One thing I know about the group, is that it's a proud, proud group. And there's a reason we've won in the past--for whatever reason it's not happening for us now."
Erik Karlsson had three assists and Mark Stone scored twice to help the Ottawa Senators earn the win and improve their record to 27-16-6). Defense and goaltending have been big issues for the Bolts this season. With Andrei Vasilevskiy in the nets, the bad luck continued on Thursday. The 22-year-old falls to 11-12-3 with a 2.84 GAA and a .909 Save Percentage. It has been a tough month for Tampa's goalie tandem, to say the least.
Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman says that the team is already in playoff mode: "We are in the playoffs right now," he said. "We're in a dogfight. We have to try and figure out a way to win every night regardless of what happened in the previous game."Bish and Vasilevskiy since Jan 1. Tough times. pic.twitter.com/OXLbe1u01q— Chris Oddo (@thesaucerpass) February 3, 2017
It's not clear how the Lightning are going to play the trade deadline. They still seem to believe that they have a shot to make the playoffs, and in today's age of parity, a playoff berth means a shot at the Cup. So they probably aren't a pure seller regardless of their spot in the standings. But will they buy? Yzerman says he would make a deal if there was a fit for his team, but on the short-term and in the long-term. "We're trying to win," Yzerman said. "If I could do something that helped our team make a trade, that identified a need for us--not just for this year, but going forward--I would do that. I haven't been able to do that."