After practice ahead of Game 2 of the first-round series between the Maple Leafs and Lightning, Tampa head coach Jon Cooper discussed his team’s disappointing Game 1 effort, the lack of 5v5 play in the first game of the series, and his team’s adjustments for Game 2.
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What was the mood in the room today coming off of last night?
Cooper: The mood today is much different than it was last night. You build on things you have in the past. Last night was ugly. Let’s make no bones about it, but this isn’t the first time that we have lost a Game 1 and won the series. It is not ideal, but it is not like it is uncharted water, either.
What has your group done to re-center itself historically in these moments?
Cooper: It is the classic, “You’ve got to turn the page.” Learn from what we did last night — or didn’t do — and move on.
It is different than during the regular season. You are on a plane to Ottawa or Montreal or something. It is more routine. In playoffs, it is one team. You dive in a little bit more. We have had a feel for what this is going to be with the building and the players.
We have to dig in a little bit deeper. It was way too easy of a night for their goaltender. We are a proud group. I am not worried about these guys.
What did you make of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s performance? What do you expect out of him tomorrow?
Cooper: One goalie actually had to work. The other goalie didn’t have to work that hard. The number looks bad, but let’s be honest. Marner’s was an open net on a bad sort by us. Kampf’s was a breakaway.
Let’s look at the other things he did. He stopped Nylander on a breakaway. Go through it down the list.
Vasi is the man. There is no other guy I want back there than him. If we didn’t have him in the net, it was probably going to be a lot worse last night.
When you have lost games in past playoffs, a lot were 2-1 sort of games. You didn’t really lose a game like you did last night.
Cooper: If I was going to dissect the game with the way it played out, first of all, the number of power plays in the first two periods is kind of unheard of with what happened. If you took just the five-on-five play, did either team get to flex their muscle a bit? Not really.
You can sit here and say that Tampa didn’t generate too much. I am not so sure Toronto generated a ton, either. Maybe the score had something to do with it with how the game plays out, but let’s call it what it was. We gave up a shortie. Just on the power play alone, we got out-chanced. To me, that is an aberration — or I hope it is, anyway.
We didn’t take advantage of a situation that was presented to us. Toronto did. Good on them.
It was a weird game last night, so I don’t know. I am looking forward to tomorrow.
How do you address the balance of adjusting to what the opponent did and trusting the things you do best?
Cooper: In part, it is both. You have trained your team all year to play a certain way. You better do it to the best of your ability. Yes, do other teams have tendencies, and do you get to know them much better when you play a team night in and night out? You do. In the end, our philosophy has been to focus on us.
Yes, we are playing another team. Yes, Toronto took advantage of mistakes, but they were our mistakes. I know we didn’t score and any of that stuff, but boy, did we make it an easy night for them. Maybe if we changed our game to more of what our identity is, it’s a different result.
What did you think of Cal Foote’s first playoff game?
Cooper: Cal Foote was probably our best defenseman last night. He did well.
What is the biggest challenge that the Leafs‘ penalty kill presents?
Cooper: The Leafs, if you go through it, are here for a reason. Their special teams are top 10. Their five-on-five metrics are top 10. They are a hell of a team. You just can’t feed them. We fed them last night.
We were probably a little lazy in some areas. I think we hoped for some plays instead of working for some plays. I said it last night. When you are rolling the way our power play has been for a while, when you turn around, you are expecting to go to center ice — not to chase a breakaway down.
We let some bad habits creep in. There were probably a few lazy moments on our part. It is stuff we can’t continue or it is going to be a short series. I don’t expect that.
One thing Ryan McDonagh noted was that there were too many odd-man rushes and breakaways against, and the team needs to tighten defensively and build offense off of that. How much do you work on that?
Cooper: When you are looking at the odd-mans, though, at five on five, it was something like 2-2. It was chance after chance after chance when they had four guys on the ice and we had five. That is unacceptable.