Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

After practice ahead of Game 4 of the first-round series between the Maple Leafs and Lightning, Tampa head coach Jon Cooper discussed Andrei Vasilevskiy letting 11 past him in three games, the upcoming test of his team’s consistent ability to avoid back-to-back playoff losses in Game 4, and whether solving Jack Campbell is a concern for his group.

Practice Lines – May 7

Note: Just a rest day for Nikita Kucherov.

Coming off of the Game 3 loss, is it now about tapping back into whatever it is that has allowed your team to avoid back-to-back losses in the playoffs?

Cooper: We have a recipe. We have a plan. We have been in these situations a plethora of times in the last couple of years. Is it a guarantee we are going to win tomorrow? No, but I always believe it is our urgency to start games. If we have with us, and let’s be honest, we can’t spend 10 of the first 40 minutes in the penalty box…

We have a ton of faith in the veteran group here. I expect a bounce back. I can’t sit here and guarantee what is going to happen, but we’ll bounce back.

We can’t go back and fix what happened last night. They beat us. Tip your hat to them. Now let’s move ahead. Don’t look through the rearview mirror. That’s not our style.

What can you do to make Jack Campbell’s life a little more uncomfortable?

Cooper: It is what you do to any goalie. It is not just Campbell. I mean, we have scored seven goals on him in the last two games. If we are going to sit here and have a 3.5 goals-against average in every two-game set, we’ll take that.

Has he made some saves? Sure he has. Have we beaten him? We have. There is always a misnomer out there that it is the number of goals you score. It is the number you prevent. That is where we have to be looking.

Goal scoring against these guys — that is not a worry to me.

Are you worried about how all of the penalties against might affect how players play?

Cooper: They’re fine. We are comfortable playing the way we’re playing. There is so much disruption, and there is a little uncertainty about the way games are being reffed. I am not saying it is bad, but there is probably a little uncertainty about what the players can and can’t do, which is probably unfortunate. You have to fight through that.

There is a lot of our game that we like. The Leafs — give them credit — have taken advantage of situations we have given to them probably at a bigger rate than normal. Normally, you can get away with some things — the goalie makes a save, or whatever happens — but we have given up some juicy ones. They have capitalized.

Guys have made plays on their team a couple more than we have. We just can’t give them the chances that we are giving them.

Has anyone else from the league talked to you about this with the officiating?  Were you warned about this?

Cooper: No. It is interesting. I watched that Pittsburgh-Rangers Game 1. How did that go? Deep into triple OT? When was the last penalty? A 5-on-3 in the second period — not the second OT period, the second regulation period. How does that game not get a call for five-and-a-half periods, but a lot of these other teams…

I don’t know. I don’t know what is going on. As I said, I can’t sit here and disagree with a lot of the calls the refs made. I think the players have to be a bit smarter moving forward here. It is not that. It is disruptive when you have tons of special teams — more so, it feels like, in the playoffs than the regular season.

With 11 goals against on Andrei Vasilevskiy, what gives you faith he will get back to being himself?

Cooper: I believe we have the best goalie in the world in the net, but the looks we have given him…  It is not, in my mind, a ton of great looks, but we are giving them phenomenal looks — open-net tap-ins.

Your goaltender can only be asked to do so much. The guys have to play in front of him. I look at our goaltender, and it is 3-1 last night. The leading goal scorer goes down on the breakaway. He stops that, then stops the rebound, and gives us a chance to come back in the game, which we almost did. That is a big-time goalie there.

If that goes it, at 4-1, we are probably out to lunch. He makes that save. That is why he is the best.

Are you considering any lineup changes for tomorrow’s game?

Cooper: Uh, no.