Odd-man rushes pull people out of their seats. They're fast and they lead to scoring chances. The Lightning's first few games have demonstrated exactly why – for the other team.
Ryan McDonagh pointed to the Lightning's passing and decision making as the issues in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Ottawa.
All four of the Senators' goals came on the rush (though the one against an empty net doesn't seem to count). In two of those situations, they had numbers.
"There's no doubt they can skate," McDonagh said. "They have speed and they force you to really anticipate your next play quick"
First, Ottawa caught the Lightning in a bad change. Bobby Ryan threw an outlet pass up to Brady Tkachuk, giving the Senators a three-on-two. Tkachuck beat Ryan McDonagh at the blue line, then fed the puck to Colin White, who roofed it over Curtis McElhinney's glove.
In the final minute of the second period, the Senators beat the Lightning in a two-on-four. While Vladislav Namestnikov took the puck up the ice, Jean-Gabriel Pageau flew up the center of the ice behind three Lightning players and posted up in front of the net. Namestnikov hit him with a pass and Pageau scored easily.
Namestnikov scored one of his own late in the third. The Senators chipped the puck out of the zone and Braydon Coburn lined up to play it, like waiting for a fly ball.
He bobbled the puck on the way down and Connor Brown picked it up, creating a two-on-one alongside Namestnikov. Brown slid the puck over to Namestnikov at the back door and the former Lightning player scored the winner.
"Little unlucky break on the game-winner there," coach Jon Cooper said. "Can't give them up, bottom line."
Cooper didn't think his team gave up a lot of rushes Saturday, just that the ones they did give up turned into goals.
That's similar to what he said after the season opener about most of the 37 shots the Lightning gave up weren't quality scoring chances, but the ones that were of quality were doozies.
Many of those doozies were odd-man rushes. This has been a recurring theme in the small sample size of five games so far this season.
Alex Killorn pointed out that many of those plays start in the offensive zone. There might be a turnover or someone who the Lightning have lost sight of.
"We're trying to get greedy, we're trying to score a goal," he said. "We have to realize that we have to take care of our own zone."
Possession in the offensive zone is the time to try to score goals, but the flow on the ice can change quickly, so players need to maintain an awareness of where the opponents are so they can get back quickly when they need to. It comes back to the defensive awareness that the Lightning have been talking about, but haven't consistently achieved.
Getting too fancy can lead to turnovers which lead to rushes which lead to goals.
The little mistakes the Lightning made the first couple of games were fixable, not something to worry about. But they can start to add up if the team isn't careful.