The St. Louis Blues prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time this season. Winning will be just as difficult as the first time due to the coach.
The St. Louis Blues are prepping to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning this weekend. It is going to be a tough task to get a win, for many reasons.
One of the biggest reasons it is tough is the coach of the Ligntning, Jon Cooper. Cooper’s rise to stardom had some beginnings in St. Louis.
One of his first coaching gigs was in the NAHL with the St. Louis Bandits. Then, he started to move up the ranks quickly after winning the Robertson Cup in the team’s first and second season in St. Louis.
It was those teams that make me believe Cooper is the one to lead this current Tampa team to a Stanley Cup and make them especially hard to beat, even at the end of the season.
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The reason is he has become a master of not letting his teams off the hook. Countless teams in countless sports have been able to run away with the regular season in their leagues and then they get bored and fall off a step or two. Not so with Cooper.
It started with the Bandits. His team won 43 games in 2006-07 and then 47 in 2007-08. In 07-08, they only lost nine games in regulation.
He carried that constant, persistent mentality through the USHL and AHL. The Green Bay Gamblers averaged 42 wins while he was there.
Cooper led the Norfolk Admirals to a 28-game win streak and a championship and then did the same with a different crew when Tampa’s affiliation switched to Syracuse. No record win streak this time, but a title followed.
The reason is Cooper gets his guys to buy into a mentality that every game is its own challenge. That is rare, especially in pro sports where it is so much longer and a grind and usually filled with the knowledge that you can take a night off here or there due to your contract status. If/when you get that kind of buy in, though, you get record setting performances and Cooper has done that everywhere.
While juniors do not compare directly to the NHL, you are dealing with kids. Kids have short attention spans. Their focus might be on school or girls or having a fight with their parents or whatever. Cooper managed to keep that Bandits team laser focused the entire way and has managed to do the same with the Lightning.
Pat Maroon would know. He played for Cooper with the Bandits in both Texarkana and St. Louis. He knows how good Cooper can make guys.
Sure, Tampa has lost a few games here or there. That happens in pro sports. You’ll never see an unbeaten season in the NHL.
Only losing 13 games through 90% of the season is damn close though. Of course, you have to have great players, which Tampa By does, but Cooper deserves a lot of the credit.
So, the Blues have to go into this game knowing they are in for a fight, literally and figuratively. They are not going to see a team come in, just looking to take the ice and get out of St. Louis as soon as possible.
Maybe the records are set and Tampa Bay has clinched all that they can before the playoffs even begin. Cooper is not going to let them sit back though. He’s not going to rest his entire team. The Blues won’t face a squad of healthy scratches and AHL guys.
They are going to get the best the Lightning have to offer and that can be scary. Cooper has not let this team fall into bad habits and he won’t start now.
The good thing is the Blues have already proven they can beat Tampa Bay. It was a tight, 1-0 win and the Bolts were not at their ultimate best, but it is a win. Psychologically, that can have a boost for the Blues and they will need it.
Cooper is going to have his team ready. It is up to Craig Berbue and his guys to do the same.