Tatar cites Game 7 loss as opportunity missed

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tomas Tatar – AGE: 25. CONTRACT: through 2017, $2.75 million. COMMENT: Another young player who never really took the next step in his development and offensive production that the Red Wings needed. Consistency has been an issue. VERDICT: Likely staying

Detroit — Tomas Tatar remembers the feeling from last season well, losing a tough seven-game series to Tampa Bay and watching the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

There was bitter disappointment, and the feeling of a lost opportunity.

“That last game especially, I thought we were the better team,” said Tatar, of the Game 7 2-0 loss to the Lightning that eliminated the Red Wings. “We just couldn’t find a way to score a goal. I was obviously a little more upset when they went all the way to Finals.”

And why’s that?

“Because it could have been us,” Tatar said. “But that’s hockey. You never know. You never know how the other series would have been for us. But the series last year was real good.

“I would take the same series this year but the only difference would be winning the last game.”

The chances of winning that last game, in the opinion of many people, have improved greatly because of Lightning injuries.

Forward Steven Stamkos, one of the elite goal-scorers in the NHL, and dependable defenseman Anton Stralman will not play this series.

The Lightning have a variety of other key players bothered with injuries, some of which, including forwards Ryan Callahan (lower body) and Tyler Johnson (upper body), aren’t certainties  to play in Game 1.

With the Lightning’ depth so badly affected, many analysts are predicting a Red Wings series victory.

But the Red Wings aren’t taking Tampa’s injuries as any sort of advantage.

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“You know you don’t have to game plan against those two guys (Stamkos, Stralman) but they’ll have two guys who are NHL players who’ll fill their roles,” forward Brad Richards said. “It might have a different look without Stammer there for the one-timer, but you have a guy like (Jonathan) Drouin who got called up and he scored, and he’a talented player, and there are other pieces there.”

Said Tatar: “We know they have some guys hurt, but we don’t want to look at that. We know we still have to do our job and beat the team. It (Tampa’s injuries) can help us but they have other guys who are good players as well.

“We have to do our job.”

Despite possessing two good offensive teams, last year’s series was generally a defensive-minded series with goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Tampa’s Ben Bishop basically starring.

“Everything was real tight,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We had them on the ropes but we let it go.”

Kronwall, one of the veteran leaders, doesn’t expect the Red Wings to become overconfident with the Lightning roster riddled with injuries.

“We have our hands full preparing for ourselves making sure we know the ins and outs of what we need to do,” Kronwall said. “It doesn’t matter who they put in the lineup, they have so much talent on that team, so much speed, they’ll be a real good team regardless.

“They have great goaltending. So, it’s just preparing ourselves as much as possible and focus on what we need to do.

“We’ll let your guys worry about the rest.”
Twitter: tkulfan