The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
Well NHL fans, we are roughly at the quarter-mark of the season (slightly past that actually… my bad). It has been very interesting to say the least. There have been quite a few surprises, but there is plenty of hockey left to be played. I wanted to take a moment to give you my humble opinions on some of the (potential) regular-season award winners at this point.
Tampa Bay Lightning
I’m going to overrule the St. Louis Blues and go with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although currently just one point ahead in the number-one spot in the league, they have been playing lights-out (pun intended) hockey. The revival of post-injury Steven Stamkos has rocked this team. The goal support coming from Nikita Kucherov has also been a pleasant surprise. These players lead the league in points and both have top spots in assists and goals respectively. If their goaltending remains strong and their offense can continue producing, there is no reason to doubt that they are capable of winning this award.
Hart Memorial Trophy
I was very close to arguing Sergei Bobrovsky, but most people would quit reading the article at that point. In all seriousness, if Stamkos continues his dominant play and the Lightning continue being one of the best teams in the league, he is destined to win this award for a pretty simple reason. This honor is intended to go to the most valuable player, meaning that without this player, the team would be completely different. With the absence of Stamkos for most of last season, the Lightning earned just 94 points and missed the playoffs entirely. In his return, they are on pace for 100+ points and a top finish in the league. Sure there were other changes to this team, but having Stamkos is one of the biggest.
This may be been the toughest choice so far. Do I think Boeser is the best first-year player this year? Honestly, I’m still not sure. The difference between Boeser and other rookies is that he is playing on a team with limited talent, so he gets the opportunity to shine. This is the same reason why I consider Clayton Keller and Alexander Kerfoot top candidates. At the end of the day, this specific award doesn’t go to the best first-year player, it goes to the one who displayed their talents in terms of statistics. When you’re buried on a 3rd or 4th line playing limited minutes, it is difficult to make a huge impact right away. While some rookies are still developing on their respective clubs, Vancouver has thrown Boeser into the fire and he has responded well. The Canucks are playing pretty good hockey right now and Boeser (11-11-22) has a big role in that success.
Alright, now it’s time to talk about Bobrovsky. The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently first in the powerhouse Metropolitan Division and the goaltending department is a key reason why. The offense is still working out the kinks and the special teams units have been struggling (most notably the power-play). Bobrovsky has the capability to win a game by himself and he has done so several times this season. He leads the NHL with a 1.92 GAA and a 0.935 SV%. Pair that with his league leading four shutouts and second-place 14 wins overall and you can see my case. He arguably owns both the save of the year and the runner-up to the save of the year as well. If Bobrovsky can continue his great play, he should repeat as the Vezina Trophy winner.
So who should I pick here? Brent Burns? No. Erik Karlsson? No. Alex Pietrangelo? Sure, why not? This is an interesting year in terms of defensive play. Many of the typical candidates for this award have struggled and may be on the outside looking in at the end of the season. Pietrangelo has taken the league by storm (although many people still don’t know who I’m talking about). In my opinion, this award winner must play both ends of the ice, meaning they have strong offensive and defensive play. Pietrangelo is leading defenseman in goals (7), tied for second in points (20), and also tied for second in the +/- category (11). While his isn’t the best pure defensemen, he has the best overall game, which should give him this award if he can continue his strong play.
Last, but not least, this is the part where I get to to discuss the unexplainable wonder that is the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Gallant was actually a finalist for this award with the Florida Panthers. Now in his first season behind the bench in Las Vegas, he has turned what should have been a train wreck into an incredible story. The question of if this story will continue will likely dictate if he is considered for this award once again. The Golden Knights are now 15-7-1 and still hold first place in the Pacific Division. Even if they falter and simply squeak into a playoff spot, one would imagine Gallant gets the nod here. Honestly, this will probably be a tossup along with New Jersey’s John Hynes and Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper, but anything can happen between now and the post-season.
NHL Insider for The Athletic and Editor-In-Chief for The Athletic Detroit, Craig Custance joined the show this week to discuss his new book Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches available on Amazon or wherever books are still sold. Custance and the Original Trio discussed his book, the Detroit Red Wings and who they’d pick as head coach of Team USA.
We’re only 13 days into the season, but today is already the second that features only one game on the schedule. Fortunately for us, it features two 4-1-0 clubs. Let’s get to Motown by 7:30 p.m. Eastern time for Tampa Bay at Detroit (SN1/TVAS)!
Tonight’s showdown between Atlantic Division rivals is a far bigger affair than many projected at the beginning of the season. It was simply assumed the Red Wings would already be in the Eastern Conference cellar and en route to an early pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but so far they’re holding their ground with the best of them. That being said, there are few offenses of the caliber of Tampa Bay’s, so this should be a good test for the Wings.
Since we haven’t featured the Lightning yet this season in the DtFR Game of the Day series, let’s tackle them first.
There are few teams in this league that score as well as the Bolts do, as they average four goals-per game to rank (t)fifth-best. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Head Coach Jon Cooper has F Alex Killorn (1-6-7 totals), RW Nikita Kucherov (5-3-8), F Brayden Point (3-5-8) and C Steven Stamkos (1-6-7) all at his disposal. With the help of two others, these four help to build one of the best top-two line combinations available in the league, meaning 3-0-0 G Jimmy Howard cannot lose his focus for a second without risking a Tampa goal.
In particular, Tampa has absolutely excelled on the power play, converting six-of-21 opportunities (28.6 percent) for the (t)fourth-best effort in the league. While Stamkos has yet to find his second goal of the season, he’s been a vital re-introduction to the special teams with his club-leading four power play points – including one man-advantage goal.
The major hole on this Lightning team is its defensive performance so far, though it’s hard to accurately measure given that opposing forwards are known to step up their game when facing an offense of the caliber of Tampa’s. So far this season, even though D Jake Dotchin has managed two blocks-per-game, the Bolts have allowed 35.8 shots against-per-game to reach 4-1-0 G Andrei Vasilevskiy, the fourth-worst mark in the NHL.
Fortunately, Vasilevskiy – a former first-rounder – is good at his job. Yet to cede the crease to G Peter Budaj, he’s managed a .911 save percentage and 3.2 GAA. Though he’s not exactly at the top of the list of goaltenders in the league right now, he’s doing just enough to ensure his offense can keep the game under control.
Tonight will be a good test for him, because the Wings have had no trouble finding the back of the net most nights. Led by D Mike Green and his eight assists, Detroit has managed 3.4 goals-per-game to rank 10th-best in the NHL.
But since Green doesn’t register an assist without somebody else scoring a goal, Vasilevskiy is going to have to keep an eye on W Martin Frk, W Anthony Mantha and F Henrik Zetterberg, as all three have three goals in their 2017-’18 accounts already.
I brought up Howard earlier, but we didn’t discuss how integral he’s been to this hot start by the Red Wings. Of all the goaltenders that have appeared in more than one game, his .955 save percentage is second-best in the league. If Howard can maintain that level of play, it’ll be interesting to see where his season can take him, especially given he’ll be an unrestricted free agent following the end of next campaign.
Until then, he’s the backbone of a very good penalty kill that could cause fits for Tampa’s special teams. So far this season, the Wings have only allowed two power play goals against in 23 opportunities for a 91.3 percent kill rate that ranks fourth-best in the NHL.
Though Detroit is not being favored by Vegas in this game (the Wings have a +100 associated with their name), I’m leaning towards Howard and co. taking this game. The Wings’ offense has been able to hold its own so far this season, and the Bolts are not the type of team to try to overwhelm a goaltender. Add in the fact that this game is taking place at Little Caesars Arena, and I think the red-and-white can pull this one out.
Though the New York Islanders tried their best, they could not find the upper hand against the Los Angeles Kings in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they fell 3-2 at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles never trailed in this contest, thanks in large part to Second Star of the Game C Anze Kopitar‘s (First Star D Drew Doughty and W Dustin Brown) snap shot with 7:16 remaining in the first period. With the help of the Kings’ defense, Los Angeles was able to take that lead into the first intermission.
F Josh Bailey (Third Star C Mathew Barzal and LW Andrew Ladd) pulled New York even 8:56 into the second frame with a backhanded shot to beat G Darcy Kuemper, but D Jake Muzzin‘s (D Oscar Fantenberg and F Tyler Toffoli) power play wrist shot 2:36 later returned the lead to the Kings’ hands. For the second straight period, Los Angeles’ defensive corps held the Islanders to only seven shots on goal to ensure they took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Shorthanded goals have a way of sucking any momentum out of the opposing team. That’s exactly what happened 5:44 into the third period, as Doughty (Kopitar) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on a shorthanded tip-in. Like many shorties do, the play started with the Kings in their defensive zone, but that all changed when Kopitar intercepted a pass from F Joshua Ho-Sang intended for D Johnny Boychuk at the far point. Kopitar tore down the far boards into his offensive zone before steering towards G Jaroslav Halak. But, instead of firing a shot at the goaltender, he centered a pass to the crashing Doughty, who beat the falling Halak five-hole to the far post.
C Casey Cizikas (RW Cal Clutterbuck and D Thomas Hickey) did manage to pull the Isles back within a goal with 5:40 remaining in regulation, but Kuemper did not let them get any further into their comeback plan after that.
Speaking of Kuemper, he earned his 1-0-0 record by saving 23-of-25 shots faced (.92 save percentage), leaving the loss to Halak, who saved 24-of-27 (.889).
A second-straight victory by the 8-4-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series has the visitors falling behind five points early in the season.
Offseason Analysis: Steve Yzerman is a man with a plan for the Tampa Bay Lightning– not just because he’s the general manager, but because he literally has to have a plan somewhere with how he’s been able to carefully navigate avoiding salary cap hell while managing to keep a solid, young, core group of players in town.
Nic Cage is already writing the script for the Disney movie.
The Lightning just missed out on a 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance as the Toronto Maple Leafs secured the final spot on the second-to-last day of the regular season in a comeback win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. While frustrating for some, skipping a year of the postseason might have been a blessing in disguise from the hockey gods.
Tampa’s plus-7 goal differential was the 2nd worst goal differential in the Atlantic Division. Not that goal differential means everything in terms of league standings, but Stamkos’s absence was felt in the drop in offensive production compared to the season prior (plus-26 goal differential in 2015-2016).
Chris Kunitz brings his four Stanley Cups (the most of any current active player) and his 29 points in 71 games last season with Pittsburgh to the Lightning after signing a 1-year, $2.000 million deal. The 37-year-old forward has been in decline since the 2013-2014 season, but provides stability as a top-9 forward on the left side for the Bolts.
Even for his expertise, Kunitz’s numbers won’t be enough to replace the biggest loss from this offseason *ahem, a certain trade involving the Monreal Canadiens*.
On the blue line Tampa added Dan Girardi, which gives the Bolts three defensemen who are at least 31-years-old, but thankfully all of them have two-years and modest salary remaining on their deals, while rookies and 2017 1st rounder, Callan Foote, look to crack the roster.
And to give credit where credit is due, Yzerman’s biggest loss this offseason might just be one of his biggest gains in the seasons to come.
Yes, the Lightning sent forward, Jonathan Drouin, and a conditional 2018 6th round pick to the Canadiens in exchange for 19-year-old– high caliber– defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 2nd round pick.
Drouin witnessed a 21-point improvement from his rookie year (32 points in 2014-2015) to last season, notching 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points in 73 games played. In just 21 games played the year prior, after a minor-league holdout and team suspension, Drouin had 4-6-10 totals.
While Kunitz enters on the downhill of his NHL-career and Drouin was traded, one cannot forget that 40-goal scorer Nikita Kucherov exists. Kucherov’s 85 points led the Lightning in scoring last season and look to be matched, if not improved, this year.
For the Canadiens, acquiring Drouin was necessary to replace the departed Alexander Radulov, however trading Sergachev– especially after trading Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo– weakened their blue line depth and increased their average age.
Drouin wasn’t the only forward traded away from Tampa, as Nikita Gusev found himself victim of the 2017 Expansion Draft, whereby the Lightning sent Gusev, a 2017 2nd round pick and a 2018 4th round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for future considerations (a.k.a. not selecting a certain player). Vegas claimed defenseman, Jason Garrison, as one of their own instead and the Bolts went on their way.
Finally, the post-Ben Bishop era Lightning that we got a glimpse of last season are exactly who we expect this season. Andrei Vasilevskiy returns as the starting goaltender with Peter Budaj as his backup according to Yzerman and Jon Cooper’s master plan for getting Tampa back into the playoffs and maybe– just maybe– back into the Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, this meant that NHL-ready backup, Kristers Gudlevskis fell victim to being too good to sit lower in the depth chart, stopping pucks for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. The Lightning traded Gudlevskis to the New York Islanders this offseason and received forward, Carter Verhaeghe, in return.
Offseason Grade: C+
For what they had to address (re-sign everyone that you can and do nothing), Tampa had an average offseason. They added guys who replaced expendable parts (like most teams these days, shelling out one or two-year contracts) and they might have shot themselves in the foot in the immediate fallout of the Drouin trade. But like anything, only time will tell.
A “C+” here doesn’t reflect that they’ll be a bad team– they’ll be a playoff team in 2018– it merely reflects that they were smart this offseason and didn’t overspend, overcompensate in trading or have a lack of transactions.
Well, Evgeni Malkin made true on his words— there will be a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Sidney Crosby’s 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved to be the game-winner for the Pittsburgh Penguins after a third period surge by the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Pittsburgh walked out of Amalie Arena on Tuesday night in Game 6 with a 5-2 win.
Matt Murray was in net for the Penguins after some speculation over whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury would return to the goal after his Game 5 flub in a 4-3 overtime comeback for Tampa on Sunday. Instead, it was Murray in goal for the Pens, staving off elimination for at least one more game day. Tuesday night was the first time this postseason that Pittsburgh was facing elimination.
Murray made 28 saves on 30 shots on goal for a .933 SV% in the 60 minute effort, while Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with just 29 saves on 33 shots faced for a .879 SV% in the loss.
After an overturned goal early into the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell out of rhythm and the Pittsburgh Penguins settled in for an eventual 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Here’s how it happened.
Lightning fans in attendance jumped from their seats as Jonathan Drouin thought he had scored on a beautiful rebound from Matt Murray into the wide open net vacated by an out of position Penguins goaltender (Murray). But with 14:48 to go in the first period, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, used his only coach’s challenge of the night to review the goal and see if the play entering the zone was offside.
As Tampa entered the zone, Drouin had lifted his left leg, which was trailing his already-in-the-offensive-zone- right leg as the puck just barely crossed the blue line, thereby making Drouin offside. Multiple angles confirmed it and the call on the ice was overturned. The Lightning were offside and had not scored as a result. Play resumed, scoreless.
Drouin’s overturned goal was the 8th overturned goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Evgeni Malkin added fuel to his own fiery passion for the game upon a retaliation infraction at 14:20 of the first period. Malkin received a two-minute minor penalty for slashing Tampa Bay captain, Ryan Callahan, and gave the Lightning their first power play of the night. The Bolts were unable to capitalize on the man advantage and the Penguins escaped a bad situation with one of their top forwards in the box with no harm.
Two penalties in a span of 41 seconds doomed the Lightning on their penalty kill unit’s first appearance of the night. Anton Stralman was called for interference on a subjectively early/on time hit, depending who you ask, on Tom Kuhnhackl at 17:09 of the 1st and Victor Hedman was called for delay of game for sending the puck over the glass at 17:50 of the 1st period. With Tampa’s top defensive pair (Stralman and Hedman) in the box, Pittsburgh went to work on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity.
Phil Kessel hacked at a flubbed pass from Sidney Crosby and ended up putting the puck at the back of the net for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Crosby (9) and Malkin (9) picked up the assists on the power play goal at 18:46 of the period.
With the goal, the Lightning gained a man back on the penalty kill and were able to escape the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage for Pittsburgh unscathed.
After twenty minutes of play, the Penguins led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 14-4 in shots on goal, continuing their trend of outshooting the Lightning, as they entered Game 6 with a 196-131 shots on goal advantage over Tampa. The Bolts led in hits (7-6), faceoff wins (16-4), giveaways (7-3) and blocked shots (6-4), meanwhile Pittsburgh went 1/2 on the man advantage in the first and the Lightning went 0/1.
Tampa started the second period with an extra jump in their step that they quickly lost and found themselves trailing the Penguins all over the ice.
Kris Letang made it a 2-0 game with his 2nd goal of the playoffs scored on a nice wrist shot with a Penguin screening Vasilevskiy in front of the net. Conor Sheary (5) and Nick Bonino (12) notched the primary and secondary assists on Letang’s goal at 7:40 of the 2nd period.
Ondrej Palat slashed Carl Hagelin just past halfway in the second period and received a minor penalty, which put Pittsburgh on the power play at 10:06 of the period. The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage and the Lightning were successful on the penalty kill without committing too many turnovers.
With 25.6 seconds left in the period, Sidney Crosby made it a 3-0 game with his 6th goal of the playoffs on a wicked impressive wrist shot that beat Vasilevskiy. The lone assist went to Patric Hornqvist and was his 4th assist of the postseason.
Forty minutes were in the books and the Penguins looked all but sure to have the game easily wrapped up by the second intermission, but Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle had other plans in mind, at least in terms of entertainment value for the Lightning fans that packed Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.
Five and a half minutes into the third period, Boyle fired a shot that bounced off a Pittsburgh skater and wound its way behind Murray to get Tampa on the board and cut the Penguins lead to two. The goal was Boyle’s 4th of the postseason and made it 3-1.
Trailing by two, the Lightning drummed up several more quality chances before finally breaking through Murray’s brick wall with another goal from Boyle. His 5th of the playoffs, Boyle’s second goal of the night was assisted by Slater Koekkoek (1) and Jonathan Drouin (9) at 12:43 of the 3rd period. Plenty of time left for Tampa to make things interesting.
But nearly five minutes after Brian Boyle earned his 1st career multi-goal playoff game, Bryan Rust skated in on Vasilevskiy on a costly breakaway.
With a deke and a forehanded shot that slid past Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, Rust scored his 3rd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and put the Penguins back up by two. Chris Kunitz (5) and Olli Maatta (3) were credited with the assists on Rust’s goal at 17:52 of the third period in what was now a 4-2 game.
Neither team committed a penalty in the third period and both teams swapped a couple of chances before Jon Cooper had to make the call to pull Vasilevskiy in favor of an extra attacker with about 75 seconds left in the game.
Bonino promptly tallied an empty net goal for Pittsburgh at 19:06 of the third period and made it an unreachable three-goal lead. His 3rd of the playoffs, Bonino’s goal made it 5-2 and was assisted by Ben Lovejoy (2).
With the win, road teams improved to 42-41 this postseason. In the entire 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, road teams were 38-51. Pittsburgh improved to 47-1 when leading after two periods this season (regular and postseason combined). Their only loss came in Game 5 to the Lightning.
The Penguins last rallied from a 3-2 series deficit in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Having forced a Game 7 for Thursday night, the Penguins have a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009. Tampa is looking to go to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, having lost in last year’s Stanley Cup Final run to the defending champion, Chicago Blackhawks.
The Lightning also defeated the New York Rangers on the road in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, for the record.
Pittsburgh and Tampa have faced each other in a Game 7 only one other time in Stanley Cup Playoff history. They met each other in the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and the series came down to a 1-0 victory for the Lightning in Game 7 on the road at CONSOL Energy Center.
Some final stats from Game 6…
The Penguins led in shots on goal (34-30) and blocked shots (15-8), while the Lightning dominated in hits (26-18), faceoff wins (39-31), giveaways (17-7) and takeaways (8-6). Pittsburgh finished the night 1/3 on the power play and Tampa ended Tuesday’s action 0/1 on the man advantage.
The Lightning were still without Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos and it is unclear whether or not either one of them, if not both, may return for Game 7 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh at CONSOL Energy Center.
Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8 PM ET and the game can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.
The New York Islanders defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Thomas Greiss made 33 saves on 36 shots against for a .917 SV% in the win, while Ben Bishop made 9 saves on 13 shots faced and was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy with a .692 SV% on the night. Vasilevskiy made 8 saves on 8 shots faced in 29:40 TOI in the loss.
Josh Bailey was out of the lineup for the Islanders on Wednesday night after leaving Game 6 versus the Florida Panthers with an upper body injury. With Bailey out, Ryan Strome was inserted into the lineup for New York.
Ondrej Palat opened up the scoring in the first period for Tampa a little over three minutes into the opening frame. Palat’s goal was his 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Jonathan Drouin (5) and Vladislav Namestnikov (1) and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Travis Hamonic answered back in a hurry at 5:44 of the first period with a goal of his own for New York. Hamonic’s first goal of the postseason was assisted by Alan Quine (3) and John Tavares (5) and tied the game at 1 for the Islanders.
Both teams settled into a little rhythm after swapping goals early in the first. Lightning forward, Tyler Johnson received a minor penalty for hooking New York forward, Cal Clutterbuck, at 9:06 of the first period. The Islanders were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night. They subsequently failed on their next power play opportunity when Alex Killorn went to the box for kneeing Calvin de Haan. Actually, Killorn’s penalty was served by Jonathan Drouin, but anyway…
At 17:28 of the first period, Shane Prince potted one at the back of the net. Ryan Strome (2) and Brock Nelson (3) assisted on Prince’s 2nd goal of the postseaon. A little more than two minutes later, Prince, Strome and Nelson connected for another Islanders goal to give New York a 3-1 lead. The goal was Prince’s second goal of the game and his 3rd of the postseason. Strome picked up his 3rd assist of the playoffs and Nelson picked up his 4th assist of the postseason.
After twenty minutes of play, the Islanders were leading 3-1 and led in shots on goal (12-8), faceoff wins (10-9) and takeaways (3-2). The Lightning led in hits (18-12), giveaways (5-3) and blocked shots (6-3). New York went 0/2 on the power play, while Tampa had yet to see time on the power play entering the first intermission.
Marek Zidlicky served a minor penalty for interference 2:21 into the 2nd period, which gave Tampa their first power play of the night. The Lightning were unsuccessful on the man advantage.
Jonathan Marchessault hooked John Tavares at 8:12 of the 2nd period, resulting in an Islanders power play.
47 seconds into the man advantage Tavares made the Lightning pay with his 6th goal of the 2016 playoffs on the power play at 8:59 of the 2nd. Kyle Okposo (6) and Frans Nielsen (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 4-1, Islanders.
Tampa Bay head coach, Jon Cooper, replaced his starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, with Andrei Vasilevskiy after the Tavares power play goal.
Ryan Callahan took a holding penalty with under three minutes left in the second period. New York was unable to convert on the ensuing power play. After forty minutes of play, the Islanders had a commanding 4-1 lead over the Lightning, despite trailing in shots on goal (19-17), hits (22-19) and blocked shots (8-6).
Nikita Kucherov kicked things off in the third period for the Lightning with his 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:41 of the period. Kucherov’s goal was assisted by Mathieu Carle (2) and Victor Hedman (2) and cut the Islanders lead to two.
The final penalty of the night was called at 15:20 of the 3rd period, when Casey Cizikas sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor. Eight seconds after the conclusion of the power play, Tampa scored to trail by one. The goal was Valtteri Filppula’s first of the playoffs and was assisted by Killorn (3) and Jason Garrison (3) at 17:28 of the period.
With 1:39 to go in regulation, Vasilevskiy deserted the net for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Cal Clutterbuck notched one in the empty net at 19:05 of the third. Cizikas (1) and de Haan (2) picked up the assists on Clutterbuck’s first goal of the postseason and ensured that the Islanders would pick up the 5-3 victory in Game 1.
Tampa led in shots on goal (36-22), hits (33-29) and giveaways (13-7) at the end of the game, while New York led in faceoff wins (32-21), takeaways (4-2) and blocked shots (15-10). The Islanders were 1/4 on the power play on the night while the Lightning were 0/2.
The Isles won two out of the three regular season games against the Bolts and took Game 1 convincingly, despite being outworked in the final twenty minutes. More rest proved to be sloppy for the Lightning out of the gate, however more work caught up to New York by the end of sixty minutes of play.
For the first time since 1983 two playoffs occurred on the same day, with the Tampa Bay vs. New York game opening the Second Round on Wednesday night, while the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators closed out their First Round series in Game 7 at the Honda Center.
The Lightning play host to the Islanders once again for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST on home ice at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The game can be seen on NBC in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. The Islanders lead the series 1-0 with their 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.
2015 is coming to an end and it’s time for all the awards for this early 2015-2016 season. This Colby’s Corner will be different, as Nick and I will tag team these awards, sharing who we think should win and why.
The Wayne Gretzky Award– Given to the best offensive player
Colby Kephart– Jamie Benn. I choose Jamie Benn because the answer is in the numbers. Mr. Benn is 1st in goals scored with 19 goals, and 2nd in points with 39. Benn is also 5th in assists, but this doesn’t explain what he truly means to this Dallas team. Jamie Benn is the best offensive player of the year.
Nick Lanciani– You’ve got to go with Jamie Benn here, quite simply because he was last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner and is still maintaining a consistent scoring pace. While his counterpart, Tyler Seguin, might have showed signs of slowing down over the last week or so, Benn’s game elevates the level of everyone around him and Seguin will quickly get back into the same rhythm.
Goaltender of the year (sorry Bryz, it’s not you)
CK– Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is the best goalie in this early season. He is 1st in save percentage and 3rd in both goals-against-average and wins. Lundqvist’s numbers are similar to Carey Price’s MVP season from last year.
NL– Washington’s Braden Holtby has continued to stake his claim in the short list of elite goaltenders in the world. This season he’s got a 1.95 GAA, .928 SV%, and a 17-4-1 record to boot in 22 games played. We said in our season previews that Washington would be a dominant team and Holtby is a dominant force in front of the net. Speaking of the Force, I’m excited for Star Wars…
If Carey Price wasn’t injured, I’m sure he’d be making a strong case for himself this season as he did last season when he took home the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy.
The Bobby Orr Award– Given to the best defensemen of the year
CK– John Klingberg. This young defenseman has proven himself in this season with 30 points thus far, which is crazy. I understand he is on one of the best teams in the league, and plays alongside stars like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he has 5 goals and 25 assists in just 28 games played, which is more than a point a game.
NL– There’s a reason why I picked up Klingberg on my fantasy team, if we’re talking specific aspects of the game. Otherwise, Erik Karlsson is leading defensemen in points with 6-26-32 totals through 29 games played, so really if you want to split this one into “best two-way/offensive defenseman” and “best defenseman” I’d be able to give both of them an award.
Coach of the Year (so far) Award
CK– Lindy Ruff. At this point, you are seeing a trend that I believe Dallas is a top team this year, and this man is a big reason why. He has made many lucrative moves, like deciding who to play with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It was once Patrick Sharp on the wing, but in recent games it has been Valeri Nichushkin. This kid only had one assist last season but this season has 12 points, proving himself to Mr. Ruff.
NL– Umm, can we talk about what they’re doing in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Ottawa, or should I just go with a cop out and pick Lindy Ruff as well? I’ll tell you who’s not my coach of the year, but I wouldn’t want a stanchion sent my way between the benches… John Tortorella gets a pass for now with regards to “worst” coach of the year.
But if you want me to say who I’d pick as coach of the year right now (again) it’s got to be Ruff. Actually, just make Dallas earn all the front office of the year awards. Well, maybe almost all of them. Washington would definitely be their main competition. Hmm, actually, would Ruff mind sharing our award with Barry Trotz? Asking for a friend.
Best Team of 2015
CK– Dallas Stars. No surprise here as I am saying that the Dallas Stars are the best team in the league thus far. They lead the NHL with 44 points and their offense is the best with 98 goals for this season. They also have the most wins the league, with 21 wins in 28 games (that’s only 7 losses!).
NL– Well, if the Ottawa Senators get any hotter, I might be picking them soon, but yeah, Dallas or Washington again. No surprise here. Maybe even Montreal, if they can avoid losing nine straight to match their winning streak to start the season. I don’t just want to go with this season’s eventual President’s Trophy winner, so really I’m just trying to add a few more teams to the conversation.
Rookie of the year (until Nick jinx’s him)
CK– Artemi Panarin. 9 goals, 19 assists—this kid has to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the season. I may not know how to pronounce his name, but I know he has been great for the Blackhawks this season and will be competing for the NHL rookie of the year award.
NL– I hate picking a “rookie of the year” halfway through, because usually I end up jinxing them, so I guess I’ll have to be careful with this one. Artemi Panarin, bud, I don’t want to ruin your chances, but if I had to pick who I think will take home the Calder Trophy in June, well, I’ve got to go with Max Domi. I just think that in the long run Domi will be able to overcome the 5 points in scoring separation between himself and Panarin as it stands right now.
With that said, if I’m picking one for right now it’s definitely Panarin. No questions asked. Actually, did anybody think of a defenseman? Oh well.
Patrik Stefan’s Team of the Year– Worst team of the year
CK– Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto fans were excited to win the Mike Babcock sweepstakes and had high hopes for this season. They knew the offense would be affected with the Phil Kessel trade, but no one knew it would be this bad. Toronto is struggling, and I feel they will finish near the bottom of the league this season.
NL– Any team that’s near the bottom of the standings that starts with a “C” is splitting this award. So Columbus, Carolina and Colorado, congrats! You’re losers! But winners in our hearts.
*Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that things are still dismal in Toronto and possibly Calgary, so we’ll see which one of those Canadian teams is in contention for this award at the end of the regular season. They’ll probably have to do worse than one of the “C” teams mentioned above though.
Biggest surprise of year
CK– Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes are the biggest surprise of this season as they are making an interesting push to playoffs. They have been bouncing between being the 3rd division spot or out of the playoffs. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are having strong rookie seasons, and have surprised both the league and me personally.
NL– Remember how I mentioned Max Domi before, yeah, well that was intentional. I was leading you to the obvious. The Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are big surprises this year, with the Canucks currently 2nd in the Pacific Division and well, not in last like I thought they would be after their inactivity in the offseason. I mean, Matt Bartkowski? Really? Then again, it looks like he’s found a home on the blue line defending Johnny Canuck from the opposition.
And Tampa’s currently 6th in the Atlantic Division, albeit a close spread in points, only ten points out of first and two points from a wild card spot, but one would think they would be flexing their muscle this season as they did in their Stanley Cup Final run last spring. If they fall further, they’re definitely the biggest surprise, in my eyes, for all the wrong reasons. Likewise, Jon Cooper would probably deserve some heavy scrutiny, with the whole hysteria surrounding Steven Stamkos’s pending unrestricted free agency possibility.
But if I have to be nice and pick a pleasant surprise, I’m going with either Vancouver- as I already discussed- or Arizona- as Colby already pointed out (and I’m totally hopping on that Domi-Duclair bandwagon by the way).
Host, Nick Lanciani, and analyst, Colby Kephart, discuss the chances of the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938 and more in the fifth edition of the Down the Frozen River Podcast.
Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show!
Everyone chipped in en route to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, so it seems.
Despite Tampa’s harsh ticket policy, Amalie Arena had a noticeably red hue contrasting all the Lightning diehards in blue, but it was the home fans that went home happily assured of a victory in the Stanley Cup Final that evened the series 1-1 and ensures at least one more game at home.
Jason Garrison’s game winning power play goal at 8:49 of the 3rd period proved to be enough to give Andrei Vasilevskiy his first career playoff win. That’s right; Vasilevskiy was the winning goaltender from Saturday night. Tampa’s Ben Bishop was in and out of the action briefly in the 3rd period, ultimately being unable to return, leading many to wonder if he had simply needed a bathroom break. Head coach, Jon Cooper, confirmed after the game that the need for a restroom was not the case and wouldn’t delve further into the situation.
Vasilevskiy made 5 saves on 5 shots on goal in 9:13 time on ice, while Bishop made 21 saves in 24 shots against in 50:33 playing time. Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 20 saves on 24 shots against in the loss.
Cooper inserted the youthful Jonathan Drouin into the Lightning’s lineup for the first time since Game 4 against Montreal in Round 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Drouin in, Nikita Nesterov became a healthy scratch.
The 1st period began with a frantic pace and high tempo hockey. The Lightning swapped opportunity for opportunity with the Blackhawks but remained scoreless in the first ten minutes of the game.
At 12:56, Cedric Paquette finally broke the ice and scored the games first goal. Paquette’s 2nd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman.
Hedman went on to have a superb rest of the game, while Callahan continued to be a playmaker the rest of the night. A little after the eighteen minute mark of the opening frame, Blackhawks defenseman, Johnny Oduya took a minor penalty for tripping. The Lightning were unable to capitalize on the ensuing power play opportunity.
Shots on goal were relatively even heading into the first intermission with Tampa holding a slight advantage, 12-11.
A string of events sent the game into frenzy early into the 2nd period. First, Andrew Shaw netted his 5th of the playoffs with help from Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins at 3:04 of the 2nd period.
About a minute later Tampa forward, Alex Killorn, was called for hooking former Lightning star, Brad Richards, giving Chicago their first power play opportunity of the night.
Teuvo Teravainen quickly made Killorn and the Lightning pay for their undisciplined effort and pocketed a power play goal at 5:20 of the 2nd period. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp set up Teravainen’s 4th goal of the playoffs and gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night.
It wasn’t 2-1 Chicago for very long, however.
Nikita Kucherov tied things up at two goals apiece with his 10th goal of the 2015 playoffs at 6:52 of the period with help from Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn. Both teams were shooting the lights out of Amalie Arena in the first half of the 2nd period, compared to the first 20 minutes of the game. Tampa was leading shots on goal 18-15 by the midpoint of the period, just after Coburn took a penalty for holding.
For once, however, things cooled off in the 2nd period. Chicago wasn’t able to score on the power play and for a few minutes both teams settled in.
At 13:58 of the 2nd period, Tyler Johnson scored his first goal since Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.
Johnson’s 13th goal of the playoffs set a franchise record for the Lightning for the most goals in a single postseason. Kucherov was once again on the scoresheet with the lone assist on the goal.
Tampa was leading 3-2 heading into the 2nd intermission and led shots on goal, 22-19, and hits, 28-18. Chicago was dominating faceoff wins, 23-14, and blocked shots, 9-6.
The 3rd period began with a quick surge for Chicago. A little over three and a half minutes into the period, Brent Seabrook blasted one past Bishop for his 7th of the playoffs. Jonathan Toews and Johnny Oduya picked up the assists on Seabrook’s tying goal, but the game wouldn’t remain knotted at 3-3 for too long.
It had appeared as though Antoine Vermette might have interfered with Lightning goaltender, Ben Bishop, however the contact was ruled as incidental and the goal was confirmed.
Bishop appeared fine, but may have suffered some sort of an injury on the play that bugged him for the remainder of the period. Either that, or he had pulled something on a save earlier in the game. Whatever it was, ultimately forced him out of the game. Bishop was replaced by twenty year-old backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, with less than eight minutes to go in regulation.
Patrick Sharp took a couple of penalties in a row, one at 4:59 of the period for slashing and another at 7:17 for high sticking.
It was on the latter power play opportunity that Tampa exploited the man advantage with a power play goal from Jason Garrison at 8:49 of the 3rd period. Garrison’s goal was his 2nd of the playoffs and was assisted by Hedman and Callahan. Shots on goal were even at 24 shots apiece.
Lightning fans were unmoved at the threat of whatever was plaguing Bishop, but certainly had their share of a heart attack when Andrej Sustr sent the puck straight out of play and thus received a delay of game penalty with under seven minutes to go in regulation.
But the Bolts defended their one goal lead and held the Blackhawks to one shot on goal on Chicago’s power play. With about two minutes left in the game, Corey Crawford vacated his goal for an extra attacker as the Blackhawks looked to tie the game.
Toews, who had nearly stunned the Honda Center in Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals after scoring two late third period goals to force the Anaheim Ducks into overtime- only to lose anyway 45 seconds into overtime- was prowling to do nearly the same thing to the Lightning.
His chance was denied by Vasilevskiy and the Blackhawks ran out of time. Tampa had won the game 4-3 in regulation.
The Blackhawks finished the game with 29 shots on goal compared to the Lightning’s 24 shots on goal. Chicago also dominated faceoff wins, 35-19, and topped off blocked shots, 12-9. Tampa led in hits, 33-28. Both teams finished the night 1 for 3 on the power play.
The Lightning improved to 6-1 when leading after the 1st period in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vasilevskiy made a mark on the history books earning his first career playoff win in just his 3rd appearance, while making the fewest saves made (5) in a Stanley Cup Final game, en route to winning, since shots on goal became an official stat in 1967.
Vasilevskiy also became the first goalie since 1928, to win a Stanley Cup Final game in a relief appearance.
Both games this year in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final have been comeback wins. In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 to the Calgary Flames, but won Game 2 and went on to win the Cup in seven games. And since 2004, only one other series has been tied 1-1 (the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks).
This will be the 16th straight Stanley Cup Final to not be swept by either team. The last team to sweep in the Final was the 1998 Detroit Red Wings, who defeated the Washington Capitals in four games to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Detroit was also the last team to repeat as champions having won in 1997 and 1998.
Game 3 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will be Monday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM EST with coverage on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.