PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 15: Steven Stamkos#91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning controls the puck as Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
What we know going into game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins is thus: The series will go at least five games.
Game one was a rugged, for-the-referee showmanship spectacle that produced a shutout for the Penguins. Two quick goals sealed the Lightning's fate and Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head in net for the Penguins.
Game two? more referee antics, but this time? Fleury was shown to be mortal, and the Lightning showed that it's power play was tops in the East for a reason... All against one of the most formidable penalty kil units in the National Hockey League.
In short, the only consistency between games one and two were the referees... And "Consistent" is subjective in how they called plays. That's not saying one team or another got away with bloody murder -- that is saying Club Two-Minutes is the enemy of both clubs. The penalty box might not be either team's friend, but neither are the guys making the calls.
All right, enough of that.
Randy Jones and Marc-Andre Bergeron were presented as available for tonight's game, that does not mean either player will suit up tonight. It just means they are an option for Boucher - who is always looking at his options and tossing the dice.
Single seats, scattered through the lower bowl, were available for those looking to attend. Got more money to throw around? There were plenty of club seats still to be had last time I looked -- with a $200 price tag attached to them. Other than those club seats, expect a capacity crowd at the Forum tonight.
Steven Stamkos bounced around lines on Friday in Pittsburgh, and he was on the wing with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon on Sunday. While spending time on checking lines might make him a more complete player int he end (think: Vincent Lecavalier in 2001-02 and his struggles), now does not seem like the time for him to be getting more-complete-player lessons.
Stamkos has all of two shots on goal for the series, and the line-bouncing seems counter productive at this point. Stamkos doesn't just need to break out of his slump, but also needs solidarity and consistency of his linemates. Pair him up with compatible forwards (while not putting all offensive eggs into one basket, meaning don't pair him with Vinny and Marty) and be done with it.
There's no word if Sidney Crosby will make his first NHL-game appearance in more than 3 months tonight. That's something that has been planned for by the Bolts throughout the series -- Sid's return. But on a more sobering and point, there's no word this morning on where assistant coach Wayne Fleming will be during the game tonight. Fleming, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, has been an inspiration for the Lightning and has aiding coaching where and when he can from the confines of his home the last few games (including the regular season).