Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Television: CBC, RDS, CNBC, Fox Sports Florida | Radio: 970 AM WFLA
Opponent Coverage: Habs Eyes on the Prize, All Habs
A narrative that started before the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens got their playoff series underway was Carey Price versus Anders Lindback. The framing seemed pretty straight forward but also a little clunky - can Anders Lindback beat Carey Price? Can Anders Lindback stand toe-to-toe with Carey Price? Is Anders Lindback good enough to contend against Carey Price?
Chris Dingman, speaking on Twitter this morning with his radio show on 98.7 The Fan invoked the question as well:
Here's the problem with that framing: Anders Lindback is not shooting on Carey Price, or vice versa. Lindy's job has been and continues to be in Tampa Bay's own end of the rink; he's charged with stopping the Canadiens from scoring, or at least putting up the best damned effort that he can. Wednesday night's performance showed that Lindback can in fact stop Montreal. He won't stop them entirely, especially under a continued onslaught, but he can stop them. Lindback made 39 saves on 44 shots in 78:08 minutes of play. Too much of overtime was spent at the Lightning's own end and that made a Habs goal just a matter of time; you wouldn't expect Lindback, Ben Bishop, Kristers Gudlevskis, Nikolai Khabibulin, Darren Puppa, or any goalie ever to suit up for Tampa Bay to stop every shot under those conditions.
While the goal allowed goes against Lindback, it was the team in front of him and their poor effort that resulted in that goal. That team is who is charged with beating Carey Price.
In that regard, the Lightning had a ton of luck Wednesday as Price played well below his level: He faced only 25 shots and allowed 4 goals. On most nights during the regular season, that few shots against Price likely would have resulted in a shutout. The Lightning got lucky that Carey was off, and you can't expect that to happen again tonight... Nor should you expect the Lightning to show such inability to get the puck out of its own zone and put some pressure on Montreal. If they can't do that, it increases the likelihood this series goes to Montreal with the Habs up 2-0.
Then again, if Price plays as he is capable of playing, regardless of the Bolts effort against him, it also increases the likelihood of Montreal taking a 2-0 series lead.
I can put the Bolts effort down in generalizations, but really it came down to passing and zone play - they struggled with both. Montreal did one hell of a job forcing play to the outside almost every time the Lightning were in the Canadiens zone, they won the battles along the boards and sent the puck back into the Lightning's own end. With the playoff jitters from game 1 behind them, it might be easier for Tampa to put forth a better effort with zone exits and entries; the only things that have changed between this series and the regular-season series is the fact they're under a microscope now and have a different goalie in net while playing Les Habs. As I noted in my game 1 preview, TB went 3-0-1 against Montreal in the regular season in 4 very close games. While game 1 saw more offense than almost the entirety of the season series, it was another close one that required 78+ minutes to be resolved.
It was an optional skate this morning for the Lightning, with only 10 players participating. Head Coach Jon Cooper told reporters that forward Ondrej Palat is a game-time decision to play tonight, but it's doubtful he'll participate. Tom Pyatt and Andrej Sustr will both participate in warm-ups but it's unclear which will play.
Other Game Coverage: