Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
When: 8 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: NBC Sports Net (cable) | (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Blueshirt Banter, Doinow.com
Late May is still spring, the summer solstice won't happen for another month, but Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of summer. The weather is great, big event movies tend to get released around now, white is able to be worn again (hey, I didn't write these fashion rules; it's an upper-class thing, I guess), baseball is in full swing, football is way out of season (note that, sports editors at the local daily newspapers), and ice hockey is in championship form.
Well, kind of. What was a game of tactical, logistical and managerial chess, tight matches with very high stakes has turned into a wild party. 6-2, 6-5, 5-1... While a wider, more general, viewing audience may be thrilled with an offensive slugfest, you don't expect it in games with such weight. The clubs are vying for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. At this point in time, you expect a complete-game effort by both clubs - stopping the opponent and not making mistakes when you do have opportunity.
Isn't that an argument for Jonathan Drouin to crack the Lightning lineup? Head coach Jon Cooper has gotten on Drouin for not being so defensively responsible. For a club, the Lightning, that's given up 12 goals in its last 3 contests, the accusation of not playing a complete-rink game can be tossed around a little more broadly than toward a high-profile rookie. Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan were both a minus-2 on Friday night, they were both also minus-1 on Wednesday (along with J.T. Brown and defenseman Matt Carle who left the game with injury). In both cases, they were the lowest of the plus-minus players on the club. Yes, Callahan is playing through post-appendectomy pain and dos contribute in his way despite it. If he needs less time on ice to cope with it, then not only should he get it but others step up to fill in so Ran doesn't feel like he needs to be that-guy out there.
If the Lightning are going to keep playing he wild-child offense game with the Rangers, and this goes back to Cally, Paquette, Brown as well as Jonathan Marchessault, Brian Boyle, Brendan Morrow, Vladislav Namestnikov and Drouin (if he makes it into a game or not), there's a need for the bottom-6/bottom-5 guys to contribute as well. Dan Rosen of NHL.com pointed it out in a tweet this morning:
TBL bottom 5 Fs have 0 pts vs NYR . Nobody on TBL outside top 6 Fs has a goal. Importance of secondary scoring grows deeper a series goes.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 24, 2015
You know they're capable of it. You've seen it. Jon Cooper knows it too. Game 3 saw Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown muster off 5 shots between them while Callahan and Paquette didn't shoot once. In game 4, Cally got off 3 shots, Paquette 1, Brown 2, Boyle nada.
Cooper's got faith in Callahan scoring. We'll see how it goes tonight.
Odds are we'll see 21 or perhaps even22 skaters in the pre-game skate tonight at MSG. An 11 forwards, 7 defenseman alignment seems likely with or without Matthew Carle back in the lineup. Carle told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times he "feels good" but ultimately will be a game-time decision.
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full coverage on SB Nation
- Live stream of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage on Twitter