The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-1 lead in their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 3-2 win on Saturday night. After a bit of a stumbling start, the Lightning played a solid game and finally got the puck past Joonas Korpisalo a few times. By the end of the second period Columbus was looking tired, even their coach admitted that they had “hit a wall”.
Despite the win, this series is far from over. The Lightning outplayed a team almost as much as you can in a game and still only won by a goal. Columbus will bounce back in Game Four, Tampa Bay will have to be ready.
How are the rest of the series around the NHL going? A quick look around the league shows some potentials for upsets and only one possible sweep.
In the west:
Chicago upset Edmonton in the Qualifying Round but are now in danger of being swept by Vegas. The Golden Knights’ offense carried the day in the first two games, in Game Three it was Marc Andre Fleury who backstopped them to the win. Chicago just isn’t good enough to beat Vegas.
Colorado is up two games to one over Arizona. A valiant 49-save effort by Darcy Kuemper kept the Coyotes from going down 3-0 in the series on Saturday. Arizona will need a couple of more performances like that from their goaltender because their offense can’t compete head-to-head with Colorado.
Calgary and Dallas have traded wins through the first three games of their series with the Flames holding the edge after Friday’s win. The Flames have settled on Cam Talbot as their starter and he bounced back from a 5-4 loss in Game Two to pitch a shutout in Game Three. After picking up the win in Game Two, Ben Bishop was back on the bench for Game Three. Chances are it was because it was a back-to-back game and he’s coming off an injury. Dallas will need consistent offense if they want to come back in this series.
St. Louis has yet to win a game in the bubble. That’s not a good look for the defending champions against a Vancouver team that is scoring goals at will. They have nine goals in their two wins in the series. This could be the biggest upset in the West if the Canucks can pull it off.
In the east:
Speaking of upsets, few people would have the New York Islanders up two games to zero against the Washington Capitals. They’re doing it by playing Barry Trotz hockey - limit chances against and capitalize on the few opportunities they do generate. Washington has four goals in the first two games - two by T.J. Oshie in Game One and two by Alex Ovechkin in Game Two.
After seeing their head coach rushed to the hospital for a heart procedure, the Montreal Canadiens put up a surprising 5-0 victory in Game Two to even their series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Claude Julien won’t return to the bench even if Montreal advances in the series so it’s up to Kirk Mueller to guide them the rest of the way. Flyers goaltender Carter Hart had his first shaky start in roughly six months. We’ll see if he can bounce back in his next start.
Boston and Carolina are leading in the headlines department over the past week. First it was Tuukka Rask leaving the team to be with his family and then it was Andrei Svechnikov suffering a leg injury in the third period after getting tangled up with Zdeno Chara. To add to the headline totals Bruins announcer Jack Edwards said Jack Edwards things. David Pastrnak wasn’t available for Game Three either, yet the Bruins won and have a 2-1 lead in the series. I have a feeling the fireworks aren’t done in this mach-up and it will probably end up going seven games.
I’ve been watching a lot of Zoom press conferences. One thing I’ve noticed (other than players not realizing how close to the microphone they need to be in order for it to work) is that sports reporters ask very convoluted questions. For instance take this one from a veteran reporter:
“You’re focused obviously on beating Columbus. That’s a no-brainer. As somebody who is a fan of the game as well, when you see two defensemen like a Seth Jones and Victor Hedman out there going head to head in a sport where forwards seem to get most of the sizzle just talk a little about, and I know Sergachev is in there, Werenski, but for those two guys, what they bring to the table and how good they really are.”
That’s transcribed without the pauses. How hard is it to just ask what Cooper thought about how Hedman and Jones have played in the series? It’s no wonder that coaches get irritated from time to time in press conferences. Granted, the way they conduct the question and answer session (reporters can ask one question at a time with no follow-up) seems to lend to a word salad explosion instead of a concise question, but you can actually see coaches and players eyes glaze over from time to time as the question is being asked.
Overtime Format -
Following the epic five-overtime Lightning/Blue Jackets game to kick off the playoffs, which was followed by a double overtime game the next day between the Bruins and Hurricanes, there was some scattered talk about altering the format of overtime in the playoffs.
Let’s keep this simple - no.
I’m sorry that you have to hang around for a couple of extra hours, Mike Milbury, but there is nothing better than overtime playoff hockey. I was watching the game with my parents who haven’t watched a hockey game on TV since….I don’t know if they’ve ever watched one...and they were enthralled. These are the games people remember for lifetimes. Not only that, but it’s part of what makes winning the Stanley Cup so hard. There are no easy ways to win games and if two goalies decide to stop everything in sight for an extra three or four periods, well so be it. Also, it doesn’t happen often enough to warrant a rule change. Just sit back and enjoy the extra hockey.