It’s game day! The Tampa Bay Lightning have another shot at ending the New York Islanders season and, oh yeah, advance to the Stanley Cup Final. This isn’t the first time the Lightning have been in a Game Six in the Eastern Conference Final, in fact, today’s game marks the sixth time they’ve been in this position. It’s also the fifth time they’ve had a 3-2 lead in the ECF.
The previous results have not been pretty. Let’s roll down memory lane and take a look:
2018 - Washington Capitals 3, Lightning 0
2016 - Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Lightning 2
2015 - New York Rangers 7, Lightning 3
2011 - Boston Bruins 4, Lightning 5
2004 - Philadelphia Flyers 5, Lightning 4 (OT)
Woof. One win out of five attempts. The one time they won, 2011, they were facing elimination. In all the other games they were looking to eliminate their opponent and couldn’t pull off the trick, putting truth to the cliche that the fourth win is always the hardest one. Oh, and the head coach for the 2018 Capitals - Barry Trotz.
Couple that with the fact that the Lightning are now 0-5 in their last five games when they had the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final and I’m just a fount of negativity this morning.
That’s the bad news (well that and the unknown status of Brayden Point) now for the good news. If there is any team in Lightning franchise history that can look at those numbers and not get rattled by them, it’s this year’s squad. They’ve been turning so many pages on the past they might as well be a Gordon Wood book (you’re welcome fellow history majors).
More good news is that the Lightning have been the best team in this series and even in short series, talent and performance wins out in the end more times than not. They did a lot of good things in Game Six and an unlucky break in overtime cost them the win. If they keep putting forth the effort they have for the majority of the last six games, they will advance.
Coach Cooper believes that his team has the right frame of mind.
“Adversity hits different ways. This is just another one. This year, I’m really at peace with the way this team is playing. They’ve got this quiet calm about them, and they’ll be all ready.”
His Norris Trophy defenseman, Victor Hedman, who has been down this road a few times with this squad, echoed those sentiments.
’We’ve been through this before, a lot of us in that room. It’s how you respond to this that’s going to define you as a team. I’m not worried about how our group’s going to respond to this.”
If they’re not worried, I’m not worried.
Possession is nice, but the Lightning could use a few more goals from players not named Point, Kucherov, or Hedman. [Raw Charge]
What the Lightning needed last night, and moving forward, was other forwards chipping in offensively. Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman have found ways to contribute offensively this postseason, but the trio that consists of the Lightning second line when the lineup has been healthy haven’t been nearly as effective.
Will he or won’t he? The status of Brayden Point will be undecided right up until game time. That means it’ll be another day of scanning Twitter to see which media personality in the bubble is the first to report if he’s on the ice for the pregame skate. [NHL.com]
The Lightning lost each game Point has missed in the series, but Cooper said Tampa Bay won’t rush him back.
“You don’t want to put guys in a position where they’re not going to be productive,” Cooper said. “Anytime in my history of when guys have been hurt, they don’t play the same way. So sometimes you have to protect them from themselves.”
Speaking of injuries, Point isn’t the only one that is a little less than 100%. Even with a long break between the regular season and the playoffs, we’re at the point where small bumps and bruises are starting to crop up. Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat took big hits in Game Five while Mikhail Sergachev was bloodied by a high stick at the end of regulation. [Tampa Bay Times]
News from Around the League:
The 2020 off-season, short as it may be, might be the year of the veteran goaltender shuffle. Marc-Andre Fleury is likely on his way out of Vegas, Matt Murray has been rumored to be on the block in Pittsburgh, and now it looks like King Henrik might be abdicating his throne in New York. [Blue Shirt Banter]
By now, the fate of Henrik Lundqvist is the worst kept secret in hockey. Barring an extreme change in circumstances in the next month or two, the Swedish netminder will be leaving the franchise he’s back boned since the 2005-06 season. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks all but confirmed it in August and then again in early September. The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello echoed the sentiment last Tuesday. Independently, Blueshirt Banter had been informed of this all-but-inevitability by multiple sources as far back as February.
The NHL, WHL, OHL, QMJHL, AHL, ECHL, and Hockey Canada may soon see all of their lawyers together in a courtroom crowded around the same table. All of those organizations have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by former WHL player Kobe Mohr. Should Mohr’s legal action succeed, it could lead to a drastic altering in the way hockey talent is developed in North America. [CBC Sports]
The suit alleges the defendants participated in “an unlawful conspiracy, arrangement or agreement” to limit opportunities for Mohr and other Canadians to make a living playing pro hockey between the ages of 18 and 20.
The document claims the defendants have created a system where the overwhelming majority of players will never reach the top pro leagues, instead spending years playing for “nominal sums of money, all to the financial advantage of the defendants.”
Bill Guerin is staying busy in his first off-season as a General Manager. The Wild’s new head honcho signed a defenseman to a long-term deal yesterday and now swung a deal to get a little younger at the center position. He shipped Eric Stahl $3.25 million contract to Buffalo in exchange for Marcus Johansson’s $4.5 million (and extra year).
With Guerin shaking things up at the center position over the past week or so, as the team sits now, Minnesota’s center depth chart consists of Joel Eriksson Ek, newly acquired faces in Johansson and Bjugstad, Nico Sturm, and possibly Victor Rask.
The Seattle Kraken are just over a year away from taking to their ice. For their AHL affiliate it will be a little bit longer. The organization announced that their Palm Springs team won’t debut until 2022-23. For the first year their young prospects will be loaned to a few other AHL franchises. Not the ideal way to develop young prospects. [ESPN]
Old friend Rick Dudley is back in Florida. The former GM of the Lightning is joining the Panthers (a club he was GM of from 2002-04) as a Senior Advisor to General Manager Bill Zito. It’s one of several moves the Panthers made as they continue to overhaul their hockey operations department. [Litter Box Cats]
Tony Granato is heading to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The Bill Masterton Trophy winner and former Olympian was announced as part of the 2020 Class. Joining him as inductees this year are University of North Dakota coach Dean Blais, four-time All-American Jenny Potter, and Jerry York, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA hockey history. [USCHO]