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Lightning Round: Who’s in net for the back-to-back?

There’s no doubt for the Lightning, Dallas has options

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

On May 11, 2018 the Washington Capitals scored four times against Andrei Vasilevskiy in two periods. He was replaced by Louis Domingue in the third period and the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, the Lightning have played 32 playoff games and Vasilevskiy has been the only netminder to appear between the pipes for them. No periods off and certainly no games off.

Don’t expect that to change due to the back-to-back games the Lightning and the Dallas Stars are playing starting on Friday. Coach Cooper is going to ride his Vezina finalist goaltender as much as he can (after all Vasy can rest all he wants in about a week no matter what happens). Barring an injury or a multiple-OT game on Friday, Curtis McElhinney will be watching the next two games from the Lightning bench.

On the other bench it’s a toss-up as to who might play in the games. The Stars entered the playoffs with the best goaltending tandem in the league and were most likely willing to play both Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop as they made their way through the Western Conference. That didn’t happen. Bishop was injured to start the post-season, and when he did make it into a game against Colorado, was ineffective and quickly declared “unfit”.

Khudobin, a career back-up and journeyman put the Stars on his affable back and carried them to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game One he stoned the Lightning during their third-period assault on his net. Game Two saw him give up three goals in the first period, but they were hardly his fault.

Goal One: Brayden Point - shot from the slot that hit a stick and changed direction abruptly.

Goal Two: Ondrej Palat - defense allows Nikita Kucherov to slide a pass across the ice to a wide-open Palat. Maybe Dominik Hasek makes the save, but no mortal goalie does.

Goal Three: Kevin Shattenkirk from the point on a shot that hit a defender and changed directions.

The NBC crew opined that it might be time to pull him, obviously forgetting the other three or four chances that Khudobin denied the Lightning at point-blank range (in the game Palat was denied three times on prime scoring chances). As the Stars chipped away at the lead, Dhobby locked down the net.

He did look a little shaky in Game Three, especially on Steven Stamkos’ goal where he was well off his mark. Perhaps fatigue had finally caught up to him and Rick Bowness was right to give him a break in the third period.

That leads us to tonight. With some cracks appearing in the Khudobin Wall, many people who are paid many dollars seem to think it’s time to give Ben Bishop a whirl in the crease. Last spotted in the press box sporting a nice suit and matching mask, Bishop hasn’t appeared in a game since August 31 when he gave up 4 goals on 19 shots in 13:43 of ice time against Colorado.

Let’s ignore the face that Dallas gave up 19 shots in just under 14 minutes and say that Bishop was rusty at best. What makes anyone think that he was able to do anything to knock that rust off. He’s been “unfit” since then with rookie Jake Oettinger backing up Khudobin. Throwing him in against a Tampa team that has found its legs seems a bit mean.

The Stars will be better off to go back to Khudobin in Game Four and see if the breather he got in Game Three put him back on track. Should he get shelled again, Bishop can relieve him and then start Game Five as a last, desperate chance to shake things up. If it goes the other way and Khudobin sparkles in net, start him in Game Five, age be damned.

He’s earned the benefit of the doubt and the Stars should dance with the date they brought instead of flirting with Bishop.

Lightning Links

He only played 2:47, but Steven Stamkos’ play in Game Five is the kind of thing that people will remember years from now no matter what the outcome of the series may be. Should we find out more about what is ailing him, his performance may only grow in stature. Matt shared his thoughts from Game Three [Raw Charge]

On his third shift of the game, Stamkos reminded everyone of the impact he brings. A far-side snipe that caught Anton Khudobin cheating too much to the short side. There’s a reason Stamkos has 422 goals in his career, and in that moment it looked like he wasn’t going to miss a beat.

If your neighbors aren’t hockey fans, they might be a little troubled to hear you shout “Shoot” at the top of your lungs. [WFLA]

Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home of 26-year-old Devon Garnett after neighbors reported someone screaming “shoot!”

“I wanted [Victor] Hedman to shoot the puck so I screamed, ‘shoot! Shoot!’” Garnett said.

When I was a kid, I was lucky if I could make a brick wall with Legos. The fine folks over at LegoLand appear to be a bit more talented with those little pieces of plastic. [Legoland Facebook]

Other News

TRRRRRRRAAAAADDDDE (For real this time). The Florida Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally worked out the details and consumated the deal that started yesterday, although with a minor tweak. Patric Hornqvist is still heading to Miami (well, Sunrise) but Colton Sceviour will be joining Mike Matheson in heading north to the ‘Burgh. [Litter Box Cats]

Hornqvist has a lot of miles on the clock, but I think the Cats will get more out him in the short term than the would’ve out of Matheson, who badly needed a change of scenery. With the potential departure of both Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov in free agency, Hornqvist might find himself in Florida’s top six. And, even if age catches up to him, his contract will be much less of an albatross than Matheson’s, making Zito first big move as GM a win.

The Buffalo Sabres are filling out their roster. First they traded for Eric Staal, now they’ve re-signed Curtis Lazar to a two-year deal with a $800,000 AAV. Good for him. [Die By the Blade]

Lazar, 25, split his first season as a part of the Sabres organization between the AHL and the NHL clubs. He appeared in 18 games with the Rochester Americans, where his impact was clearly evident; the center recorded 14 points, including six goals, in just 18 games and was a plus-10.

At the NHL level, Lazar had 10 points (5-5) in 38 games with the Sabres this past season.

Will Alex Pietrangelo’s tactic of appealing to public sentiment pressure GM Doug Armstrong into re-signing their long-time leader? The folks over at St. Louis Game Time think that it will not. If the Blues hadn’t won a Cup last year, this power play may have worked, but with a championship banner hanging in the rafters, it’s easier to move on from local icons if the price doesn’t make sense. [St. Louis Game Time]

Army [GM Doug Armstrong] doesn’t do bonuses. He doesn’t do fancy cap circumvention. He signs a player to a contract. That’s it. He also certainly doesn’t listen to what the fans want, because the fans aren’t in charge of running a multi-million dollar sports franchise with a stagnant salary cap.

The 2019-20 NHL season seems like it will never end. Adding to that feeling will be the fact that the 2020-21 season is right around the corner. The league has okay’d players to begin voluntary workouts in their respective clubs’ cities starting October 15th - just over three weeks away. There is still no definitive start date to the season, but for players who haven’t seen the ice since March, it will give them a chance to start working back into game shape in professional facilities. [Yahoo Sports]

All workouts must follow social distancing guidelines and no contact will be permitted. Social distancing will also apply to use of the locker room. The composition of each workout group must remain the same, “so that any infection or exposure that might occur will be contained within that group and in order to facilitate contact tracing,” according to the protocol.