For the last month, HotelX has been the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home away from home. They’ve enjoyed the movie room, the pickleball courts, and the breakfast buffet. That’s all coming to an end. At some point soon they will pack up their digital picture frames, their Aerosmith t-shirts, and their game consoles to make the move to Edmonton.
When they will actually make the move is a bit of a mystery that revolves around assorted logistics. The NHL doesn’t want to have to two locations longer than necessary, but at the same time doesn't want to cause any headaches by moving teams too early.
With all four teams still occupying hotel rooms in the league hotel in Edmonton it doesn’t make sense to move the Lightning out there just yet. Chances are, they’ll head out once one of the series wraps up, which could be as soon as today.
The good news is that, with the Flyers extending their series to at least six games, it no longer makes any sense at all to start the Eastern Conference Final in Toronto, an idea that was reportedly floated after the Lightning won in five and the Islanders looking to duplicate that feat.
So, in the meantime the Lightning will hang out in Toronto, play a little wiffle ball and kick the soccer ball around while they wait to find out who they’re playing next.
Last Night’s Game
Michael Hutchinson is 2-0 as a goaltender in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s right, the 30-year-old journeyman netminder who had a grand total of 0 playoff games prior to this season has helped the Avalanche crawl back to even in the series. Hutchinson stopped 27-of-28 shots to pick up his second win in a row. Nathan MacKinnon scored a goal and added an assist to run his playoff point streak to 14 games. That’s pretty impressive.
Philadelphia Flyers “@” New York Islanders - Islanders lead the series 3-2
7:00pm, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN
Can the Flyers stay alive (and give the Lightning another couple of days of rest)? They made things unnecessarily dramatic in Game Five by blowing a 3-1 lead before eventually winning in overtime.
9:45pm, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN
Another Western Conference series where a back-up goaltender won a game to extend a series. This time it was Thatcher Demko doing the honors for the Canucks. Who would have thought that you’d see Demko, Dan Vladar, and Michael Hutchinson play in the second round of the playoffs this year? The Lightning should let Scott Wedgewood play a few minutes just to make the AHL reunion party even bigger.
News from Around the League:
Where, oh where, can Stamkos be? Nowhere near the ice from what I can see. The Lightning’s captain hasn’t been involved in any on the ice action since July. His return has been teased since the Bolts were in Tampa, yet he remains the missing man. While his absence remains “indefinite” the organization hasn’t ruled him out for the remainder of the playoffs. [The Athletic - subscription required]
The last time we saw Stamkos was after the Lightning’s marathon, five overtime victory over the Blue Jackets, when he was spotted on a team video waiting to greet teammates in the doorway on the way into the jubilant dressing room. He squirted fellow players with water, gave long-time friend Victor Hedman a hug, the same with Brayden Point, who had scored the game-winner.
With NBC taking over the television broadcasts in the U.S.A, the only local voices still calling Lightning games are on the radio. Erik Erlendsson spent some time with Dave Mishkin, Phil Esposito and the rest of the Lightning Radio crew as they call a game from “the lower bowels of Amalie Arena”. [Lightning Insider - subscription required]
On the back wall are two gigantic television monitors that would rival that of any at the local sports pub, the kind that any sports fan would love to have hanging on the wall in the living room. An elevated stage sits 10-feet back from the wall with a table set up on top of it. In the middle of the table is a partition that divides the two sides.
On the left, sits the play-by-play voice of the team, Mishkin. On the right is Hall of Fame player and Lightning team founder Phil Esposito, who provides the color commentary (and his commentary is much more colorful when the microphone is off, by the way). The partition ensures the two can sit next to each other as socially distanced as possible without exchanging any aerosoles (and the Lightning have provided plenty of goal calls to keep Mishkin busy).
The Lightning are going to participate in their fourth Eastern Conference Final since Jon Cooper stepped behind the bench. That’s pretty darn impressive. Even more impressive is that they’ve done it in the Salary Cap Era and by keeping pretty much the same group of players. A look at how they’ve built and maintained their roster over the years [ESPN]
Tampa Bay may have some helpful advantages, like core players taking less of a cap hit while not sacrificing too much money, thanks to the fact Florida has no state income tax. But you still have to build something players want to come back to. Tampa has had a wide-open Stanley Cup window for the last several years, and it should stay open a few more. And maybe this is the year.
TRAAAAAAADDDDEEE!!!! The Montreal Canadiens couldn’t let the Maple Leafs get all of the attention in the off-season. Well, their off-season anyway. The storied franchise picked up a goaltender on Wednesday as they dealt a third and seventh round pick in 2020 to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jake Allen and a seventh round pick in 2022. Could this deal kick off some other goaltender deals (lookin’ at you Matt Murray). [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
The Pittsburgh Penguins named some assistant coaches on Wednesday. Todd Reirden and Mike Vellucci will join Mike Sullivan behind the bench next season. Vellucci won a Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers in 2018-19 before jumping ship and coaching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season [Pensburgh]
The Florida Panthers have a new General Manager. And it’s not Peter Chiaelli! In fact, it’s not anyone who has held the position before. Former player agent Bill Zito takes over in Sunrise as their new boss. The 55-year-old was the assistant general manager in Columbus and has been a popular name for openings over the last few seasons. [Litter Box Cats]
The PWHPA issued a statement vowing to commit themselves to anti-racism education and “advocating for more diverse and inclusive communities through hockey”. [The Ice Garden]
Be nice to each other, wear a mask, and wash your hands. Lightning hockey will return shortly.