There’s a fine line between rest and rust. In the Tampa Bay Lightning’s media session on Thursday, Coach Jon Cooper spoke about how he balances that line. After giving his players a couple of days off they returned to the ice for a practice that much crisper than he expected.
While they might not know who they are playing yet, they have a better sense of when and that should help the coaching staff plan things out moving forward. While it’s not official it looks like the Eastern Conference Final will start on Monday, per Twitter reports. Coach Cooper wants to make sure his team doesn’t lose focus, but at the same time not overtrain.
One thing he mentioned is that the battle drills that were a focus of training camp and helped the Lightning prepare for two physical series are gone. His players have gotten enough contact and will see plenty more soon enough. So the drills involved making sure everyone touched the puck and worked on skills over strength.
It’ll be a few more days until they are back in competition, but it will go by fairly quickly as they eventually make the move to Edmonton and settle in to their new surroundings. In the meantime, Coach Cooper will have to continue to find ways to keep his team engaged.
Last Night’s Games
This may be the best case scenario for the Lightning. Their two possible opponents are beating each other up and taking overtime to do it. Scott Laughton tied the game midway though the third period and Ivan Provorov won it in the second overtime.
Because it’s 2020 of course Thatcher Demko made his second playoff start and stopped 48 shots. In just over two games he’s stopped 95 of 96 shots and won two elimination games. Not bad for a rookie. Quinn Hughes and old friend JT Miller each had a goal and an assist.
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Dallas had this series in hand and then Colorado figured out that they had to play a little bit of defense to advance. Not much in this series has been pretty, but none of that matters as both teams realize that they just need to win today to advance.
Vancouver Canucks “@” Vegas Golden Knights - Series tied at 3
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It’s a Game Seven doubleheader! Much like Colorado came back with a back-up goaltender, Vancouver is 2-0 in games started by Thatcher Demko. Can the rookie pull off one more game to get the Canucks into the Western Conference Final?
New from around the league
Curtis McElhinny and Mathieu Joseph talked about the goaltender’s new mask. [Tampa Bay Times]
“I jumped on it right away,” Joseph said of the opportunity presented by McElhinney. “To me, this is a concrete action of doing something that is meaningful. It’s definitely showing a lot of support. I was really honored for him to ask me that.”
Nikita Kucherov’s status for Game One hasn’t been decided yet, but he did practice with the team. That’s a good sign. Hopefully, with a few more days off he’ll get closer to 100%. [NHL.com]
“A good skate,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He was there, participated. As for anything after that, we don’t know our opponent, let alone when we’re playing.”
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
Zdeno Chara is a free agent. There has been a lot speculation that he may be retiring, but based on his comments on Thursday it sounds like he wants to play, and he wants to stay with the Bruins. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
“I expressed to my agent that I would like him to meet with the management and I make that my priority,” he continued. “The sooner the better and see what the future holds...I want to play for the Boston Bruins. Again, we will see what the decisions are going to be...and that’s something up to my agent and...the senior upper management to kind of go over it.”
Everyone likes to complain about the officiating, it’s a right as a sports fan. The folks at ESPN looked into how the refs have been calling the games in the bubble. The takeaway, less penalties against the “road” teams. [ESPN]
It’s an established fact that many referees have shown a bias for home teams. Even last season’s wacky penalty numbers were skewed against the road team, as they were going back to 2015. But in the bubbles, that “bias” has been reduced to just three seconds on average between the teams, which is extraordinary ... and completely frustrating.
The league announced a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives aimed at “broaden[ing] access to the game we all love.” [TSN]