In their infinite wisdom, NBC and the NHL decided early in the season that the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Detroit Red Wings would make for a marquee match-up in April. Granted a quick look at the schedule doesn’t really offer many alternatives that would be considered much watch hockey, but still the defending Stanley Cup champs against a team that was destined to be a lottery pick at the beginning of the season is an interesting choice for the national TV rights holder in the United States.
That being said, we should be happy that NBC is broadcasting any Lightning games since it allows local fans to see a game that a lot of fans would be able to see on
Sinclair... Fox...Bally’s Sports Sun due to their ongoing battle with local carriers in regards to fees. Let’s face it, the only way this ends is with the consumer paying extra to stream the channel through an app or as an add-on through the cable company. Nobody wins except Sinclair.
The good news is that the Lightning will be broadcast across the country on Easter Sunday, which I’m sure is a huge viewing day for sports. There will be nice things said about Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. There will be a mention of Nikita Kucherov and probably some footage of him skating around at 1⁄4 speed. That will set off another Twitter Storm of cap circumvention accusations and surly responses from Lightning fans who are over it.
For the last time. Yes, the Lightning are taking advantage of a salary cap loophole. If he was 100% healthy they would much rather have Nikita Kucherov, their leading scorer for the last five seasons, on the ice as opposed to sitting poolside at the Marriott Water Side (note - he’s not sitting poolside at the hotel) than Mathieu Joseph or Tyler Johnson on the roster right now. It’s amazing, both things can be true.
Instead of giving into the hate, embrace the fact that NBC, and by default, the NHL is forced to say nice things about our favorite team. Instead of ranting about Pierre McGuire going off about which high school Ryan McDonagh went to or which pond Yanni Gourde skated on as a six-year-old, enjoy the fact that the Lightning are getting some national press.
Also, revel in the fact that there is a greater than zero chance that Ben Thomas makes his NHL debut on national TV. The Lightning avoided his debut on local TV by flip-flopping Mikhail Sergachev on the right side and keeping Andreas Borgman in the line-up.
Borgman has been the definition of “fine” during his seven game stint so far with the Lightning. Coach Cooper has to decide if stacking the left side of the defense with Sergachev, McDonagh, and Hedman while starting two rookies in Thomas and Cal Foote is better than having Sergachev play on his off-side and Borgman in the line-up.
Based on a one-game sample, I say keep Borgman in the line-up and Sergachev paired up with McDonagh. Sergy looked really good on the right side and with McDonagh playing the role of responsible defensive partner, he seemed willing to take a few more chances offensively. A quick check of the numbers show that the pairing had 66.67% of the shot attempts when on the ice together (12-6). That’s pretty fancy for a couple of d-men.
Hopefully, it will be nice to see them showcase their partnership on national TV.
Vasilevskiy once again is the difference in Lightning 2-1 win
After the first period it looked like the Lightning were going to run away with the game. Detroit fixed what was ailing them over the next two periods and pushed the Bolts to the limit.
Detroit comeback runs out of time
From the Detroit side of things, it was a loss with a lot of spirit.
Brayden Point breaks out of scoring drought
Point had gone four games without a goal. Now he has three in two games. If he’s back in the groove, the rest of the offense follows right along.
Syracuse scored three times in the first period, unfortunately they also gave up four goals. Alex Barré-Boulet scored his sixth goal of the season and has ten points in eight games with the Crunch.
Seven more Vancouver players on COVID list
The Canucks were already on hiatus until at least April 8th as they are dealing with an outbreak. On Saturday seven players joined the seven players and one staff member already on the COVID list. It will be interesting to see how the league makes up these games as the season is drawing to a close.