Prior to Game Two, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper talked with the media about Tampa Bay’s performance in the opening game. He acknowledged that the Islanders are a tough team, which had a little to do with some of the issues that the Bolts had throughout the day. He also mentioned that the Lightning didn’t do enough to make New York’s day miserable.
Based on the performance by the Bolts on Tuesday night, it wasn’t a message just for the media, but something the coaching staff preached to the team for the last two days. Almost from the beginning the Lightning were in the faces of the Islanders (led, of course, by Patrick Maroon and Yanni Gourde’s line). They pressured and harassed the Isles blueline, causing repeated turnovers. The third goal, Jan Rutta’s first of the season, was a direct result of the forecheck rushing a clearing attempt by New York that allowed the Lightning to keep the puck in the zone.
When the talking heads talk about “playing tough” they’re usually referring to big hits and fights, things of those nature. That is part of it, but so is the willingness to beat out icing calls, forechecking constantly, blocking shots, getting into shooting lanes, and making life miserable in the neutral zone for the opposing team. The Bolts did all of that on Tuesday night.
The Gourde line was particularly beastly as they racked up a perfect 100% Corsi For share, generating 10 shot attempts to 0 at 5v5. They completely shut down the Kyle Palmieri/JG Pageau/Travis Zajac line that had been one of the better ones for the Islanders in the playoffs.
They also didn’t allow things that were out of their control to affect them negatively. The call against Brayden Point for goaltender interference and the power play goal that resulted could have sent them on a spiral of frustration. In the third period, as they were protecting the lead, the puck took some funny bounces off of the officials and stayed in the defensive zone. The Lightning didn’t panic, they adjusted and cleared the puck on second attempts.
With the Islanders back within two goals and two minutes left on the clock, the same five skaters stayed on the ice for the entire time and didn’t allow New York a good look for the duration. It was a clinic on how an experienced, veteran team handles a game after a loss. Now they just have to go up to Long Island and deal with a raucous crowd while wresting home-ice back from them.
Two goals from the defense, the power play clicks again, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made a few key saves.
Mari Faiello details the day Blake Coleman had on Saturday. You know, routine. Playoff hockey game at 3:00 pm, and then in the delivery room to see the birth of his second child at 11:00 pm.
From the Isles side of the ledger things are still okay despite a bad loss. After all, a split on the road isn’t a bad thing.
As the award season rolls on, the league announced the Bill Masterton Trophy dedicated to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Oskar Lindblom is your 2021 winner. The Flyer completed his comeback from Ewing’s sarcoma by playing in 50 games and recording 14 points.
The season isn’t officially over but the free agent frenzy is firing up already. The Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of good defensemen and will have to navigate a flat salary cap with a some young talent on the roster. They need flexibility and that could come by arranging a sign-and-trade with pending unrestricted free agent Dougie Hamilton. The team has given him and his agent permission to talk to other teams even though he is technically still under contract with them.
A Vegas All-Star Game next year? Wait, why are they having an All-Star Game in an Olympic year? What’s that...a new TV deal? Oh yeah, that’s probably why. Elliotte Friedman mentions the reasons a Sin City weekend could be fun along with 30 other thoughts.
Large crowds at sporting events have started becoming the norm again in the United States. Canada is a different story. Things are starting to open up slowly up north and the Canadiens may be able to host 3,500 fans for Games Three and Four as the Health Department in Quebec announced that they are raising the cap for sporting events and festivals.
Vegas leads 1-0
Vegas is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, but they still need to get past the Canadiens first. Expect a solid effort from Montreal as they fight to stay in the series. In order to do that they will have to find a way to put the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury.