For some reason every postseason loss brings about a sense of dread for fan bases. No matter if it’s the first game or the fourth game with a three-games-to-zero lead in the series, losing just hits harder. A loss just seems to shatter the perspective even reasonable fans have and sends some spiraling down a rabbit hole of negative what-if-ism.
The Canadiens comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to the Maple Leafs in the first round seems to have spooked some Lightning fans a bit. Here’s the thing, and it’s really quite simple, the Lightning are not the Leafs. Nor are they the Winnipeg Jets or the Vegas Golden Knights. Tampa Bay is the most complete team in the NHL right now, and a team that has marched through the fires of adversity over the past two seasons and emerged somewhat singed, but victorious.
That’s not to say they are 100% going to win tomorrow or Friday. Heck, it’s sports, improbable comebacks are part of the reason we love these games. Granted it’s not fun when you’re the team on the wrong end of a historic comeback, but they do happen. However, even following last night’s loss, the Lightning’s chances of prevailing remain pretty darn good.
after tonight's win, montreal has improved its chances of winning the cup from two percent to five percent— #1 montreal canadiens fan (@domluszczyszyn) July 6, 2021
The Lightning weren’t perfect in Monday’s game, but there were a lot of things to like. They came out strong. More times than not this postseason, Tampa Bay has started some games a bit flat, especially games where they had their first chance to clinch a series. That wasn’t the case last night, they pressed the play for most of the first period, but the bounces didn’t go their way and Montreal snuck a goal into the net. It happens.
If we’ve learned anything over the past two seasons, nothing motivates this team more than a loss. Coach Cooper referred to them as “clinical” in their bounce back games following key losses (like Game 6 against the Islanders last round). That is a perfect way to describe this team when they’re rolling. They execute their game plan with a precision that borders on surgical, and when they do that, it’s extremely difficult to beat them.
Sometimes a loss is just a loss.
It’s not a precursor to a downward spiral or a sign of horrible things on the horizon. It’s just a loss. The other team on the ice is trying their darndest to win as well and sometimes they get the breaks. Montreal might seem like a team that is “lucky” to be in the Final Round, but they play a tough brand of hockey. After getting run ragged in the first period, they really settled into their defensive structure and disrupted the Lightning offense by clogging up the passing lanes and reading their passes really well. That’s what they do (as well as rely on Carey Price to bail them out should things go astray).
It’s not the sexiest hockey to watch, but it can be effective if executed perfectly. Something that’s hard to do four games in a row against the best team in the league. Expect the Lightning to come out with some minor adjustments in Game Five that tip the odds in their favor and keep the Canadiens on their back foot for large portions of the game.
It should make for a fun, if probably still stressful, night. There are no guarantees that the Lighting will win, but you can believe they will do everything in their power to make sure they raise the Cup in front of their fans.
So, try and relax (probably not easy with a Tropical Storm hanging off the coast). This isn’t the same Tampa Bay squad that squandered series leads against Washington and Pittsburgh all those years ago. This is a team that views a loss as just that - a singular loss.
A sweep would have been nice, but it’s still the same Stanley Cup if the Bolts win in five or six games. There were some good moments for the Lightning, and some bad ones. It wasn’t Vasy’s best game or his worst game. It was, however, Carey Price’s best game. He’s going to have to do it three more times for the Habs to pull off the miracle.
It seems coaches are loath to make changes to their line-up even when facing the brink of elimination. So give Montreal coach Dominque Ducharme some credit for giving some new players a shot in a win-or-go-home game. The gamble paid off as Alex Romanov scored a goal (assisted by Jake Evans) while Josh Anderson scored twice with his new linemates, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.
It was a decidedly optimistic head coach for the Lightning following the loss. He liked how the team played, felt they generated some chances, and for the most part put themselves in a spot to win. Heading back to Tampa for Game Five he likes the team’s chances if they go out and work hard in a clinical manner similar to Game Six against the Stars last year and Game Seven against the Islanders this year.
The Wild continue setting their roster for the 2021-22 season as they re-signed veteran forward Nick Bjustad to one-year, $900,000 contract. The 28-year-old forward, acquired from Pittsburgh last off-season, was set to enter unrestricted free agency this summer.
Back in 2007-08 Jay Leach played two games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He didn’t register a point in nine minutes of ice time, blocked two shots and threw one hit. He was then traded to the Anaheim Ducks for a 7th round pick and Brandon Segal. More recently, Leach has been the head coach of the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affilliate. Leach will be heading across the country as he was named an assistant coach for Dave Hakstol in Seattle.
Caufield, last seen setting up the game-winning goal in overtime for Montreal, is only 20-years-old, meaning he can’t enjoy the American lager brewed in his honor by District 1 Brewing in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (Caufield’s hometown).
The commissioner (and Hall of Famer) Gary Bettman sat down with Ron MacLean to chat about a lot of topics (but not the ongoing debacle involving the Chicago hockey club). “We’re getting it right virtually all of the time!” says the Commish in regards to the officiating.
Yesterday started with the horrific news that Kivlenieks, a goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets, had died following injuries suffered from an errant firework. It’s another painful reminder that not one day on this earth should be taken for granted. Call your friends, call your family and just let them know you love them.