For a team that’s won two consecutive Stanley Cups it would be easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning to rest on their laurels and not do the little things need to do win another one. After the Game Four win that ended their series against the Florida Panthers Coach Jon Cooper was asked about the team shutting down the Panthers high-powered offense. He pointed to the sacrifices they had to make to stick to their game plan and then he added this,
“These guys are playing a game right now almost like they have not won a Stanley Cup, and they’re chasing it for their first time.”
A lot has been made of the willingness of everyone on the team, from Steven Stamkos to Zach Bogosian, to block shots, but for me, there was a play in the third period where Nikita Kucherov turned the puck over in the offensive zone. Florida turned it into an offensive rush that was eventually snuffed out by a backchecking Lightning player. That player - Nikita Kucherov.
In the playoffs, this team goes the extra measure to cover their mistakes, something that has set them apart from the two teams that they beat so far, the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve been far from perfect so far this season, but their mistakes are often minimized by their teammates covering for them. Well, that and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Stamkos has mentioned something a few times during this year’s run. Yes, the core of the team has won the Cup twice, but there are some new faces that haven’t experienced lifting the chalice over their heads. They want Brian Elliott, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Brandon Hagel, and Nick Paul to know what it’s like to reach the top of the mountain, and are willing to do whatever it takes to win as a team.
“That’s the beauty of our team, everybody contributes. That’s what you need this time of year. We talk about it all the time, but you just never know when it’s going to be your moment,”
Stamkos spoke those words after the Game Four win. On Monday it was Pat Maroon. Sunday it was the big guns (two goals for Stammer, four points for Kucherov). Game Seven against Toronto it was Nick Paul. At some point in the future it will probably be Cal Foote or Alex Killorn making the play that changes the outcome of a game. It’s just what they do.
Will they win another Stanley Cup? Who knows, but they’ve shown that no team in this league is going to out-will them in a series. That’s pretty amazing for a team that could be sitting pretty on what they’ve already accomplished.
Lightning / NHL News
The Lightning Legacy Marches Forward [Raw Charge]
Six Conference Finals in eight years. That’s not supposed to happen in this age of parity. Matt explores what this team has done over the last decade or so and it’s pretty impressive.
Little by little, this Lightning team will steal your heart [Tampa Bay Times]
There are so many things to enjoy about this team - the dedication to blocking shots, the next person up philosophy, the fact that they were the underdogs in their first two series despite being the two-time defending champs.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare lifts Lightning with ‘big mouth’ [Tampa Bay Times]
“Belly is inspiring,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He is the guy that, even if things are looking bleak, he’s always got something positive to say, especially on the bench, and I think that’s where his voice is most heard, is his positivity.
The headline actually says “records” but these are more like interesting facts. Enjoy them anyway.
John Tortorella reportedly interviewed for Philadelphia Flyers head coach job [Broad Street Hockey]
Tortorella + Philly media = entertainment for the rest of us. Okay, seriously Torts might be able to instill a bit of defensive structure if he gets the job. The biggest challenge may be to convince the veterans on the time to buy into his conservative style of play.
Last Night’s Games:
Series tied at 2
The Jekyll and Hyde Hurricanes are continuing their strange odyssey through the playoffs. With the loss to the Rangers last night they are now 0-5 on the road in the postseason. They’ve offset that by going 6-0 at home. Good thing they have home ice advantage this round. Igor Shesterkin made another 30 saves on 31 shots in the win.
Edmonton leads 3:1
The Oilers jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead. Because they are the Oilers they allowed the Flames to tie it up early in the third on a Rasmus Andersson goal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put the Oilers back in the lead for good with his second goal of the game.
This also happened:
Colorado leads series 3:1
The most contentious series in the second round (in a round that featured the Battle of Alberta AND the Sunshine State Showdown) pivots back to Colorado where the Avalanche hope they can put away the Blues.