Quick Strikes: The Lightning get ready for the Blue Jackets

Also: Coach Ben is annoyed.

The Lightning

-The Tampa Bay Lightning is getting ready to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. From the other side of things, a dude I have a grudge against so I will not name he- okay, okay, okay Aaron Portzline dished on the Blue Jacket’s drama-filled season in a pay-walled article for The Athletic.

The Blue Jackets were “Jekyll and Hyde,” said coach John Tortorella, but they won seven of their final eight games, including 6-2 over Ottawa on Saturday, to push across the finish line with one final burst.

-Here’s more on Columbus:

-Here’s their schedule for round one:

-Speaking of Erik, he has a general primer on the Lightning’s first round. (pay-walled)

It’s back to work on Monday to start preparation for the opening of the first round of the playoffs, which gets underway on Wednesday. And after waiting until nearly the last hour of the season, Tampa Bay now knows its opponent for the best-of-seven opening round series as old friend John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets will square off against Tampa Bay.

-Here’s the entire slate for the league:

-The current Lightning team has a lot in common with the 2004 team. Why does this matter? Well, that was a team that went on to win the Stanley Cup, of course. (pay-walled)

Star center? Check. Deadly wingmen? Check. Solid ‘D’? Check. Elite Russian goalie? Check. But there’s one key difference: this year’s edition is expected to win. Do the Bolts have the spark within to bring the city its first Cup in 15 years?

-Nikita Kucherov has earned the respect of those he idolized in childhood, writes Joe Smith (pay-walled).

Nikita Kucherov grew up with a poster of the “Russian Five” on the wall of his childhood bedroom, but the motivation derived from the Red Wings legends didn’t leave when he closed his eyes.

Kucherov, 25, heard stories about how Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Viacheslav Fetisov were among the pioneers to make the move over to North America from his home country in the 1990s and hoist the Stanley Cup in the NHL. Kucherov imagined himself doing the same thing.

-The Lightning’s season was pretty impressive! Here’s some numbers to knock your socks off:

-Something else that was pretty impressive was Tampa’s penalty kill!

-The Lightning organization is a winner on every level, including sled hockey!

The Crunch

-The bane of the Syracuse Crunch’s existence this season has absolutely been the penalty box, a place the team’s players have seemingly changed their mailing addresses to. The players are saying all the right things, but yet penalties keep happening.

From the start of the year to almost the end, Syracuse has been the most undisciplined team in the AHL. Heading into its contest against Rochester on Saturday, the team had committed 403 minors and been short-handed 349 times. Both those figures were league-highs, by far.

-Meanwhile, after that contest against Rochester, head coach Ben Groulx had some rough reality to dish out to his players:

“Bad performance,’’ he said. “When I look at this, I don’t think we’re getting set for playoffs. I don’t think we’re getting set for a long run.’’

And can that be fixed in the final week of the regular season?

”We’ll see,’’ he said.

-The Crunch’s game on Saturday night saw the retirement of a veteran linesman:

-Saturday night was also the Crunch’s Pucks for Paws night, a yearly fundraiser for the Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation.

-There’s one more chance this season for Crunch fans to participate in the team’s poker tournaments.

-Syracuse’s remaining ‘94 Night throwback jerseys are up for auction.

-Syracuse University has a great women’s hockey team, and the Crunch honored their achievements this past weekend:

The Solar Bears

-Connor Ingram had this highlight-reel save yesterday:

The Other

-The Florida Panthers shook up their coaching staff yesterday and fired head coach Bob Boughner and assistant Paul McFarland.

-Our best wishes go out to Carlo Colaiacovo and his family, including his son, Leo.