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The post-game interviews and more thoughts on the Lightning’s Game One win

Jon Cooper (from 2018). Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning via their Twitter (@TBLightning)

Following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Game One victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Coach Jon Cooper, Brayden Point, and Corey Perry answered questions from the reporters. They answered, as best as you would expect, questions about the illegal hit from Michael Bunting, injuries to the roster, and the ability of the Lightning to “flip the switch” when it comes to the playoffs.

Jon Cooper

Jon Cooper | Postgame R1G1
Head Coach Jon Cooper spoke to the media following the Bolts 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 on Tuesday night in Toronto.

  • Mikhail Sergachev: “He had to learn how to defend. The players that go from good to great learn how to defend. All of that other stuff that he can do offensively, those are God’s gifts he was given. All those things you have to do when you don’t have the puck, that’s the decision you have to make if you want to be good or great, and Sergy’s made that decision.”

With Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak out of the game, the onus fell on the remaining defensemen (which included two rookies) to finish the game off. Sergachev was at the forefront with 26:23 of ice time. He posted one assist with 3 shots on goal and threw 4 hits. He saw a lot of Auston Matthews (6:55) and Mitch Marner (7:06) at 5v5 and even had a little shorthanded time on the ice.

If Hedman is out for Game Two, Sergachev is the number one defenseman on the left side. He showed in Game One, and honestly all season, that he can shoulder that load. Will there be turnovers like the one that led to the third Leafs goal when he tried to force a pass in the neutral zone? Yes. Yes there will, but this has been the season where we’ve seen him produce way more solid defensive plays than boneheaded turnovers.

  • Flipping the switch: “I will never question the guys in that room.”

When the lights came on, and the puck was dropped, it was the Lightning that took the initiative in the game. The beauty of a veteran team is that they have gone through this before and they know what it takes to win playoff games. An aggressive start by the fourth line set the tone, and they ended up playing one of their best road games of the season when they needed it.

  • The Bunting hit: “It checks a lot of boxes.”

He was visibly upset on the bench after the hit (as was Julien BriseBois) but maintained his cool in the press conference and avoided a fine. Good for him.

  • Hedman: “That one was a little bit surprising. We’re hoping he should be okay.”

Even after reviewing the last couple of Hedman’s shifts, I couldn’t spot an obvious point of injury. There has been speculation he’s been dealing with an injury all season and may have aggravated it. Hedman, as well as Erik Cernak and Michael Eyssimont, are likely to be day-to-day for the rest of the playoffs now.

  • The Lightning belief in themselves: “The Leafs might win this series. They might. There is so much runway left in this, but what I’ve learned over the years, I sure as hell wouldn’t bet against our guys. Not gonna say we’re gonna win, but I don’t know, I’ve got their back”.

The money quote from the press conference and it ties in with the flipping the switch sentiment. Yes, the numbers say the Leafs should win this series. Who knows, they may win the next four. All the Lightning did last night was prevent a sweep. They have to go out tomorrow and do it again, and do it better. Toronto is not going to fold because they were embarrassed on home ice. The Bolts landed the first punch, but now they have to be ready for the counterpunch that’s coming.

  • The Power Play: “There’s really, really good players on both teams.”

We talked about the power play yesterday and the fact that the talent the Lightning have is enough to score if they execute their system. They did that. For example, on Brayden Point’s first goal, they took advantage of the Leafs’ aggressive play trying to force a turnover along the boards. Once they got the puck out, three penalty killers were trapped along the boards. Point won the race to the front of the net and Nikita Kucherov fed him the perfect pass.

  • “We’ve been there before.”

If there is anything that sums up the Lightning in this series, it’s this quote. There isn’t a situation this core group hasn’t gone through. They know what to expect and how to get to their goal.

Corey Perry and Brayden Point

Perry, Point | Postgame R1G1
Corey Perry and Brayden Point spoke to the media following the Lightning’s game one victory over the Maple Leafs.

  • On the quick start: “We have a plan and we stuck to it.” (Perry)

The Lightning have often been their own worst enemy, especially this season. Despite the losses on the roster, there are still few teams that can compete with them on a nightly basis if the Lightning are sticking to their game plan and executing. That’s what they did in the first period.

  • The difference in play from the regular season: “Just being more responsible.” (Point)

Part two of that is not shooting themselves in the foot. Turnovers have plagued this team during the regular season (and cropped up a little last night, but no game is perfect). Making the small plays to clear the puck when there is danger afoot, not turning it over at the opposing blue line, those are the things that go into winning games.

  • On the talk outside of the locker room: “We know what we have to do, how we have to play as a team. We did a lot of good things tonight, but at the same time, we still have some things to work on.” (Perry)

This team has a high sense of self-awareness. They know who they are in victory and defeat. They don’t make excuses or rest on their laurels.

  • On the shortened bench: “The guys that were in the game did a great job of stepping up and taking those minutes. (Point)

Sergachev, Ian Cole, Nick Perbix, and Darren Raddysh all stepped up (especially Raddysh), but the forwards understood their role as well. They knew that they had to help out, clear the puck from the zone, and make sure the puck was under control before looking to turn it up on offense. They helped take the pressure off of the defense.

  • The Bunting Hit – “I’m sure someone will look at it.” (Perry)

The best answer of the night as Perry deadpanned his response perfectly. He also relied on the old cliche of “I didn’t see it” which, considering there are roughly 75 iPads on the bench, may have stretched the truth a bit. Someone is indeed looking at it as Bunting will have a hearing with Department of Player Safety.

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