Lightning Insider: April 20, 2014

The Lightning’s first round series against the Montreal Canadiens shifts to the heart of Quebec tonight as the Bolts and Canadiens meet for Game 3 at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal.  Tampa Bay trails the series two games to none and are still looking to find the game that propelled them to second place in the Atlantic Division during the regular season.  Steven Stamkos said this morning that the most disappointing thing so far in the series is that the Lightning have not played their game.  Hopefully they will be able to find it tonight to avoid going down 3-0.
 
Jon Cooper left a lot to the imagination this morning in regard to tonight’s line-up, not revealing any changes.  Anders Lindback came off first after the morning skate, but Cooper said the goaltender would be a game time decision as well.  Ondrej Palat, who missed Game 2 with an upper body injury, skated both yesterday and today and will also be a game time decision.  He said he feels good.  Palat has been a huge part of Tampa Bay’s success this season so hopefully he is ready to go.
 
Something struck me on the team charter yesterday from Tampa to Montreal.  There were a lot of career NHL goals on that plane, 2,992 to be exact. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Radio Color Commentator, Phil Esposito - 717
  • Vice President and General Manager, Steve Yzerman - 692
  • Vice President, Dave Andreychuk - 640
  • Assistant General Manager, Pat Verbeek - 522
  • Assistant Coach, Steve Thomas - 421 

That’s a pretty impressive group.
 
In what is a strange occurrence, the Lightning held a 10:30 a.m. morning skate today.  The 10:30 a.m. time slot is usually reserved for the home team, with the visitors skating at 11:30 a.m., but with the Canadiens practicing at their facility in Brossard, Quebec the Bolts elected to take the earlier time.  They are scheduled to practice tomorrow at the Bell Centre before Tuesday’s Game 4.
 
TV: Sun Sports
Radio: AM 970 WFLA
 
Salt in the Wound – Jon Cooper took what was a playful job at the Canadiens this morning when speaking with the media.  “It’s not like they’ve ever had a 2-0 lead heading home and blown it,” Cooper said, referring to the 2011 playoffs when Montreal took a 2-0 lead to Montreal against the Boston Bruins and ended up losing the series.  Boston went on to win the Stanley Cup, also defeating the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.
 
Non-Believers – Cooper also pointed out this morning that before the series began they looked at somewhere near 40 media predictions.  Of those 40, only about five picked the Lightning to win.
 

40 plays

Extra Shift: Montreal Canadiens 4, Lightning 1 – Game Two

Hockey can be a funny game sometimes.  The Game Two score was more lopsided than the final in Game One, but the Lightning actually played a better game than they did on Wednesday.  But unlike in Game One, when both teams twice surrendered one-goal leads, the first two goals scored in this game were very significant.

The Lightning vowed to play more with the puck and limit their turnovers in Game Two.  For much of the first period, they did just that.  The Bolts had very good jump in the opening 15 minutes – it’s true that they did allow some dangerous chances (in particular, a Brian Gionta breakaway) – but they controlled the puck for the majority of that time.  Their momentum was slowed after Steven Stamkos was assessed a four-minute double minor for high-sticking, but they killed off both penalties (and were aided by Montreal’s too-many-men infraction during the four-minute kill) and entered the first intermission scoreless.

With their failed chance on the double-minor, Montreal was in an 0-27 rut on the power play, but the Habs broke the tie on an early second period power play chance.  The Lightning didn’t stop buzzing, though.  Shortly after falling behind, they had separate wide-open looks from Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos.  Both players didn’t record a shot, though, as they tried to unsuccessfully outwait Carey Price.  Each time, the player stickhandled behind the net and no shot was recorded.  Later in that sequence, Killorn took a shot from the left circle and Tyler Johnson narrowly missed tucking in the rebound.  Having dodged those bullets, the Canadiens netted an important second goal when Rene Bourque split the Lightning defense and slid the puck past Anders Lindback, who missed on a poke-check attempt.  That goal, which came just past the halfway point of the second period, completely changed the dynamic of the game.  

From that point on, the Habs went into a tight, defensive lock-down mode.  The Lightning struggled to get pucks through the neutral zone and maintain possession in the offensive end.  Scoring chances were limited, although Price made a terrific save on Cedric Paquette late in the second to preserve the two-goal lead.  Credit Montreal for playing very well defensively in the second half of the game.  The Bolts, down by two goals entering the third, had to press.  The Habs were content to sit back and wait for turnovers. Two of those turnovers led to Montreal counterattack goals.  A late six-on-four power play goal from Teddy Purcell broke up Price’s shutout bid.

The second half of this game looked ugly for the Lightning.  But that’s how it can look when you fall behind by a couple of goals in the playoffs against a good, structured opponent.  When the game was scoreless – and even when it was only 1-0 – the Lightning had more time and space to make plays.  It’ll behoove them to play with the lead Sunday in Game Three.

The Habs came to Tampa talking about how starting on the road can involve less pressure than beginning at home.  They played two very good games to gain control of the series.  But now the pressure is on Montreal to keep it going.  Twice in the last eight years, Montreal has blown a first round series in which it won the first two on the road, most recently in 2011 against Boston.  The Montreal press will undoubtedly remind the players of those previous collapses – and it’ll be interesting to see how the Canadiens handle a 2-0 lead in front of their raucous fans.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito): Rene Bourque’s second period goal, giving Montreal a 2-0 lead.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito): 

  1. Rene Bourque – Canadiens. Two goals. 
  2.  P.K. Subban – Canadiens. Two assists
  3. Carey Price – Canadiens. 26 saves.

#BoltsSocial Report - 4/18 vs. Montreal, Round One, Game Two

The Bolts are in the hunt for a W tonight as the Montreal Canadiens lead the Lightning 1-0 in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

White Out

Don’t have a white jersey on hand? We can help: More than 20,000 white “I am the Thunder” Lightning shirts have been placed on every chair in the Times Forum courtesy of Kane’s Furniture. 

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Stop by #BoltsSocial Central behind section 128 to get a FREE digital postcard in our photobooth courtesy of Visit Florida. Connect your STM card to your Facebook page to put the photo right on your timeline. Not an STM? We’ve got your back. We have free #BoltsSocial Fan Cards so you can get in on the action, too.

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#LightningStrikes

As always, get your picks in for a chance to win a limited edition Lightning Strikes winner T-shirt provided by Old Time Hockey. Submit your prediction for who will score the first Tampa Bay goal tonight on Twitter using the hashtag #LightningStrikes. One lucky winner who picks the first goal scorer correctly will win the T-shirt. 

#47AtTheForum

If you’re headed to the game tonight, tweet your seat location with hashtag #47attheforum for your chance to win a gift certificate for a 47 Brand Lightning playoffs t-shirt and cap of choice.

94 plays

Extra Shift: Montreal Canadiens 5, Lightning 4 – OT Game One

If the Lightning are going to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in this series, they’ll have to play a lot better than they did in Game One.

It’s not only that the Lightning were outshot, 44-25.  They struggled with many of the little details of the game – little details they had executed well during the regular season.  The Lightning didn’t manage the puck well enough, lost too many puck battles, struggled to cleanly clear their defensive zone and generally gave the Montreal players too much time and space to make plays.  As a result, it was the Canadiens who had the puck most of the night – and the Bolts were left defending.

As I’ve written before, both teams contribute to write a game’s narrative – and both clubs had their fingerprints on this one.  For Montreal, Game One was, by a country mile, its best performance of the season against the Lightning.  For most of the night, the Canadiens broke out of their own zone effectively, were hungry and hard on pucks, repeatedly forced turnovers and gave the Lightning little time and space.

So, now, looking ahead to Game Two on Friday, what do we make of what transpired? 

Was it that the Lightning, who dressed eight players making their NHL playoff debut (and two others, Mike Kostka and Anders Lindback, who had one game of NHL playoff experience), had trouble adjusting to the heightened intensity?  Steven Stamkos has stated that it took him some time to get acclimated to NHL playoff hockey when he first experienced it in 2011.  If that’s the case, the Lightning, now with a game under their belt, should look more like themselves in Game Two. 

And what about Montreal?  The Canadiens did make a few mistakes in the game - and the Bolts were able to exploit some of those errors for goals – but overall, the Habs played a terrific game.  Is this going to be Montreal’s standard for the rest of the series?  Or is it going to dip?

From Tampa Bay’s perspective, though, it can’t matter how well or poorly the Canadiens play.  The Bolts will need to be better in handling the details of the game, whether Montreal is bringing its “A” game or not. 

And there are things the Lightning can build upon.  Twice they rallied from third period deficits.  They did put four goals past Carey Price and generated several great scoring chances in overtime.  And there’s the knowledge that, while not playing nearly their best, they did take the game into overtime.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito): Dale Weise’s overtime winner.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito): 

  1. Thomas Vanek – Canadiens. Goal. Team-leading seven shots.
  2. Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals. 
  3. Dale Weise – Canadiens. Overtime winner.

#BoltsSocial Report - April 16 vs. Montreal Canadiens

The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs gets underway tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Bolts will battle the Habs in the first of the best-of-seven series.

#BoltsFreeze 

We spent the afternoon freezing over Tampa Bay with our passcodes encased in ice. Didn’t get the chance to find one? We’ve got an ice block in #BoltsSocial Central behind section 128 – go find it and plug in the passcode to your mobile device before it melts and see what you can win! 

Tweet To Win

#LightningStrikes

As always, get your picks in for a chance to win a limited edition Lightning Strikes winner T-shirt provided by Old Time Hockey. Submit your prediction for who will score the first Tampa Bay goal tonight on Twitter using the hashtag #LightningStrikes. One lucky winner who picks the first goal scorer correctly will win the T-shirt.

 

 

#47AtTheForum

If you’re headed to the game tonight, tweet your seat location with hashtag #47attheforum for your chance to win a gift certificate for a 47 Brand Lightning playoff ladies v-neck and hat. 

We look forward to seeing you tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. #GoBolts