Before the post-season had even begun, the Tampa Bay Lightning knew their power play had to improve. And with Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman on the shelf, the Lightning had few options better than calling up Jonathan Drouin, who had walked away from Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate earlier in the season.
Drouin’s effectiveness on the power play was clear upon his return to the AHL. Only days before he was called up to the NHL, Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler was singing the youngsters praises, pointing out Drouin’s skill with the man advantage and noting how he had the ability to put the puck into tight spaces. It makes sense then that with the Lightning power play struggling through three games to the tune of a 1-for-13, 7.7 percent clip that coach Jon Cooper would look to work on the man advantage ahead of Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings. That included giving Drouin a look with the top unit.
“As these games go on, you need to score that power-play goal,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson. “We’ve been trying to find our way there of late. Jonathan Drouin has come back up here, hasn’t had a ton of time to work on the power play with us, but he’s clearly an asset for us in that area, so this is clearly a chance to work on it and we did.’’
Well, that move by Cooper paid off, to say the least. Read more
While the Toronto Maple Leafs made progress in the first season of their rebuild, they still lack a quality starting goaltender. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons notes the only reason for Jonathan Bernier’s return next season is the year remaining on his contract. He thinks the Leafs could accelerate their rebuild with an upgrade in the crease.
Finding a good goalie this summer won’t be easy. There are slim pickings via unrestricted free agency, with former Leaf James Reimer the best of the bunch. It’s unlikely they’ll bring him back.
Options are also few in the trade market. Last month, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello scouted Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks.
Andersen, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. If the Ducks are committed to John Gibson as their starter, Andersen could be shopped this summer. The Leafs could face competition for his services, as the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could also come calling. Read more
Jeff Blashill’s decision to go with Petr Mrazek in goal over Jimmy Howard paid off on Sunday night.
Mrazek made 16 saves for his third career playoff shutout as the Detroit Red Wings blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0.
Andreas Athanasiou’s first career postseason goal at 12:42 of the second period stood to be the winner. Captain Henrik Zetterberg added the insurance marker less than five minutes later.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning would have defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final in 2015, there’s a good chance Tyler Johnson would have hoisted the Conn Smythe Trophy as the post-season MVP. Johnson’s 13 goals and 23 points led the Lightning in the post-season, and it was the continuation of what had been a breakout season for the Tampa Bay pivot.
In the first game of the final, though, Johnson broke his wrist, and he was largely ineffective throughout the Cup final. Tampa Bay will never know what could have been last season had Johnson remained healthy last season, but it appears the 25-year-old pivot is going to do his best to make Lightning fans have a case of deja vu. In Game 2 of the first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Johnson showed the same playoff form that put him in discussions for the Conn Smythe last season.
As the Lightning looked to go up 2-0 and take a stranglehold of the series against the Red Wings, Johnson came to play. He registered a secondary assist on the Lightning’s first goal, scored the game-winner before the seven-minute mark of the third and then iced the game with a backbreaking goal with five minutes left in the contest. And after a tough regular season in which Johnson struggled to get back up to speed after recovering from his broken wrist, it looks like he’s found his form. Read more
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings may not be two teams that first come to mind when you think of physical play, but the bad blood between the two sides may have reached its boiling point in Game 2 of the opening-round series.
After a first game that saw its share of rough play, the hatred was flowing between the two teams early. After a rough and tumble first frame tempers reached their highest point of the series when Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser absolutely wallpapered Tampa Bay winger Ondrej Palat with a questionable hit.
With the Lightning on a power play, the puck found its way behind the Red Wings’ goal where Palat raced to beat Detroit defenders and maintain possession. As he reached the puck, Palat had his stick lifted by defenseman Alexey Marchenko and was crunched by DeKeyser. Take a look: Read more
One of the biggest worries for the Tampa Bay Lightning with the losses of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman heading into the first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings was that their power play would suffer. Though that might have been the case in the first game of the series, it didn’t matter much as it was Tampa Bay’s other special teams unit, the penalty kill, that made the difference.
It should come as no surprise that special teams made a difference in the penalty-filled affair, either. The Lightning and Red Wings were both in the bottom half of the league in times shorthanded, and that was apparent in the opening game of the series as the team’s combined for 18 penalties. It also shouldn’t be too surprising that in a game that came down to special teams, it was the Lightning who came out on top.
During the regular season, the Lightning ranked seventh in the league in penalty killing at 84 percent and they had no problem in Game 1 taking care of the Red Wings’ 13th-ranked power play. Five times in the opening game of the series the Lightning found themselves shorthanded, and each time they snuffed out the Red Wings’ power play attempts. All told, Tampa Bay allowed only five shots against while down a man. Read more
So through all of this Pavel Datsyuk news, one key question emerges. Can anyone explain how what Datsyuk might do in 2016 to the Detroit Red Wings is any different than what Chris Pronger did to the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago?
Well, there is the fact that Pronger orchestrating his departure from Edmonton in 2006 would not have left the Oilers with a potentially crippling hit leaving them in salary cap hell, so there is that. But aside from that, nothing. Both were superstars who left their teams and turned their backs on contracts they had signed in good faith. Both of them left for family reasons.
Over the past week reports have surfaced that this may be Pavel Datsyuk’s final season in the NHL, but the veteran center has confirmed that the Red Wings’ post-season run, however long it lasts, will likely be the final games of his NHL career.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom, Datsyuk said he wanted to clear up the rumors and reports and wished for the fans to hear of his decision from him, “not someone else.” Datsyuk said that he may not be done with the game entirely, but he does want to return to Russia. “I think I am done playing in the NHL,” Datsyuk told Albom.
“I will go back to my hometown,” Datsyuk added. “It is proper time…I am happy this year, but was like my heart pulled over both sides.” Read more