As the second round of the playoffs rolls on, the Capitals, Islanders, Stars, and Predators are all trailing their series heading into Thursday’s action.
A one or two game deficit in the NHL is nothing to get too worried about. There have been many memorable comebacks from even 3-0 leads in recent years.
So don’t count any team out just yet. These are the three teams with the best chance of making a comeback in their series:
NEW YORK ISLANDERS, down to 2-1 to Lightning
BROOKLYN – New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano was talking about the tying goal in Game 3 of his team’s second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the goal that never should have happened and led to the overtime loss that now finds the Islanders needing to win three of the next four games to take the series.
He talked about having the players he wanted out there, even though it was a group that hadn’t played very well all night. He talked about having two centermen on the ice, even though one of them was Frans Nielsen, who was beaten cleanly on the draw on the Lightning’s second goal. Then he talked about the Islanders not collapsing enough in front of their own net on the play.
And this is what hockey has come to, ladies and gentlemen. Because as far as these eyes could tell, the reason why the Islanders gave up that tying goal was they collapsed too much.
BROOKLYN – Nobody really knows how this Jonathan Drouin saga with the Tampa Bay Lightning is ultimately going to play out. But wouldn’t it be neat if 10 years from now, when Drouin is a star in the NHL and the lynchpin of the Lightning, we’re all sitting around talking about how his 2016 winter of discontent might have been the best thing that could have happened to him?
To be sure, nobody would be terribly surprised, given all the twists and turns this story has taken. But one thing is sure, the same player who was maligned for a lack of maturity when he left the Lightning in a snit earlier this season is emerging as a player who seems to have learned his lessons with, ahem, Lightning speed. And in a playoff season where the Lightning are missing their most dynamic offensive player, Drouin just might be proving to the organization that there could be life after Steven Stamkos.
BROOKLYN – Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was talking about his team’s game Tuesday night and how it’s a great example of why we all love this game so much. And he’s right. But it’s also a pretty good example of why this game infuriates us, too.
We love it because when it’s played like it was in the Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win over the Islanders in Game 3, it embodies everything that makes this game great. It also infuriates us because too many times, the lack of awareness/incompetence of the referees ruins it. What people who think that officials “should let the players decide things” fail to realize is that referees influence the outcome of a game with non-calls, too. And that’s exactly what happened in Game 3.
As the season begins to wind down, we’re starting to see some hardware handed out in the prospect ranks. Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Mitch Marner, for example, just won the OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player for his work with the London Knights. Another OHL award-winner is featured below in my weekly wrap-up. Elsewhere in the hockey world, the USHL is in the middle of its two-stage draft. During Phase 1 (for 2000 birthdays), Sioux Falls landed competitive center Gavin Hain with the No. 1 pick. Phase 2 (for 1999s and earlier) happened today. And speaking of the USHL, let’s get to this week’s round-up:
The Islanders went into Tampa Bay and shocked the Lightning in Game 1 en route to splitting the first two games of the second-round series, and as the series shifts to Brooklyn for Games 3 and 4, New York could be in line to get a boost to the depth their lineup.
Josh Bailey and Ryan Pulock missed the first two games of the series with upper-body injuries that were sustained in the final games of the first-round matchup against the Florida Panthers. However, both took part in practices ahead of Game 3, and it appears Bailey and Pulock could be prepared to suit up for Tuesday night’s tilt.
Bailey, 26, is an especially good addition to the lineup, as he chipped in 12 goals and 32 points during the regular season and gives New York an option lower in the lineup that can potentially produce when the Islanders need it. Most of the club’s offense this post-season has run through John Tavares and Kyle Okposo — the pair has combined for 18 points — and while Bailey struggled down the stretch and has only managed one assist during these playoffs, his return could give a boost to the second and third lines.
“I felt good the last few days, been progressing where I need to be,” Bailey told Newsday’s Arthur Staple. “See how it is tomorrow, but as long as I keep feeling the same way, should be good.” Read more
The Strome family has a tradition. Three sons have been drafted into the OHL over the years, and a couple nights before each one has left home, the family has thrown a big party featuring all their relatives. The son who was leaving would give a speech, and things would get misty. OK, fine. There were full-on waterworks. Ryan is the eldest and currently a member of the New York Islanders. Matthew is the youngest and just gave his speech last summer before departing the family home in Mississauga for Hamilton. And in the middle is Dylan, an Arizona Coyotes draft pick who has been tearing up the OHL as a member of the high-flying Erie Otters for nearly three seasons. “We thank everyone for the help and generosity they’ve given us,” Dylan said.
“They’ve followed us for so many years of our lives, and they know we’re going off to do what we love to do. For them to help us out so much, you get emotional when you talk about it. I was crying, Matt was crying, Ryan cried. I cried when Ryan said it, I cried when Matt said it. My parents were both crying. It’s OK to show emotion in our family.”
And to think, there was once a time when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Drouin had no use for one another.
Now, Drouin’s spot in the Lightning lineup is not only firmly secure, but the left winger is making important contributions in playoff victories. Drouin scored his first career post-season goal and added an assist in a 4-1 Game 2 win on Saturday as Tampa Bay evened its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Islanders.