Watch Anton Stralman score in his first game back from broken leg

Jared Clinton
Anton Stralman (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been without Steven Stamkos for the past month and a half, but it could be argued it was defenseman Anton Stralman, who had been sidelined with a broken leg, that the Lightning were missing more.

Stralman, 29, was a 22-plus minute per night blueliner and he chipped in nine goals and 34 points in 73 games during the regular season. Beyond that, though, he was the perfect shutdown guy for Tampa Bay, skating alongside Victor Hedman and giving the Lightning one of the most effective defense pairings in the entire league.

Without Stralman, the Lightning’s blueline has been led by Hedman alone, but after weeks of rehab, the veteran defenseman was taking part in full practices ahead of Game 1 and was back in the lineup for Game 2. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark on Monday night’s contest, either: Read more

Finally! Sidney Crosby wins Game 2 with first career playoff overtime goal

Matt Cullen and Sidney Crosby. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The sport’s greatest players are judged on what they accomplish when they’re needed most, whether that’s fair or not. It implies a certain intangible ability to deliver in the clutch. You don’t have to believe in it, but much of the hockey community and Twittersphere thinks that way.

Sidney Crosby has spent his career as a big-game player for the most part. An injury kept him off the ice for the dying minutes when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but he was still dominant in that playoff run. He delivered the gold-medal-clinching goals at the Olympics for Canada in 2010 and 2014, the former in overtime.

Something that had eluded Sid the Kid for his entire NHL career, however: a playoff overtime goal. Until Monday. Crosby finally delivered in his 113th post-season contest. Watch the winner here:

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Lightning’s Bishop out for Game 2, but only day-to-day after thinking leg was broken

Jared Clinton
Ben Bishop (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final and it looked as though his season could be over regardless of what the Lightning accomplished in the third round. But it turns out the news is much better than one would have expected.

Though Bishop, 29, was absent from the game day skate ahead of Game 2, which means he won’t be playing Monday evening, x-rays and an MRI have come back showing that he’s actually in much better shape than anyone could have guessed. In fact, he could even be back this series, as he’s been listed by the Lightning as day-to-day. This coming after the netminder revealed he thought the worst as soon as he fell to the ice in Game 1.

“I fell back and felt something I’ve never felt before, pain right away,” Bishop said. “Your mind starts racing, you start thinking the worst thing. I’m thinking my leg is broken then your mind just starts spinning. I was really scared…Definitely one of the scariest things that’s happened to me. It’s funny when something like that happens and your mind starts racing. Just thinking the worst. Luckily, it’s not that bad.” Read more

Fifteen players who are making great cases for the World Cup of Hockey

Logan Couture (left) and Brent Burns  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The final rosters for The World Cash Grab of Hockey™ are due two weeks from today. They were originally supposed to be submitted June 1, but the league and the NHL Players’ Association decided they didn’t want the World Cup extras to overshadow the Stanley Cup final. The announcement would coincide with Game 7 of the Western Conference final if there is one, but both sides were willing to take that risk.

So for some players, the auditions for the final spots continue through the conference final and World Championship. And there’s no doubt that some players have used those platforms to either cement their spots or make for some very difficult decisions.

Here are players from each team that have willed their way into the World Cup conversation:

CANADA
Brent Burns: Biggest no-brainer of the whole tournament. In fact, I had to go back to make sure he wasn’t on Canada’s roster already. That’s because Burns might not only be the best Canadian defenseman at the moment, he might be the best in the world. Adding Burns to a right defense corps that already has Drew Doughty and Shea Weber would be frightening.

Kris Letang: Canada plans to go with just four right-handed defensemen and already has two in Weber and Doughty, which leaves the other two spots for Burns and one of P.K. Subban or Letang. This is where the Canadian brain trust is going to have a very, very difficult decision to make.

Logan Couture: It shouldn’t matter that Canada already has nine natural centermen and just two wingers on its roster at the moment. Couture has been one of the best two-way players in these playoffs and despite getting fewer minutes than San Jose’s big guns, scored 11 points in the second round.

Taylor Hall/Matt Duchene: Both are playing well for Canada at the World Championship and if you’re going to get players to go to that tournament to audition for events such as the World Cup, you’d better be prepared to offer them spots when they produce.

USA
Phil Kessel: The Americans might want to bring Nick Bonino along if they choose Kessel, but Kessel has proved he belongs with the best players in the world. The Americans are already well stocked at right wing with the likes of Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler and T.J. Oshie, but there has to be room for a player who has performed as well as Kessel has.

Tyler Johnson: Ask yourself one question. If the World Cup team were being picked at this time last year, would Johnson have been included? You bet he would have. Well, right now he’s playing every bit as well as he did in last year’s playoffs. He deserves to at least grab the spot as the 13th forward.

NORTH AMERICA
Robby Fabbri: He’s been a winner and an impact player at every level he’s played and he’s proving to be a huge factor in the Blues’ run to the Western Conference final. He would give this team the speed and grit that will drive its opponents bonkers in the fall.

Jonathan Drouin: He has answered every character question people had of him. The talent has always been there, but there’s a jam to his game that is coming to the forefront. He’s an elite playmaker and is showing it.

Colton Parayko: The St. Louis Blues defenseman is playing 20 minutes a game and seems unfazed by the elevation in competition. And at 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, he’ll give the kids some much-needed size.

Auston Matthews: The consensus No. 1 pick was “in tough” to make the team in the words of team management, but what more can he do to prove he belongs? He has been a beast at the worlds.

RUSSIA
Nikita Nesterov: The 23-year-old has been in and out of the Tampa Bay lineup and has not seen a lot of ice time when he has played, but in limited viewing has displayed an ability to move the puck and create offensive opportunities.

SWEDEN
Carl Hagelin: After being traded twice in less seven months, Hagelin has found a home in Pittsburgh playing on a line with Bonino and Kessel. One thing we’ve seen in these playoff is that speed kills and Hagelin has all sorts of it.

CZECH REPUBLIC
Radek Faksa: Of course Jaromir Jagr gets a spot if he wants it. But if this team is going to have any success at all in this tournament, it’s going to have to come from their young guys and Faksa did a good job with the Dallas Stars playing with a lot of energy and a competitive edge.

FINLAND
Patrik Laine: The Finns are tied for first in their division at the World Championship and Laine is leading them in scoring. Come on, Finland, make it happen. At the very least, it would give the country’s next big offensive star a taste of what it’s like to play against the best players in the world.

EUROPE
Tom Kuhnhackl: He’s getting a ton of big-game experience playing on Pittsburgh’s fourth line and despite playing only 12 minutes a game, has five points in these playoffs. His shorthanded goal in Game 1 of the first round basically buried the New York Rangers in that game and helped set the tone for the series.

Advanced stats vs. the eye test: Penguins are heavy favorites among Final Four

Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The final four is set: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and San Jose are the last teams left vying for the Stanley Cup. It’s an interesting and exciting group, but it’s also not an unexpected one if you paid attention to the numbers.

Before every round, we here at THN previewed three different sets of predictions: one based on stats, one based on the eye test, and a combination of the two. So far, the stats have come out on top and those four teams were pretty much exactly the predicted final four.

Pittsburgh was the top team in the league. St. Louis was tops in the Central and fourth overall. Tampa Bay was tops in the Atlantic and seventh overall. And San Jose was second in the Pacific behind LA, but third overall in the league.

Not bad for a bunch of numbers, let’s see how they do in the conference final. But first a quick recap of where the stats and eyes differed in opinion for round two, and some adjustments to the method.

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2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs third-round preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

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SERIES STARTS: Friday, 8 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.

THE LIGHTNING WIN IF…

Whereas Pittsburgh got one goal from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined in the second round, Tampa’s best players continue to be its best players. The NHL may have to cut the Conn Smythe Trophy into pieces and hand them out to several Bolts if they win the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has been a monster, ripping off nine goals in 10 games, and Tyler Johnson, last year’s league-leading playoff scorer, has recaptured the magic with 13 points in 10 games.

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