Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,
No team celebrates its history more than the Montreal Canadiens, and you can decide for yourself whether that’s a good thing. The franchise has become legendary for reminding us about its legends. That often takes place during inspiring pregame ceremonies that the Canadiens have elevated to a minor art form, thanks largely to no small amount of practice.
It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it works beautifully, as it did before Saturday night’s Game 5 of the Habs’ second-round series against the Lightning. In the moments leading up to puck drop, we were treated to a brief video featuring words of inspiration from Jean Beliveau, the longtime Canadiens captain who passed away earlier in the season. Beliveau remains one of the most universally beloved figures in the hockey world, and his no. 4 is painted on the ice behind the nets at the Bell Centre.
That number loomed over Saturday’s game: four, as in the series-clinching fourth win that the Lightning were chasing for the second straight game. Four, as in the number of consecutive wins the Canadiens would need to string together after having dropped the first three games of the series. Four, as in the number of teams in NHL history that have rallied all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit.
Rather than get credit for what he has achieved, Therrien has a target on his back the size of Mount Royal. The sad part is that the whole silly Babcock debate goes to the myth that the Canadiens are somehow hamstrung by the need for a French-speaking coach. That, I’m afraid, is a steaming pile of horse patootie.
-Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette where you can read more on this topic.
from Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times,
The Lightning skated off the ice, heads down, dejected, eyes to the ground. The Bell Centre crowd, going insane, left the Lightning's ears ringing and its heads splitting.
As the Lightning stepped off the white sheet and down the tunnel toward the locker room, it surely had one thought in its mind: No way we want to come back here again.
That means the Lightning's hopes of moving on to the next round, its dream of a Stanley Cup and, more critically, everything it has accomplished this season will be on the line in Game 6 Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.
That is the Lightning's game of the year after Saturday night's 2-1 loss in Game 5 — a loss that really wasn't all that surprising but was nonetheless heartbreaking. Montreal scored with only 4:07 left to snap a 1-1 tie and send this series back to Tampa Bay.
A comfy 3-0 series lead has dwindled to a 3-2 pressure cooker.
"We put ourselves in this position," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We definitely want to finish it off."
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
A Montreal Canadiens executive walking out of the Bell Centre well after the game ended Saturday night observed that the rink was as loud as it had been in a long time.
Imagine what it would sound like for a Game 7?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have no intention of finding out. But what they do know is that the Habs aren’t going away quietly, Saturday’s 2-1 win by the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge suddenly making this a very interesting series.
“I said it in Game 3 before the game, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way, but I said it’s easy to tell the guys that want to keep playing and you can tell by the effort and sacrifice that guys are making on the ice," said Habs star blue-liner P.K. Subban, who had his best game of the series. "Right now, as part of the leadership group, there’s not one guy who isn’t carrying his weight or looks like he doesn’t want to play. Everybody is on board and energetic and it has been that way for the most of the of series."
from Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette,
“I definitely think that us scoring six goals is huge; it’s huge for our confidence,” Subban said Thursday after the Canadiens staved off elimination in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal with a 6-2 win in Tampa’s Amalie Arena.
Bishop, who has dominated the Canadiens over the past two seasons, was pulled Thursday after giving up three goals on 14 shots.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper said he pulled Bishop to rest him because he was playing on back-to-back nights. That makes sense, but at the same time Bishop didn’t look comfortable, giving up several rebounds and for the second time in this series he allowed a goal that was in his glove, embarrassing for someone who grew up playing baseball.
“I think Bishop sort of was sitting on a horseshoe for a little bit there,” Subban said. “He’s played well, but he’s been lucky as well. I think seeing him pulled out of the net is a confidence booster for our team.”
When told about Subban’s horseshoe comment, Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times: “He may be right. Or Ben might be a good goalie.”
from Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times,
So, a reason for concern or merely a small bump in the road?
In the grand scheme of things, you would still rather be the Lightning than the Canadiens. After all, in a best-of-seven series, you would rather have three victories than one right now.
So just bump in the road for the Lightning, right?
Well, not so fast. True, it's one game, and it's hard to imagine the only team in the NHL that didn't lose three games in a row all season is now set up to lose four in a row. But the Lightning is not playing its best hockey at the moment. Not by a long shot.
Montreal probably should have won Game 1 and absolutely deserved to win Game 3. Tampa Bay won both only because of sensational work by goalie Ben Bishop, who was yanked after giving up three goals in less than half a game on Thursday.
What does it matter which team has looked better? Well, the best way to predict the immediate future is to examine the very recent past. And if the first four games have shown us anything, it's that the Canadiens, quite frankly, have been better than the Lightning.
"It's not even so much what they're doing," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's our lack of execution, our compete and our structure. When we stray from that, this league is too good to just go out and win hockey games on skill."
The Montreal Canadiens have a group of five (Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, and Andrei Markov) that should equal success on the power play, but there’s something missing.
from Sean Gordon of the Globe and Mail,
Tonight’s third game in the series will be the sixth meeting between the teams in less than 60 days and the first of back-to-back games, which comes with physical challenges.
“Can’t stand here and say I’m a big fan of back-to-backs,” said Tampa captain Steven Stamkos.
Following brisk morning skating sessions, players from both sides insisted the focus is solely on tonight as the Habs attempt to dig themselves out of trouble, while the Lightning shovels will be busy trying to make the hole deeper.
After two days spent recuperating, and in Montreal’s case ruminating over a 6-2 loss in game two, the clubs were mostly trying to channel their energy and find playoff-level focus.
The Habs talked about the benefits of rest – “We need to play fast to have success,” said winger Alex Galchenyuk – and the need to avoid a familiar pitfall: penalties.
The Tampa power-play suddenly roared to life in the last game, the Habs will doubtless be encouraged to know such a thing is possible. They are 1-for-26 in the playoffs with the man-advantage.
“We’ve got the right Xs and Os, we’ve just got to make the plays,” said centre Lars Eller, who was sent out more regularly on the power play in game two.
The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers currently face uphill climbs in their respective series, if either want to return the Eastern Conference Final, they’ll need to step it up.
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
It took two wins this playoff series — seven wins, if you count the regular season — but the Lightning have rattled le Club de hockey Canadien into a whimpering, whiny mess.
To be continued?
A Tampa Bay sweep might be a public service. I mean, Canadiens pouty game misconductor Brandon Prust threw his smelly elbow pad into the Lightning bench near the end of the Lightning’s 6-2 Game 2 rout in Montreal. If this thing went seven games, Prust would be down to his skivvies, or less. No thank you.
The naked truth: The Lightning appear to be inside the Canadiens’ heads.
To be continued?
Just last season, on the way to being swept by the Canadiens, the Lightning put up a brave face as they headed to Montreal down 0-2. That lasted 11 seconds into Game 3, when Rene Bourque scored for the Habs.
Now the skate is on the other foot.
On to this Game 3.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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