Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
The difference between these two teams during the first five games? Tampa Bay’s best players have made a difference. New York’s have not.
The Lightning have scored 16 goals in the series, all of which can be attributed to their top-six forwards. Steven Stamkos has tallied in each of the past four games and is playing his best hockey when his team needs him most. Nikita Kucherov has six points. So does Tyler Johnson. No. 1 defenseman Victor Hedman has four assists in the series. They’ve been like shark teeth. If one falls out, another is in place to continue tearing the Rangers to shreds.
It hasn’t been so easy for New York’s finest. Rick Nash was great in Game 4, but was back to settling for perimeter chances in Game 5. Martin St. Louis has one goal and should probably stand up and wave at the camera at some point so we can verify that he’s shown up. Chris Kreider apparently needs to hire a Sherpa to guide him to the Lightning’s crease and a friendly reminder that he’s at his best when he’s making the other team angry. Derick Brassard has had his moments (that Game 4 pass to St. Louis who put it away) but they’ve been too few and too far between.
The Rangers need a stand-up effort from their blueline as well. The Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi pair has been an inconsistent answer to The Triplets of Tampa Bay.
Watch and listen....
from Joe McDonald of ESPN,
"It’s a roller coaster of emotions. It goes up and down," Lundqvist said. "You just have to deal with it the best you can, deal with the pressure you put on yourself, expectations you have on you. It just comes down to keeping your focus on what you need to do -- that’s it. Don’t focus on too many other things, especially things you can’t control."
Bishop’s calmness should be bottled and sold over the counter as a sleeping drug.
"You’ve got to treat it like the regular season," he said. "When you play 60-whatever games, you’re going to have some good ones, you’re going to have some bad ones. You’re going to have some unlucky ones, you’re going to have some lucky ones. It’s kind of the same in the playoffs. You can’t put too much emphasis on one game. ... You just can’t look at it in a real short window. You’ve got to look at it big picture, and that’s a big thing. If you treat it like the regular season, where there’s going to be good games and bad games, it’s easier to move on."
What allows two quality goaltenders to remain so calm in a situation such as this?
"It doesn’t get any easier," one NHL goalie coach said. "Certainly, the pressure surrounding the games ramps up as you go through the rounds. In a lot of ways, the game’s almost a little bit easier because everybody is so attentive to blocking shots, picking up your checks, making good, hard plays."
via Sportsnet's YouTube channel,
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
Game 6 on Tuesday night against the Lightning will mark the Rangers’ 100th game of a season that began in St. Louis on Oct. 9 — every day of which the team has had the singular goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
If the Rangers lose this game, if they are eliminated in the conference finals, their season can only be evaluated as a failure. Not a failure of character or will, not at all. But a failure nevertheless.
Harsh but true, given the standard they have set for themselves.
No grading on a curve here.
If they win — if they stave off extinction as they did three times against the Capitals in Round 2, as they have done in 14 of their 17 win-or-else games since 2012 and in five of eight on the road — then the Blueshirts get to define themselves again Friday in Game 7 at the Garden.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
"Stammer and Fil, and Killorn, to be honest, I think they've elevated their game to as high a level as you can play," Cooper said after his team’s 2-0 win Sunday night, giving the Lightning a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Tuesday in Tampa.
"The one thing with Stammer, you look at his seven goals, he's not getting the sixth goal in a 6-2 game,” Cooper said. "He's getting the go-ahead goal or the one that you build off. It was only a matter of time. You can't keep him down forever."
Stamkos, well, looks like Stamkos again.
"I'm definitely more confident now than I was the first eight games, no question," Stamkos said after putting up a goal and an assist in Sunday night’s huge victory. "But I think for me it was a great adversity test.
"Our team was winning, which was great. The depth has prevailed all season for our team. But I knew I was playing the right way. When you play the right way, things are going to start going your way. We switched some things up, moved to the wing, tried to free some things up. The power play has gotten a lot better too, where you get a couple goals, you get a couple points there, now you're feeling a little better. So everything has kind of accumulated to this point right now. But when you have confidence, you try to keep it as long as you can, because it is tough to get at this time of the year."
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
This wasn’t good enough from the Rangers, not good enough at all to win a conference final Game 5, and divining meaning from the all-but-empty locker room that greeted the press following the match, the Blueshirts must have known it.
It was 2-0 for the Lightning, who played to perfection what the Rangers had every right to consider their own game to nudge the Blueshirts to the precipice of elimination in taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Blueshirts played with passion and jump throughout the first period, but displayed little of either over the final 40 minutes while being stifled by a Lightning in front of an audience as quiet as Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Marty St. Louis, and … ah, you get the idea.
What a downer.
Below, watch the game highlights...
Scheduled puck drop is just after 8:00pm ET on NBCSN, CBC and TVA.
The series is tied at two games and tonight's game will be played at Madison Square Garden.
Feel free to discuss the game.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
This is where we are heading into Sunday’s Game 5: All square in the Eastern Conference final with everything on the line. Two wins from the Stanley Cup final or two losses from a summer of regret.
"I think the harsh reality is some guys in this room may never get a chance to get this far again," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Sunday morning. "Hopefully everyone does, but you never know in this sport. It's so tough to get here. ... There's really no place to hide right now.
"We have to find a way to respond, to play a lot better than we did last game and to get ourselves that much closer to the final."
To date, this has been a highly unpredictable series. Tight-checking in Game 1, a parade to the penalty box in Game 2, scoring bonanza in Game 3 and Rangers blow out in Game 4.
After Tampa made its way here on Saturday, the players were treated to a video and strategy session. The message? Let's focus on playing some defence in addition to the dazzling offence.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
The Eastern Conference final may be level at two-all with Sunday’s Game 5 coming up at the Garden, but make no mistake, this series between the Rangers and Lightning has been marked by peaks and valleys.
The tempo and tenor of one game has been dramatically different from the one preceding it. There have been a multitude of forced errors and unforced ones, all though a creation of both teams’ skill, speed and willingness to go for it.
The Rangers have looked overwhelmed at times, even during most of the second period of Friday’s 5-1 victory in Tampa. But the Blueshirts were able to maintain their poise while under pressure, perhaps a byproduct of Game 4 representing the team’s 73rd playoff game over the last four springs.
They’ve seen it all.
But they haven’t seen the caliber of elite talent the Lightning bring to the rink every night. Indeed, what is now a sprint to two for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup has — goaltending aside for the moment — evolved into a battle between Tampa Bay’s formidable top-end players and the Blueshirts’ formidable depth.
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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