Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
Despite coach Alain Vigneault’s assertions that the Lightning “aren’t dictating” the pace of the series, it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what’s happened during the past two games. The Rangers may be fast, but Tampa Bay has been faster, more insistent on the attack and far more creative. The Lightning are seizing New York’s zone. They’re scoring off the rush. And the Rangers are all but waving hello as they breeze by.
The Lightning have put them on their heels with breakouts and speed through the neutral zone. It’s easy to blame the defense for not slowing the Bolts down, but much of the problem lies in the failings of the forwards to get back and take away Tampa Bay’s numeric advantage. So instead of mucking it up, as they did so effectively in their 2–1 Game 1 victory, the Rangers’ defensemen have too often been forced to fall back and allow the Bolts entry into their end. That lack of aggression is putting too much pressure on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who looked shaky while facing 40 shots in that 6–5 Game 3 loss.
The All-Star keeper clearly has to find a way to get over the mental hump of his past two beatings. He’s has allowed 12 goals on just 66 shots in the two losses, including the very stoppable 30-foot wrister from Nikita Kucherov that ended Game 3 in overtime, after giving up just 21 goals on 379 shots in his previous 13 games.
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
They can’t stop these guys.
The New York Rangers, who closed out Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who survived Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, have a problem on their hands. They’ve yet to slow the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.
Hey, join the club.
It was Kucherov who finished it Wednesday night in Game 3 at Amalie Arena — saving all by snapping a wicked wrist shot past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist early in overtime for a 6-5 win and a 2-1 series lead.
It could just as easily have been Johnson or Palat. They’re the best scoring line and story line of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But it was Kucherov, finding a sliver of space and beating Lundqvist, just as he beat Carey Price in Game 1 at Montreal.
“Kuch is one of those guys who, when you think he literally has nothing, he just kind of whips up something and makes something out of it,” Johnson said.
Watch Kucherov's game winning goal in OT below...
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
So there sat Lundqvist, a King with a crown tarnished by an ultra-talented group that seems to have his number … or numbers, as in a 4.75 GAA and .840 save pct. in six meetings this season covering the regular season and this round.
There he sat alone until general manager Glen Sather entered the room, walked to his franchise player’s stall, and offered quiet, private words of love and encouragement.
Lundqvist will need much more than those words as he seeks to find answers between now and Friday’s Game 4, for when he met the press a few minutes after Sather had left the room, it was clear that the goaltender had been shaken out of the Conn Smythe-worthy comfort zone in which he had been living until the Lightning became his — and his team’s — worst nightmare.
“For some reason I didn’t really pick it up,” the beleaguered goaltender said of the winner on which Palat cut across the zone from the right before unleashing the drive that beat him to the far, stick side. “I’m going to have to look at the video to see why.
“It’s really challenging for me, the way they move the puck and find open ice for the shot, the way they get scoring chances from right in front,” said Lundqvist, who had blundered by directing a soft initial shot onto Steven Stamkos’ stick for the Lightning’s first goal. “They’re good, but I need to be more consistent with my game plan.”
Watch the game highlights below....
Puck drops sometime after 8:00pm ET and the game is on NBCSN, CBC and TVA.
Series tied at one, first game in Tampa.
Should be an exciting one and feel free to discuss the game tonight or anything hockey related.
from Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times,
The time has arrived. He has arrived.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is no longer the kid with potential. He's no longer a future star.
When it comes to Hedman, it isn't about "someday'' or "eventually'' or "down the road.''
Hedman is a star. Right now.
It's happening right before our very eyes.
If you've watched the Lightning this season — if you've watched the Lightning in these playoffs — you've seen the maturation and evolution of a hockey player. From boy to man. From prospect to standout.
Victor Hedman has arrived.
"He's an unbelievable defenseman,'' teammate and forward Alex Killorn said. "Not just on our team, but throughout the league, he's one of the best defensemen in the league.''
He can play offense. He has a goal and seven assists in the playoffs.
from Flip Bondy of the New York Daily News,
“Their big boys put on the big-boy pants,” Vigneault said, after the Pittsburgh Penguins had badly beaten the Rangers. “I need mine to do that.”
If ever Vigneault needs his big boys to put on their extra-extra-large pants, it is now heading into Game 3 in Tampa Bay, after a rare, systemic collapse during Game 2 at the Garden, a 6-2 disaster. The Rangers hadn’t been beaten by four goals in the playoffs since 2009, and the team’s biggest stars are simply not producing at an adequate level — while Ben Bishop, Tyler Johnson, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman have been at the top of their games for Tampa Bay.
Not everyone is guilty here. Ryan McDonagh has had a great run and has done the right thing, calling out his teammates for “stupid, selfish penalties,” for “shooting ourselves in the foot.” Henrik Lundqvist had a lousy game on Monday, but he is excused because of his other recent performances. The others don’t get a pass. They get an ultimatum: Finish your chances, and stop taking dumb penalties, or this series will end with a very disappointing handshake line.
Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis have combined for two goals in the playoffs, despite plenty of power-play time.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
A year ago, Tyler Johnson informed the hockey world of the immensity of his skill set in his rookie season.
This spring he’s telling us about the enormity of his heart.
Monday night’s hat trick at Madison Square Garden to lead his Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals will go down as one of the more memorable nights in these playoffs.
A short-handed goal with his team down two men, a power-play goal and an even-strength goal that was all second effort -- it was breathtaking.
Just another day at the office for Johnson, who padded his playoff lead to 11 goals, and the goals weren't even his most impressive play of the night.
Below, watch Johnson post-game with Scott Oake...
from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
Finally. Finally a game that swung and sloshed and whistled around the place like someone let off fireworks, where goals happened and then happened again. Finally, some leashes were slipped and mistakes were made and the game felt like something that could spin out of control, one way or the other. Hockey’s fun, when it does that.
The Eastern Conference has spent most of the playoffs playing 2-1 games or games that resembled 2-1 games, and the New York Rangers had all but perfected the art. You can play an exciting 2-1 game, but play 10 of ’em and the thrill dissipates, somewhat. Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final wasn’t that, though. No, it wasn’t that.
Instead, Tyler Johnson was the biggest man on the ice, and Tampa Bay blew a wild game open on the power play to win 6-2 and tie the series 1-1, going back to Florida. There was pace, skill, and a gift basket’s worth of mistakes, which allowed skilled players space to do something. The coaches will gnash their teeth and try to fix it, which is why I’d be thrilled to ban coaches from the bench during games. Or practices.
Either way, we got a game that felt less like a race to a coin-flip goal than a swashbuckling ride, until it spiralled out of reach midway through the third. That was fun.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
You know the old, “It isn’t you, it’s me?”
Monday night, in Game 2 of the conference semis at the Garden, it wasn’t the Lightning. It was the Rangers.
It wasn’t as much Tampa Bay’s talent, though it was abundantly clear just how plentiful it is, as it was the Rangers’ outright carelessness and lack of discipline that was infectious throughout the lineup and infected the performance pretty much from start to finish.
One after another the Blueshirts went to the box, one after another on needless, senseless penalties on a night officials Chris Rooney and Kelly Sutherland actually made use of the rule book. What a concept.
And one after another, the Lightning accepted the Rangers’ generosity, scoring three times on the power play while getting another one just seconds after a miscreant had been released from the box and hadn’t been able to get into the play.
“It’s embarrassing,” a furious Ryan McDonagh said in the wake of the 6-2 spanking the Blueshirts bent over and took from the Lightning that squared the series at one-all. “There are a lot of things you want to say right now but talking doesn’t do much.
“Our guys better figure it out quickly here and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team.”
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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