Kukla's Korner Hockey
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."
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.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
... Monday was a day to get on a plane and lick some wounds, now that Montreal is down 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Games 3 and 4 set for Wednesday and Thursday at Amalie Arena.
"Today is not an easy day, especially when you end up losing those two games at home," Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said Monday on a conference call. "We've traveled to Tampa, and tomorrow we need to have a good practice, stay upbeat and be ready for Wednesday. But [the two off-days] could be a good thing for us."
Habs forward Torrey Mitchell was part of the 2011 San Jose Sharks team that jumped out to a 3-0 series lead over Detroit, only to see the Red Wings push it to seven games. That's the kind of personal experience he can glean from right now.
"Absolutely, and even more recently, just in the last series, you saw how difficult it was to close out Ottawa," Mitchell said Monday on a conference call. "By no means do we feel like we're done. We're excited about the next game, and that's where our focus is at right now."
You never want to count out a team that has Carey Price in goal. He can single-handedly change the script, as he did with his 43-save, Herculean effort in Game 6 of the first round to finish off a rabid Senators team smelling blood.
The thing is, I just don't see the same team of a year ago, which had more pizzazz about it. Montreal had that "it" factor in sweeping Tampa and upsetting Boston in seven games.
from Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette,
Somewhere today, Jon Cooper should be penning a letter of thanks to those brain-cramped Habs. Not only did they help his team find its own struggling power play with four man-advantage goals on the night, they also helped Steven Stamkos climb down off the milk carton.
There’s no free pass for Prust and his mates on this one, although the veteran forward did his best to hand the blame to Watson as he stood under the “Pas d’excuses — No excuses” sign in the Canadiens room, making his excuses.
It all started with Prust (who was having a strong post-season until Sunday night) trying to goad Lightning defenceman Braydon Coburn into a fight in front of the Tampa Bay net. (It should be noted that the puck, at the time, was at the other end of the ice.) The roughing was pretty much routine: Prust grabbed Coburn’s jersey and gave him a couple of shoves. Coburn refused the invitation to dance. Watson made the call.
Now Brendan Gallagher endures worse a dozen times a night with no call but them’s the breaks. Given that the Canadiens were leading 1-0 and playing very well at the time, you have to wonder why Prust decided that was the moment to stir things up. Then he compounded the felony with an unsportsmanlike for saying (in his words) that the call was a little soft. It’s a safe bet that Prust didn’t phrase it quite that way but Watson’s reaction was still way out of line.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Habs came unglued Sunday evening. They’re down two-zip in the series heading to Tampa and don’t yet have an answer.
Are we looking at a possible sweep here? Don’t count out the Habs just yet, Prust warned.
"I think it’s just going to feel that much better when we win and the floodgates open and we get rolling," Prust said. "It’s going to feel that much better."
Bold words, but it’s on the ice the Canadiens have to prove themselves now. They look lost, and the Lightning are looking more dangerous than they have all playoff long.
more on last night's game...
from Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette,
Cue the great tuba music from The Flintstones, because there was some thoroughly boneheaded hockey on display at the Bell Centre on Sunday night.
The Canadiens are in the kind of pit where Fred toiled in Mr. Slate’s quarry, down two games to none to the Tampa Bay Lightning with the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal headed to Florida for Games 3 and 4 Wednesday and Thursday.
The Habs have only themselves to blame for the brontosaurus-sized mess that was their 6-2 loss Sunday, trooping to the sin bin with a fistful of brain-cramped penalties on which the Lightning’s erstwhile volt-challenged power play pounced four times.
And it could have been worse than that.
“It was the start we were looking for,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said, his team having surged early and, for only the second time in eight post-season games, having scored a game’s first goal.
“Before we took some really, really bad penalties at the end of the first period, I thought we were perfect. Pretty simple: discipline cost the game. This is unacceptable.”
Watch the game 'mshup' below...
from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,
Coming off a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in double overtime to the Bolts in Game 1 on Friday, the Habs cannot afford to head to Tampa for Game 3 on Wednesday trailing 2-0. Montreal has lost six straight to the Lightning and hasn’t beaten the Bolts since completing a four-game sweep in the playoffs last April.
Are the Habs worried? Not a chance. But you get a sense that if it doesn’t turn around in Game 2, their confidence could quickly turn to doubt.
“We did a lot of good things,” said coach Michel Therrien. “We had a really tough time during the regular season, we hadn’t played our best against Tampa Bay in the regular season for different reasons.
“But we all understand that, when you get to the playoffs, it’s a new season. Teams get a chance to get prepared. We know what we’re facing. Our focus is only on one game. And I think from the team’s standpoint, we did a lot of good things to be really upbeat and confident for (Game 2).”
Though Tampa goalie Ben Bishop didn’t look good when he allowed Habs winger Max Pacioretty to tie it up 1-1 at 14:57 of the third to send it OT by allowing the puck to slip through his glove, it didn’t matter in the end because Big Ben made 44 stops as Nikita Kucherov scored the winner.
Bishop has moved his record to 11-1-2 lifetime against the Habs (including the regular season and playoffs) with a 1.46 GAA and .945 save-percentage. Those are heady numbers, which means Montreal has to do a better job getting to him which they tried Friday by going to the net constantly.
from Mike Boone of Hockey Inside/Out,
One game does not a series make. And one double-overtime loss doesn’t end the Canadiens’ season.
It was, however, the Canadiens sixth straight loss to Tampa since Pacioretty’s series winner. The Lightning won all five regular-season games against the Canadiens in 2014-’15. And Nikita Kucherov’s goal, just over two minutes into the second OT period Friday night made it six straight – in a game the Canadiens should have won.
While the Canadiens completed their opening-round elimination of Ottawa last Sunday night in Kanata, the Lightning had to battle back from a 3-2 series deficit against Detroit, finally knocking off the Wings in a seventh-game squeaker Wednesday night.
As the series against Tampa began, the Canadiens were the rested team. And as overtime wore on, the rested team should have had an advantage.
That might have been the case had the game lasted longer. But Kucherov ended it before the Canadiens could register a shot on Ben Bishop in the second OT period.
Most of the stats favoured the Canadiens: a 44-35 shot advantage, 34 blocked shots to 27 for Tampa Bay, a 43-32 margin in hits, 55 wins in 89 faceoffs.
But we all know the only stat that counts is the final score.
Below, watch Sportnet's 'Mashup' of the game...
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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