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NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-12-15 Canadiens at Lightning

The night it all came together...

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Six

MTL-1
TB-4

Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-2

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 19 shots for the victory, with the lone goal coming off a play where a puck took a goofy hop off the glass. He didn't have a ton of work, but he continued to make the key saves when he needed to. The national press just realized Bishop is no fluke. It's no small thing to out-duel the presumptive MVP, Carey Price, in a 7-game series. Did he get some lucky, horseshoe breaks? Sure. But you make your own luck, and Bishop was the MVP of this Montreal series.

First Period
15:35 TB Kucherov (5), (Palat)

Second Period
5:12 TB Stamkos (3), (Killorn, Carle)
18:56 TB Palat (3), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)

Third Period
15:03 MTL Pacioretty (5), (Gallagher)
17:59 TB Kucherov (6), (unassisted)(EN)

Steven Stamkos, Bishop, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

After muddling through much of the first dozen games of this playoff season, tonight the Lightning finally figured out how to translate their regular season style to a successful 60 minute hockey game. You could see it coming in their 5-on-5 play in Montreal in Game Five, and once the Johnson line worked their way into scoring the opening goal in the First Period, the Lightning were fully off and running. The Lightning completely dominated the Habs from there on out. Outshot them. Outchanced them. Outhit them. They even did a number on Montreal in the faceoff circles after struggling mightily in that department for most of the series. All in all, it was the first time in these playoffs that the Lightning played a full game of Lightning hockey, which points to the tremendous potential of this club. Even struggling to figure out postseason hockey, the Lightning had the talent to advance within 1 game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tonight, all the pieces fell into place.

Moreover, the Lightning have filled in some important gaps in their game from the regular season, and may be be finally reaching their full potential as a team. That should be terrifying to the rest of the league, considering that the Lightning still managed to put up a 100+ point season and lead the league in goals even without a functional power play and without a really strong ability to close out close games in the Third Period. The Lightning got 7 goals on the power play in the Montreal series, and starting late in the Detroit series they started to really look more comfortable and efficient protecting Third Period leads and playing a more simple 200 foot game.

Oh, and after being MIA in the Detroit series, all of a sudden Kucherov is fully on track and Stamkos is getting on track. Yikes.

Credit BP member Bolthed with the following paraphrased point from the BP chat room, which I think strikes the right tone, post game: I hope Coach Cooper stood up in front of his team after the game and said something along the lines of the following...

"Boys, congratulations for advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. It hasn't always been easy, and it darn sure hasn't always been pretty. But, you've worked hard and you've learned and gotten a little strong, bit by bit, along the way. Tonight, you finally put it all together, and I'm proud of you guys for that. But, you know what? Now there are no more excuses. Now that you've proven you can put it all together it's on you guys to play at that same level every game from here on out. You can do it. You've shown you can do it. You had the talent, and now you've got the experience. Anything less and you're cheating yourselves."

And at that point, I hope he asked Stamkos and Hedman to stand up in front of the team and talk about 2011, and guys like Stralman and Boyle about their experience with the Rangers, and what it feels like to come that close to winning it all. Once you get this deep in the playoffs and are one of the final four teams, you're in the rarefied air of an event that may never come in your life again. You only get so many kicks at the can and only so many real chances to get your name on the Stanley Cup.

Capitalize it, and as Tim Taylor said in 2004, your team will walk together forever. When you lose though, like the Lightning did in 2011 in Game Seven against Boston by such a slim margin, it's the kind of thing you take to your grave. As a fan, I'll never get over 2011 and how close the Lightning were to advancing and probably winning their second Stanley Cup. Maybe it's a sign of my lack of an adequate social life, but there's not a day over the last 4 years I haven't thought about it and wished they could've gotten those couple of more goals they needed to advance and how that would've changed the legacy of that team and the franchise. I can only imagine what the players like Stamkos and Hedman who were in that room and shed blood, sweat, and tears with that team feel. They have to understand the fierce urgency of this moment and impart that wisdom on their teammates who haven't experienced a deep run like this at the NHL level before. When you get this far, you've got to win it all. You've got to. You've got to sell out mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually for every single shift of every single game, because you don't want to cheat yourselves and you don't want to find yourself looking back and regretting what might have been. For the next 4-6 weeks (hopefully), the Lightning will put everything of themselves toward this singular goal. It'll be grueling. It'll be nerve wracking. It'll galvanize a city behind the team that wears their jersey and shares their community. And that, folks, is what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs the most unique and exciting experience in all of professional sports.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:15 in his NHL playoff debut. Credit the coaching staff for monitoring how well Marchessault was practicing and for having the guts to insert him in the lineup in such a big spot. He didn't score tonight, but he made smart plays with the puck and was poised defensively in a way the younger forwards haven't always been in these playoffs.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 6:19. He had some anxious moments in his own end in the First Period. That's been the trade off with Nesterov. You get some possession advantages, but he looks a little hairy at times in his own third. Hence the lower ice time.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 28

This week's “Marc Bureau Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· The No. 28
· What the Black Aces roster tells us
· Prospects in the playoffs
· Accolades for DeAngelo
· #BPMailbag (Stress and the playoffs … Where does the blame finger point? … Odds on Erne and DeAngelo with TB next year … Crazy trade thoughts … Would you rather? … More on Drouin … Generational talent … Stamkos salary … Stamkos vs Johnson … Expansion Draft what-ifs)

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-10-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

QMJHL-1 Rimouski Oceanic 4 @ QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 2
Quebec leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

W Adam Erne, QUE: 0-0-0, E, 5 PIM, 4 SOG, 2 Hits
Playoff totals: 18 GP, 17-8-25, +17, 13 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Rimouski got a much-needed road win to keep their realistic hopes alive in the QMJHL Finals, defeating Quebec, 4-2. The Remparts still lead the series, 2-1, with Game 4 in Quebec City Wednesday. Adam Erne had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped. He fought Charles-David Beaudoin in the second period.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-9-15 Lightning at Canadiens

Little things.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Five

TB-1
MTL-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He played well tonight and still hasn't had back-to-back clunkers all season long. He gave the team a chance tonight, along with his friends posts and crossbars.

First Period
9:01 MTL Smith-Pelly (1), (Mitchell, Petry)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
9:27 TB Stamkos (2), (Stralman, Killorn)
15:53 MTL Parenteau (1), (Subban)

Bishop was the game's third star.

The Lightning played a better game than they did in Game Three and Game Four, particularly in the First and Third Periods, but still haven't played like they're capable of. The possession and shots really grinded to a halt in the Second Period and they need to have the puck more if they want to win this series. They also should feel fortunate they got the benefit of 2 posts and a crossbar hit by Montreal on the PP, but all in all they nearly did what they needed to to seal the capper on the road and only a couple of small mistakes really cost them. First, on the Pelly goal, you had a really ill-advised pass in the neutral zone by Carle compounded by poor positioning by Sustr. Little things. You had Morrow staring at an open net with plenty of time a little later on and he golfs it directly into Price's pad. Rushed it. Little things. And, the real kicker of the night, Stamkos has the puck on his blade with all the time in the world to make a play with it in his defensive zone and he throws it blindly up the wall to Subban for what turns into the GWG. Panicked needlessly. Little things. They cleaned up a lot from Game Four, but they need to still clean up that last little bit more for Game Six.

On a side note, the referees fingerprints were all over this game. All over it. Tampa Bay didn't get a power play all game long even though you had Johnson getting tackled the first shift of the game and Bishop getting crosschecked in the chest in the Second Period on two clear Montreal infractions. So what did the refs do? Even it up! Make it 4-on-4! Call a baloney embellishment call on Johnson and then call a baloney roughing call on Hedman in a post-whistle scrum. That's what the refs did, because they didn't want to award the Lightning a single PP after seeing the Lightning score 6 PP goals in the previous 3 games. It was obvious. They practically put it on a billboard after that gobsmacking call against Johnson to start the game. And it continued throughout the game as you had one instance where Callahan nearly got the jersey ripped off him like he'd been mauled by a tiger and then the final shift of the game where Stamkos got tackled by Subban and laid on until the final horn. Right. In. Front. Of. The. Official. That's why I'm not going to get too mad, because it was practically 7-on-5 tonight and the Lightning still nearly manufactured the victory. It's just sad you know going into a game like this in Montreal, you're going to have to beat the team in front of you AND the officials. And it's obvious. It's SO Montreal.

If I was a betting man, the Lightning are going to beat the life out of Montreal in Game Six. We'll see how it plays out, but Pacioretty tried to also maul Tyler Johnson at the final buzzer in the scrum that broke out when Subban was still trying to pin Stamkos for the 3 count WWE style. The Lightning finally let out a little emotion tonight, and I think this team plays better when it's angry/revenge-minded. Just my guess. Montreal made it personal again with their shenanigans at the buzzer.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots and 3 hits in 12:13. Some of his defensive zone play tonight, frankly, was hairy. Effective, but hairy. You wouldn't show tape of those plays in an instructional video. He also got a key shift late in the game as the Lightning were trying to tie the game up, and I don't think he exactly cloaked himself in glory with some of his decision-making with the puck in the neutral zone. Tough spot for a rookie to find himself in.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-8-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 4 @ QMJHL-1 Rimouski Oceanic 1
Quebec leads best-of-7 series, 2-0

W Adam Erne, QUE: 1-2-3, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 3 Hits
Playoff totals: 17 GP, 17-8-25, +17, 6 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Quebec took a commanding 2-0 series lead with a 4-1 win Friday night in Rimouski. The Remparts return home two wins from a championship. Game 3 is Sunday. Adam Erne did all his damage in the first period, helping Quebec to a 3-0 lead. He had a goal and shorthanded assist within 30 seconds of each other, then added another primary assist before the period ended. He’s up to 17 goals in 17 playoff games, which leads the league by four goals. He is second in the league in points behind Nik Ehlers of Halifax (Jets pick), who had 31 points in 14 games.

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