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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.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-7-15 Canadiens at Lightning

Goaltending finally gives out.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Four

MTL-6
TB-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-1

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 14 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 3 on 26 shots the rest of the way. Bishop allowed 1 soft goal off his glove (again), which ended up being the GWG. It was wise to get him out and get a rest at that point with the team down 3-0. You're going to have 1-2 stinkers even in a successful playoff season, and the silver lining in those games is you get to give your workhorse goaltender a breather. Vasilevskiy showed significant signs of rust by allowing a softie on his 2nd goal allowed and giving out a bad rebound that led to his 3rd goal allowed. He got better as the game went along, but there's certainly no goaltending controversy in Tampa Bay after that showing.

First Period
2:44 MTL Markov (1), (Subban, Pacioretty)
8:43 MTL Pacioretty (4), (Gilbert)(SH)

Second Period
5:08 MTL Desharnais (1), (Weise, Galchenyuk)
9:39 MTL Petry (2), (Galchenyuk, Subban)(PP)
9:54 MTL Gallagher (3), (Pacioretty, Plekanec)
12:26 TB Kucherov (4), (Palat, Stralman)(PP)

Third Period
0:17 TB Palat (2), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
4:52 MTL Prust (1), (Eller, Parenteau)

There's a lot of blustering and posturing by Subban and the Habs that's going to get replayed on a loop by the media to try to drum up interest in a 3-1 series. Don't take the bait and panic. The Lightning didn't play well the past 2 nights, but you have to take the magnitude of tonight's 6-2 loss with a little grain of salt given that 3 of the last 4 goals allowed were purely on the netminders. The negatives didn't so much come from effort, for me, but the mental lapses in positioning that led to the first 2 goals. When Bishop allowed the softie, that put the team down 3-0 and that was all she wrote. So, those mental lapses are correctable and you have to proceed under the assumption Bishop isn't going to wet the bet like that twice in a row. He hasn't all season long. You try to take the handful of silver linings out of this game that you can, too. Bishop got some much needed rest after carrying the team on his back for much of the first 10 games of the playoffs. The power play went 2-for-3 and is starting to look respectable in this series. Drouin got some much needed seasoning in garbage time. So, there's some glass half full things to look at.

Have the Lightning elected the easy road for closing out this series? No. This thing may get a little hairy now considering Montreal's going to be a crazy barn on Saturday. But, it was crazy the first two games of the series, too. If they're feeling apprehension, they shouldn't, because they've been through this gauntlet before. They just need to concentrate on getting the first goal, tightening up the positioning lapses, and hope that Bishop shakes off tonight's performance with the same ease he usually shakes off his stinkers. If they do, they'll be ok. Calm needs to be the word of the hour, for sure.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-6-15 Canadiens at Lightning

And Tyler Johnson drove the get away car...

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Three

MTL-1
TB-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-0

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. As has been the case throughout the series, he's been the best player on the ice. He's outdueling the best goaltender on the planet by continually beating Price in these tight games, carrying over from some of the regular season matchups, and he's the only reason the Lightning are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.

First Period
12:00 TB Killorn (3), (Stamkos)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
10:03 MTL Gallagher (2), (Gilbert, Pateryn)
19:58 TB Johnson (8), (Hedman, Palat)

Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop were the game's first and second stars.

For as dramatic and amazing a finish as that game had, I can't help but be disappointed with the effort we saw from the Lightning tonight. Having staked themselves to a 2-0 series lead in Montreal, they showed the proper urgency in the First Period to build a 1-0 lead on a beautiful Stamkos/Killorn give and go. That was fantastic.

The ensuing 39 minutes and 58.9 seconds of hockey, for the most part, was steaming hot garbage.

The Lightning played like a Junior A team in front of Bishop, with a complete lack of aggression and urgency dotted with the periodic idiotic turnover. They'd be lucky to win a dog show with the epic sandbaggery that we saw tonight, and only Bishop gave them a chance to win. Even after Gallagher poked home the equalizer, the Lightning's response was fairly awful, right up until the last 2 shifts of the game, when it appeared Cooper and the coaching staff must've opened up some particularly noxious smelling salts and waved them under the noses of the the team's top two lines. Stamkos' line set the tone with a great forechecking shift to wear down the Habs, and then fresh off the bench the Johnson line mustered a quick rush that ended with a sharp centering pass from Hedman getting tapped home with 1.1 seconds left to play. What a theft. I'm almost embarrassed to call it a win.

If you asked me about Matt Carle's execution on defense tonight, I'd tell you I was all for it.

Now the Lightning get to go for the series sweep against a stunned Canadiens team tomorrow night. Between Montreal's dysfunctional PP, their lack of scoring talent, and Bishop's excellence, Tampa Bay has a good chance of advancing in the next 22 hours. What happens afterwards is difficult to feel positive about, though. We haven't seen the Lightning play their best game yet. Not even close. We've seen 20 good minutes of hockey here and there, but nothing near the kind of 60 minute effort it will take to win the East against Washington or the Rangers. Were I Cooper, I'd smack the first player who tried to celebrate about that dumpster fire that was passed off as an effort tonight and challenge this team to close out this series the right way against Montreal in Game Four. It's time to stop relying on Bishop, a little luck, and a lot of hope to back into winning hockey games and play an assertive, dominant 60 minute hockey game that tells the world this team is a serious championship contender and not just the best of a weak gaggle of Atlantic Division pretenders.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-5-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finals

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

W Adam Erne, QUE: 1-1-2, +3, 0 PIM, 7 SOG, 0 Hits, *Third Star*
Playoff totals: 16 GP, 16-6-22, +14, 6 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Quebec stole home ice advantage from the Oceanic by winning Game 1 of the QMJHL Finals, 7-4. It was a 5-4 game with just over five minutes remaining in regulation before Quebec scored an insurance goal and later an empty-netter. Adam Erne scored again, giving him 16 goals in 16 playoff games. He’s scored in nine of his past 11 games. The Remparts have won 10 straight games, dating back to Game 7 of the first round. Game 2 of the Finals is Friday.

Lightning complete Black Aces roster

The Tampa Bay Lightning recalled forwards Yanni Gourde, Joel Vermin, Henri Ikonen and Tanner Richard, along with defensemen Dylan Blujus, Jake Dotchin, Luke Witkowski, Slater Koekkoek and Anthony DeAngelo, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. These prospects will join Kristers Gudlevskis, Mike Angelidis, and Jonathan Marchessault as call-ups from the Crunch after Syracuse was eliminated in three AHL playoff games.

The Black Aces are a practice squad of sorts which will gain valuable experience being around the Lightning during its playoff run. Notable omissions include Carter Ashton (pending RFA), Cody Kunyk (RFA) and JP Cote (UFA). Recently signed prospects Adam Wilcox and Matt Peca do not have active NHL contracts so they cannot be officially recalled.

DeAngelo jumps right to the Lightning practice unit after his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds were eliminated Saturday night. According to Lightning Assistant GM Julien BriseBois - via Syracuse.com's Lindsay Kramer - DeAngelo's NHL contract is active this year so he is able to join the club.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-3-15 Lightning at Canadiens

When the levees broke...

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Two

TB-6
MTL-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the victory. As in Game One, he held the Lightning in the game early in the First Period long enough for them to gain their equilibrium and eventually trounce the Habs.

First Period
7:20 MTL Petry (1), (Mitchell, Prust)
19:36 TB Filppula (2), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)

Second Period
8:06 TB Stamkos (1), (Garrison, Coburn)
12:29 TB Kucherov (2), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
19:46 TB Hedman (1), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)

Third Period
6:37 TB Kucherov (3), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
11:06 MTL Gilbert (2), (Emelin, Smith-Pelly)
16:05 TB Brown (1), (Filppula, Boyle)

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

That, folks, was one of the most satisfying playoff victories in Lightning history. The team, again, struggled to get any momentum to start the First Period with a combination of early penalties, poor passing, and faceoff impotence costing them possession. Again, though, they weathered that storm fairly well, only falling down 1-0, before Filppula's semi-soft power play goal toward the end of the frame. Montreal absolutely outplayed Tampa Bay in the First Period, and just like in Game One they absolutely blew their opportunity to land a knockout punch early. What happened thereafter was the stuff of stories and legends.

You see, the Lightning had already removed one item from their to-do list on Filppula's PP goal, but they proceeded to get everything knocked off from there. Stamkos scored on a very strong breakaway move on a nice long pass from Garrison to get that monkey off his back. Kucherov got a pair of PP goals to underline that the floodgates have indeed opened for him after Game One. His 2 goals, along with a Hedman PP tally, formed a chain of 4 goals on 4 consecutive PP shots for the Lightning as the absolutely embarrassed Carey Price, the NHL's presumptive MVP. To rub salt in the wound, the Lightning got the equivalent of a human victory cigar in the form of J.T. Brown scoring a tip in goal.

Teams that take a 2-0 lead on the road to start a series have an 80% chance of moving on, historically. I like those odds. I like the idea of avenging what happened last season even more. The Lightning have a chance to show the same cold blooded lack of mercy Montreal showed them last year in Game Three when the scene turned north after Tampa Bay fell behind 0-2 on the road. A quick goal by the Tampa Bay Lightning early in Game Three may lead to Montreal's resolve evaporating altogether. Time to step on their throats, Tampa Bay Lightning. Remember, the playoffs are a war of attrition. Advance as quickly as you can. Stay as healthy as you can. Conserve as much energy as you can. Let the other two teams kill each other in a long battle in the other Semifinal. Lay in wait for the Eastern Conference Finals. The opportunity for that scenario to play out is sitting there for the taking for the Lightning, starting with a strong opening 10 minutes at home in Game Three.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-2-15

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 3 @ West-2 Erie Otters 7
Erie wins best-of-7 series, 4-2

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-1-1, -2, 4 PIM
Playoff Totals: 13 GP, 0-16-16, +12, 18 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

Erie completed the upset of top-seeded Sault Ste. Marie, winning 7-3 Saturday night to take the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. The Otters, who were led by Connor McDavid’s goal and five points, will face the winner of Oshawa and North Bay in the Finals. OHL Rookie-of-the-Year Alex DeBrincat had a hat trick for Erie in the game. Lightning prospect Anthony DeAngelo’s remarkable season and junior career came to an end. He’s signed to an NHL contract and will turn pro next season. He took a bad roughing penalty in the second period after Erie’s Nick Betz tried to complete a play after a whistle, sliding the puck at the Soo’s goalie. DeAngelo went after Betz, but couldn’t get to him in the scrum. DeAngelo circled the pile after the scrum seemed to be over and shoved another player to the ice. The commentators gushed about DeAngelo most of the game, but mentioned the fine line he rides between playing with emotion and letting his emotions get the best of him. That will likely be Rob Zettler’s challenge next season for the Syracuse Crunch.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-1-15 Lightning at Canadiens

A game you could argue the Lightning won three times. Wish it counted as three wins.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game One

TB-2
MTL-1 (2OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 44 shots for the victory. That 1 goal he allowed was a terrible, world class softie that would've been a huge blemish on an otherwise amazing performance had the Lightning lost this game in OT. Fortunately, they got the winner they needed to erase the bad taste of that goal away, and although soft goals are still inexcusable it's important to note than Ben Bishop absolutely was the Lightning's best player tonight.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
2:34 TB Johnson (7), (Carle, Sustr)
14:47 MTL Pacioretty (3), (Subban, Gilbert)

First Overtime
NO SCORING

Second Overtime
2:06 TB Kucherov (1), (Filppula)

Nikita Kucherov and Ben Bishop were the game's first and third stars. The Lightning finally got Kucherov on the board and hopefully they can get Stamkos and the PP, not necessarily in that order, out of the ditch and on the scoreboard in Game Two as well.

The Lightning played a nearly perfect road game and fought hard through a lot of adversity to put them in excellent position to start this series. As could be expected, they came out flat as a pancake after an emotional Game Seven victory on Wednesday and they had to ride some really sharp goaltending and the good graces of two strikes off of Ben's left post to survive Montreal's early surge. After about 10-12 minutes of hanging on for dear life, though, the Lightning settled down and started playing Lightning hockey. True, Montreal ended up taking the shot totals by about a 4:3 margin in the game, but the Lightning had the puck more, which is certainly more in line with the Lightning's style of play than what we saw in the Detroit series. Eventually, the Lightning manufactured what appeared to be the game winning goal on a Tyler Johnson deflection of a Carle point shot and the Lightning settled into Third Period lead protection mode. And, let me tell you, it's been shocking to see how good the Lightning have looked the last two games protecting a 1-0 lead in the Third Period. They've grown a lot in that department. That was the first time they won the game.

Then the Bishop softie happened. It's inexcusable. It's gut wrenching. It's the kind of thing that can destroy a team's morale. Credit to the Lightning though, in that they showed a lot of maturity by not hanging their heads as the game headed into Overtime. Then, in the First Overtime, Nikita Kucherov scored a breakaway goal that in any situation other than in OT in a playoff game against one of the NHL's darling franchises would've stood. Absolutely. No question in my mind. By the specter of dubious refereeing in Montreal reared its ugly head again as the goal was waved off under the guise that Kucherov pushed Price into the net. I could probably show you 100 goals exactly like that in the last decade that have stood up. That was the second time they won the game.

But, the refs decided they should play on. And play on they did when a Montreal turnover led to a quick pass to the slot for a quick release by Kucherov that beat Price for the winning goal. That was the third time they won the game, and the one that actually counted. In retrospect, I just wish the game counted as three wins for all the heavy lifting they had to do to get it.

Of course, there's a lot of controversy on the zone entry on the play that became the winner, with still shots being waved by the Canadian media showing Filppula as offside. The video, however, shows the play was less cut and dry, but still very close. It's really a case of Montreal trying to beat the wrap on a technicality, though, considering they got puck possession and had an easy opportunity to clear that they choked away. It's also karmatic justice considering how many times Tampa Bay has been shafted by the referees in games against Montreal over the past two seasons. No tears should be shed for the Habs, regardless of how much the northern hockey media tries to frame this as a tainted win.

Moving on to Game Two, the Lightning find themselves in the envious position of playing with house money on the road. They've accomplished what they need to stealing home ice to start the series. Now they've got a chance to really put the Habs behind the eight ball before heading home to Tampa Bay. It would behoove them to do so and shorten the series, because as we all know playoff hockey is both a marathon and a war of attrition. The fewer games you can play to get to 16 wins, the less energy you have to expend and the fewer opportunities you have to get players injured. So the message should be clear: seize the opportunity now and try to put Montreal away sooner rather than later.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-1-15

Western Hockey League
Eastern Conference Finals

East-2 Calgary Hitmen 2 @ East-1 Brandon Wheat Kings 8
Brandon wins best-of-7 series, 4-1

D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 17 GP, 0-4-4, -5, 2 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM

Brandon scored eight goals for the second straight game, sending the Hitmen to the golf course by winning the series, 4-1. The Wheat Kings will play the winner of Kelowna and Portland in the WHL finals. That series is currently tied at two games apiece. This ends the season of Ben Thomas, who still has another year of juniors to play before being up for contract consideration. He didn’t put up many numbers in the postseason after a solid regular season. He was getting solid minutes for Calgary in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-30-2015

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-2 Erie Otters 2 @ West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4
Erie leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-1-1, E, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 12 GP, 0-15-15, +14, 14 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

The Greyhounds forced a Game 6 with a close-fought, 4-2 win at home Thursday night. The Soo outshot Erie 28-13 through two periods, but the score was 1-1 entering the final frame. The teams traded goals before Bryan Moore scored at 12:55 to give the Soo a 3-2 lead. They added an empty net shorthanded goal with DeAngelo in the box for delay of game in the final minute. DeAngelo had his first assist in his last four games played. Game 6 is Saturday in Erie.

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