It’s dangerous to put too much stock in a single contest during an 82-game regular season, but we should at least get some idea regarding whether or not the Tampa Bay Lightning are legit against the Washington Capitals tonight. Whichever team wins this evening’s game will hold the lead in the Southeast Division, so yes, it’s a pretty big one.
Many will marvel at how far Tampa Bay has come and will attribute the change to shrewd moves by general manager Steve Yzerman, great management by Guy Boucher and the ascension of Steven Stamkos.
Yet as players and coaches came and went while Vincent Lecavalier drifted in and out of hockey relevance, one player consistently produced no matter what: Martin St. Louis. Lecavalier might wear the “C” for the Bolts, but it might be most accurate to call St. Louis the team’s other (or perhaps “true”) captain.
Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times discusses the fact that St. Louis provides a speedy style that defies his age and amazes his teammates (and coach).
These are good times for St. Louis, 35 years old going on 25.
The franchise has turned around, and the games matter again, and life at home is terrific. After three years when the Lightning went nowhere, St. Louis is an essential player on a team with possibilities.
He can still go, you know. There is a smattering of gray in his hair, but St. Louis’ skates still have gears that most players’ do not. He has 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 43 games, which is another way of saying his stick still has stories to tell.
“You don’t want to just play in this league,” St. Louis said quietly. “You want to play and be a factor. I’m trying to do that every day. Every day you have to prove yourself. Next year it will be the same. When you’re young, you have to prove you can play. When you’re old, you have to prove you can still play.”
So we’ll see how good this Lightning team is, but even if he doesn’t normally generate the headlines (good or bad), chances are that St. Louis will come to play.
After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.
The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.
That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Bob McKenzie shares his memories of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who apparently was a big hockey fan. (TSN)
Don Cherry discusses John Brophy’s toughness after the former Leafs coach recently passed away. (Sportsnet)
A look at Vincent Lecavalier‘s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)
The perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs … although it worked out for the Penguins at least last night. (The Hockey News)
Speaking of which, will the Blues get burned for switching back to Brian Elliott in Game 6 tonight? Here’s a preview:
Sidney Crosby has a chance to join a very rare club of clutch goal-scorers if he can win it for Pittsburgh in Game 7:
Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.
(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)
Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:
Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”
“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”
Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.
Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.
The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.
It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.
Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.
Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.
Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.
Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.
Read more about Game 6 here.