Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis

Comparing the 2010-11 Lightning to the Cup-winning 2004 model

6 Comments

My gut instinct was to call a comparison between this year’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2004 Cup winning version lazy. At first glance, it seems too easy.

Yet after thinking about the similarities in the makeup of both squads, I have to hand it to TSN and other media outlets; there are some parallels. I’d like to take it one step further, though: let’s break down which 2011 Lightning players would fit into the roles of the 2004 model. Some work better than others, while a few comparisons might surprise you.

Casting the ’11 Lightning roster in the role of the Cup-winning ’04 components

Comically undersized, super-skilled Hart Trophy nominee: Martin St. Louis plays Martin St. Louis.

This one’s painfully obvious, but more than anything else, it underscores how great St. Louis has been. Really, he’s been the one consistently great player for Tampa Bay as supporting stars come and go and Vincent Lecavalier waxes and wanes. (Pavel Kubina will play himself again, by the way.)

Stud center: Steven Stamkos as Vincent Lecavalier

You’d think Lecavalier would reprise his ’04 role, but Stamkos is now the Leo DiCaprio to Lecavalier’s Matt Damon. Stamkos scores more points, earns more attention from men’s magazines and ranks as the young center of the future. You know, like Lecavalier was seven years ago.

Clutch center: Lecavalier as Brad Richards

Coming into that 2004 playoffs, Richards didn’t have the same level of notoriety as St. Louis and Lecavalier. Opposing teams paid dearly if they put their lesser checkers against beaver-toothed Richards, as he tore up that postseason on his way to a Conn Smythe trophy and a budget-breaking raise. Lecavalier is already cashing stupidly big checks, but he’s echoing Richards by scoring some absolutely huge goals too.

Journeyman goalie-hero: Dwayne Roloson as Nikolai Khabibulin

“The Bulin Wall” was 31 while Roloson is 41, but they both bounced around the league a bit before playing arguably the best playoff hockey of their careers in Tampa Bay. To extend the analogy, both goalies might not have a chance for an encore. Khabibulin signed an unsightly deal with the Chicago Blackhawks after that Cup victory; Roloson will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

Fascinating head coach: Guy Boucher as John Tortorella

Both coaches are among the best interviews in the sport. Considering Boucher’s scar and Tortorella’s fiery temper, it’s a safe bet that they’re high on the lists of coaches you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, too.

Big minute offensive defenseman: Victor Hedman as Dan Boyle

Sure, Hedman and Boyle have very different backgrounds. Hedman is a Swedish giant who was the second overall pick of the 2009 draft; Boyle is an undersized, un-drafted blueliner from Canada. Yet Hedman is playing a lot of minutes and doing better than many expected in his own end. That’s a lot like Boyle in ’04.

(Hopefully the team will sign Hedman to a deal they can stomach. The Lightning were eventually forced to trade Boyle for a bag of pucks because he was too expensive.)

Grizzled veteran: Eric Brewer as Dave Andreychuk

This one’s a bit of a stretch since Brewer is a defenseman and isn’t as old as Andreychuk. That being said, Brewer’s teammates rave about his leadership and he’s searching for his first Stanley Cup. For the sake of our sanity, Brewer could stand in for Darryl Sydor, too.

Solid supporting cast: Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Steve Downie as Fredrik Modin, Cory Stillman and Ruslan Fedotenko

Each Lightning squad was high on firepower, but you don’t make a deep playoff run without under-the-radar guys contributing here and there. Bergenheim and Downie are the Christopher Walkens of the Lightning since they steal the show with startling frequency.

***

Some of these comparisons are stronger than others, but the more you look at it, the more this year’s Lightning looks like the Cup winning version. If nothing else, this year’s squad is the first to make the Eastern Conference finals since that championship group.

PHT Morning Skate: Stevens sees similarities between the Wild and those great Devils teams

Leave a comment

–In a Q & A with NHL.com, Minnesota assistant coach Scott Stevens says this year’s edition of the Wild reminds him of the stingy Devils teams he played on. “It reminds me very much of the Devils in how we play. We definitely love to protect the middle of the ice. We might give up a few more shots, but we give up a lot of those perimeter shots and hopefully our goaltenders know where the shots are coming from,” said Stevens. (NHL.com)

–Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has shown that he’s got the hockey thing down, but his “Call of Duty” game has come a long way, according to teammate Mitch Marner. (BarDown)

–Many expect the Canadiens to try to land a top two center between now and the trade deadline, but in an interview with TSN 690 radio, GM Marc Bergevin says “you can never have too many defensemen.” If you listen to Bergevin, it sure sounds like he wants to add a mobile defender to play with Shea Weber. (TSN 690)

–The Chicago Blackhawks got some solid production from Vinne Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero in last night’s win over the Avalanche. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–How much would you pay for a young NHL superstar’s game worn jersey? The jersey Auston Matthews wore during the first period of the Centennial Classic sold for an incredible amount of money. (Yahoo)

–Will we see Patrik Elias return to the New Jersey Devils this season? The 40-year-old underwent cartilage replacement surgery on his knee during the off-season, but he doesn’t seem willing to close the door on his NHL career just yet. Elias wants to make a final decision on his playing career by next month. (USA Today)

–Going through a scoring slump is never fun, but going through a scoring slump when you’re the captain of the Montreal Canadiens might be one of the more unbearable things in professional hockey. Max Pacioretty was able to overcome a slow start thanks to some big-picture thinking. “At the end of the day, look at the life we have, look where we’re playing. I love playing here so much, and the fact I’m able to be the captain here, it sounds cheesy, but what’s better in life right now? I’ve got a family, I’ve got an awesome team, I’m the captain of the best franchise in the world,” said Pacioretty. (NHL.com)

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

5 Comments

Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

6 Comments

People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

3 Comments

For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.