Tim Thomas, Mike Richards

Five Thoughts: Flyers and Bruins give us lots to chew on

We know that there were two potential elimination games yesterday but when one team fights off elimination while the other is bounced out, we’re a bunch of negative nellies here and want to focus on the team who got tossed out while lauding the winner. Hey, we’re good at that here aren’t we?

1. It’s quite remarkable to see two teams roaring into the Eastern Conference final the way we’re seeing both Tampa Bay and Boston doing that. Boston’s sweep of Philadelphia and Tampa sweeping out the top seeded Caps should translate into these two having an incredible series. The coaching matchup is also worthy of intrigue. Both Claude Julien and Guy Boucher are noted defensive tacticians but their teams are scoring tons of goals this postseason. Whenever there’s worries about the game slowing down and becoming dull again, these teams have been getting singled out. Their ability to put the puck in the net and push the pace of the game when needed, however, proves differently.

2. Obviously with the Flyers getting swept out, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered there. GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette will be dealing with queries into the team’s goaltending until they do something different. Whether you believe they need to go with an affirmed number one goalie or pick one guy out of the bunch they’ve got and ride him til he breaks, that’s up for debate. One thing that hurt the Flyers more than anything in this series was erratic defensive coverage. Too many times Bruins players were left alone for shots or to follow up rebounds because defenseman were busy chasing ghosts. That lack of dedication to manning up doesn’t cut it.

3. Of course, it does come back to goaltending for the Flyers ultimately and given how well Sergei Bobrovsky played in spite of losing in Game 4 makes you wonder why he lost his starting job after one bad game against Buffalo in the opening round. It can be tough to stomach a bad start in the playoffs, but pulling the plug on a rookie goalie that carried the team for most of the year after one bad game seems really dumb in retrospect. While the goalie shuffling worked out decently for Philly last year, this year every change carried that air of panic. Whether or not the Flyers choose to address this in the offseason will be fascinating. Bobrovsky is a talented young guy but there are free agent options to be had out there that better fit the bill if looking for a #1 guy.

4. If the Milan Lucic who showed up in Game 4 is the guy that’s going to show up against Tampa Bay, the Lightning have their hands full. Lucic was buzzing the net and asserting himself all game long, something he had yet to do at all in the playoffs. Getting the mix of physical play and goals from Lucic is key because if he’s got his game going the Bruins just seem to be more at home on the ice. With Patrice Bergeron potentially out for a while with a concussion, they’ll really need Lucic to be a force.

5. We’re not ignoring the Red Wings and Sharks too badly here but with how thin the margin of error has been for all four games of this series, it’s crazy to think how much closer this series could be. It’s crazy to see four one-goal games like this and think that either team has definitive control over the series.

That said, if Detroit pulls out a win tomorrow in Game 5 it’ll make for a good test of will for the Sharks. After all, they’re just one win from the Western Conference final and while Detroit isn’t about to roll over easily, they are the kind of team that if given the opportunity can rattle off four wins in a row. If the Sharks want to avoid making history, they’ll repeat what they did in Game 5 against Detroit last year and snuff out all Red Wings hope. Otherwise they’re inviting danger into a series that’s seen fortune smile upon them.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.