Tonight’s Game 2 between Tampa Bay and Boston will help set the tone for the rest of the series. Either we’ll see the Bruins bounce back after a tough Game 1 that saw them lose 5-2 thanks to three early goals from the Lightning en route to a relatively easy win or the Lightning will continue to find ways to upset the play of Boston and head home with a 2-0 series lead.
Tampa Bay @ Boston – 8 p.m. ET (Versus) – Tampa Bay leads series 1-0
While the Bruins are getting less-than stellar play from defenseman Tomas Kaberle, one of their biggest issues in Game 1 was how they handled the intense attacking pressure brought forth by the Lightning. The Lightning used the sort of forecheck that neither the Bruins nor anyone else had seen much of in the playoffs from them. The Bruins struggled with the pressure and made many bad decisions leading to Lightning goals. One way that Boston can upset Tampa’s game plan is to get physical and finish their checks all over the ice.
Boston stepping up the physical game should help keep Tampa Bay on edge and while you certainly won’t catch the Lightning dropping the gloves with the Bruins, even if the plays come late in the game, it would be enough to make them feel uncomfortable on the ice. That alone could afford Boston the opportunities they’re looking for to try and beat Dwayne Roloson.
What will be worth seeing tonight is just how much ice time and potential power play time we see for Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin. Seguin had a goal and an assist in Game 1 while getting less than ten minutes of ice time. Seguin is in the lineup thanks to Patrice Bergeron’s concussion he suffered in Game 4 against Philadelphia. While Bergeron has skated the last two days with the team leaving Claude Julien to be a bit mysterious about whether or not he’ll play tonight, it’s suspected that Bergeron will be out of action again.
Tampa Bay meanwhile is all systems go with the same lineup they had in Game 1. While they’re still without Pavel Kubina in the meantime with a head injury, Eric Brewer has been all that and then some for the Lightning along the blue line. Brewer leads the playoffs in blocked shots and he’s got a goal and five assists so far as well. If the Lightning go on to the Stanley Cup finals, Brewer’s contributions will be a major part of that as he’s averaging 26:04 of ice time per game.
For now, Tampa Bay will be happy with finding ways to again frustrate the Bruins and head back home with a 2-0 lead. If they can do that and figure out a way to get Steve Stamkos back on the scoresheet, they’ll be feeling really good about themselves and their chances in this series. Don’t expect Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas to take too kindly to those efforts though.
With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.
Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.
Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.
The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.
The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.
The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.