After two lopsided wins to begin the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in a more familiar way in the second half of the sweep: by playing smothering defense.
Sometimes it means getting a little lucky/Tuukka Rask making some incredible saves, though. In even more desperate moments, it occasionally comes down to players making the stops.
While it wasn’t quite as impressive as Michael Ryder’s handball save from 2011, Zdeno Chara getting his glove in the way of Evgeni Malkin’s potential tying shot was impressive and timely:
Sequences like the one above left head coach Dan Bylsma looking for answers and seemingly coming up with borderline spiritual answers.
” … And at the end it felt like not only Tuukka Rask was keeping the puck out of the net, but there was a force around the net because we had some great opportunities, good situations for our team, our players, and were not able to find any kind of goal in this series, and never a lead,” Bylsma said.
Last summer, Tyler Johnson was such a huge part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, more than a few people believed that he could ease the pain of possibly losing Steven Stamkos to free agency. He tied Stamkos for the team lead in scoring (72 points) and topped all Lightning players with 23 playoff points during their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
The 2015-16 regular season was a bumpy one for Johnson … in some ways literally.
Health was a major obstacle for Johnson, starting with the hangover from a wrist injury he suffered during Tampa Bay’s magic run.
Even afterward, there were moments of pain. Sometimes it came down to flat-out bad luck:
Fair or not, Johnson must prove that he’s a core member of the Lightning
He made a strong argument in his own favor once he was healthy, generating 17 points in 17 playoff games as the Lightning made it to within one game of another Stanley Cup Final appearance despite missing Stamkos.
Still, Johnson faces a fork in the road. Ben Bishop either needs a new deal or (most likely) a trade to a team that will make him “the guy.” Ondrej Palat likely won’t be the easiest player for Tampa Bay to re-sign, either.
Few players could gain or lose more money with one season of play than Tyler Johnson. He can prove that 2015-16 was derailed by bad luck or allow injury concerns to linger.
Millions are on the line, and those personal goals may very well help Johnson drive the Lightning to another deep run.
For all we know, he could also find himself driving out of town.
Bovada gives Canada best odds at 2016 World Cup of Hockey
The real fun is judging how Bovada’s odds fall with the other leading nations. Is Russia given too great a chance considering some recent struggles when facing the best of the best? Did that odd little under-23 team not get enough love?
Last week domain names were registered that might be an indicator that the NHL team scheduled to begin play in 2017 could be called the Las Vegas Desert Knights.
Last week the domains lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com were privately registered to Moniker Privacy Services, which is the same company that procured the domain name to NHL.com.
Since then, most — if not all — has gone silent on the Kucherov front. The 23-year-old, coming off career highs in goals (30) and points (66), remains unsigned with a bunch of key dates on the horizon.
The first few are mostly to do with the World Cup of Hockey. Kucherov will represent Russia in the tourney, with the Russians set to begin training camp on Sept. 5 — one week from now.
Their first exhibition game takes place on Sept. 8, against the Czechs, and they open tournament play on Sept. 18.
There are insurance policies in place to so unsigned RFAs can play in the World Cup, meaning Kucherov should be a go for the Russians. Other RFAs look as though they’re in a similar boat — Johnny Gaudreau and Jacob Trouba with Team North America, specifically — so it doesn’t feel like Tampa Bay needs to get Kucherov locked in ASAP.
That’s the big question.
Yzerman’s earned a reputation as a tough, unflinching negotiator. He stood firm during the Jonathan Drouin trade request saga, and remained steadfast with his contract offer to Steve Stamkos. In both instances, Yzerman “won” — Drouin rescinded his request and is now fully back in Tampa’s mix, while Stamkos eschewed going to free agency to ink a long-term deal with the Bolts.
Hence the intrigue around Kucherov.
Pundits have pointed to a pair of contracts — Filip Forsberg‘s six-year, $36 million extension and Nathan MacKinnon‘s seven-year, $44.1 million deal — as potential benchmarks for Kucherov. What we don’t know is where Yzerman is at.