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Pressing question: How much adversity is too much for the Bolts?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

If the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” is true, then the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the mightiest team in the playoffs.

But in more practical terms, one can’t help to ask if they’ve already been asked to clear too many hurdles this season.

Let’s look back at a season full of turmoil for a team that managed to make the playoffs after missing out the previous two years…

Stamkos sidelined

In one frightening fall, the Lightning saw their young star (and eventual captain) Steven Stamkos suffer a broken leg that kept him out from Nov. 11 to March 6:

“I’ll be honest, we sat there for 24 hours and had a pity party and thought our season might be over,” Head coach Jon Cooper said in March.

Instead, it might have been a sign of things to come, as Stamkos’ injury was just one of the Lightning’s biggest headaches in 2013-14.

MORE: Cooper has an interesting idea about tweaking home-ice advantage

St. Louis bolts

After 972 regular season games (and a Stanley Cup victory, two scoring titles and one Hart Trophy), Martin St. Louis couldn’t shake the initial sting of being left off Team Canada and demanded a trade from the team he captained. He was eventually granted his wish on trade deadline day, capping off an operatic exchange between a franchise, a former star and its fan base.

St. Louis left the Lightning with a traded captain of their own in Ryan Callahan, some quality New York Rangers draft picks and this apology letter:

Bishop banged up

Speaking of debatable Olympic “snubs,” Ben Bishop provided the Lightning with Vezina-caliber work this season. So, in accordance with a turmoil-filled season, he naturally suffered an injury late in the season that could carry over to the postseason.

Erratic backup Anders Lindback has actually been heating up lately since Bishop was injured and captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, but in the big picture, many would believe that Bishop’s injury could be devastating … especially since the Montreal Canadiens are rolling out gold medal-winning star netminder Carey Price.

Malone’s legal troubles

While Bishop provided late-season adversity that may have more of an impact on the ice, Ryan Malone’s legal troubles — he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession over the weekend — add drama off the ice for the Lightning, too.

Considering the season the Lightning have endured, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Cooper downplayed the situation for the team as a whole, as the Tampa Bay Time reported on Sunday.

“Hockeywise we’ve had way more distractions worse than this one,” Cooper said. “This is more of a life issue, more a friend of ours who we know is physically doing okay and hopefully the worst is over.

“As for hockey, this won’t be a distraction at all for us.”

***

The good news for the Lightning is that just about every champion – in the NHL and otherwise – deals with adversity along the way. Really, the playoffs are months of peaks and valleys, so they may very well look at the regular season as a training ground for the bigger challenges ahead.

And, if nothing else, it makes for a great story.

“Ooh, that might be for the book later — later in life,” Cooper told the Canadian Press.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Varlamov steps up with ‘phenomenal’ performance versus Red Wings

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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DETROIT (AP) Semyon Varlamov lifted his team to a win on a night when the rest of the Colorado Avalanche were outplayed thoroughly.

Varlamov made 43 saves and Blake Comeau scored in both the third period and the shootout to help the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. It was the highest save total of the season for Varlamov.

“He was phenomenal for us,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “We had back-to-back games and got in late last night. Not trying to find an excuse, but they’re a good puck-possession team. Our goalie needed to be our best player for us to win and he was.”

Matt Duchene also scored for the Avalanche, who won despite being outshot 45-21. Colorado has won nine of its last 12 road games.

Jonathan Ericsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.

“I thought we played really good,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought our energy level was great, I thought we won tons of puck races and puck battles in the `O’ zone, I thought we shot the puck well, we had net presence. … What you can really control is your process and I thought our process was great.”

The Avalanche, who won at Ottawa on Thursday, improved to 6-2 on the season in the second game of back-to-backs. The shootout went four rounds, and Comeau ended it by beating Petr Mrazek with a wrist shot to the glove side.

Datsyuk scored Detroit’s only goal of the shootout. Varlamov denied Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards and Gustav Nyquist.

Nathan MacKinnon had Colorado’s first goal of the shootout on the third attempt by the Avalanche – Detroit would have won if Mrazek had stopped him.

“We play a team game. A goalie can’t win a game by himself,” Varlamov said. “We scored two nice goals, and then in the shootout a nice goal by Nate saved us and then Blake scored on a nice shot.”

Duchene opened the scoring in the first period after the Red Wings were sloppy with the puck in their own zone. Colorado’s Mikhail Grigorenko backhanded a pass to Duchene, who scored from around the edge of the crease.

Detroit evened it up in the second when Ericsson’s wrist shot from the point deflected off Duchene and then skipped off the ice surface and past Varlamov.

Comeau put Colorado ahead in the third with a shot from the slot, but the Red Wings answered on a power play when Datsyuk backhanded the puck past Varlamov from in close with 10:09 remaining in regulation.

The Avalanche had 25 blocked shots to Detroit’s four, underscoring just how much of the game was played in Colorado’s zone, but the Red Wings came away with just the one point for the shootout loss. Nyquist had a great chance in overtime when he swooped in alone on Varlamov, but his backhander was stopped.

Detroit’s Darren Helm had a career-high nine shots on goal.

“He’s shooting from everywhere,” Detroit’s Luke Glendening said. “I was hoping one would go in for him, but I think it’s a good sign that he’s getting a lot of chances.”

NOTE: Detroit D Mike Green returned after missing two games with a sore groin, and D Danny DeKeyser played after leaving Detroit’s win over Ottawa on Wednesday during the third period because of a bruised right leg. … The Red Wings were short-handed for the final 92 seconds of overtime, but managed to kill the penalty.

 

Doan makes Jets/Coyotes franchise history

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The Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise has a new leader in career points.

Shane Doan set the new mark at 931 points, taking over the franchise lead from Dale Hawerchuk thanks to a three-point night in a 4-1 Coyotes win over the Calgary Flames on Friday.

He scored twice — his first goal of the night tied Hawerchuk’s record — and added an assist. At 39 years of age, Doan has 21 goals this season and is on pace for his best season in that department since he scored 31 in 2008-09.

In fact, at his age and this stage in his NHL career, he could set a new personal best for goals in a single season.

Despite all the off-ice turmoil the Coyotes have gone through, and the speculation of that franchise possibly uprooting from the desert, Doan has hung in there.

That’s not to say he hasn’t spoken out at times about the constant controversies that have come up between the organization, the city of Glendale and the NHL.

In September of 2012, prior to the lockout, he had the choice to sign elsewhere. He narrowed his options down to Vancouver and Phoenix, eventually deciding to stick with the Coyotes.

No regrets.

Kopitar dominates with a hat trick to help Kings defeat Rangers in OT

St Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings
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Anze Kopitar received high praise from L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter following Friday’s win over the New York Rangers.

All Kopitar did was score three goals on four shots on goal. He was also credited with five hits while winning 65 per cent of his faceoffs. His third goal of the evening with 30 seconds remaining in regulation pushed this game into overtime, where Tanner Pearson scored the winner for L.A. in a 5-4 victory.

“It was Kopi’s best game of the season, that’s for sure,” said Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

“Not just because he scored three goals, but it was his best game all around in terms of using his whole package. I mean, he was a pretty dominant player.”

L.A. maintains an eight-point lead on the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.

The Kings’ victory came at a cost. Marian Gaborik left the game in the first period after being involved in an awkward collision. He did not return, and Sutter didn’t have an update on the veteran forward when the game ended.

Video: P.K. Subban tossed after on-ice outburst toward officials

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P.K. Subban was given a game misconduct on Friday after an outburst directed at officials in the final minute against the Buffalo Sabres.

Subban was furious after the puck got caught up in the skates of the linesman in the neutral zone before Evander Kane then picked it up and scored into the open net. That put the Sabres up by two goals with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and ended any hopes of a Montreal comeback.

Subban had some choice words for officials but his argument ultimately landed him with an early exit from this game. The Habs lost by a final score of 6-4.

“I looked around to see if he was going to blow [the whistle,]” said Subban, as per Sportsnet. “The puck is coming out of the zone. It hits the linesman. He’s standing there and sees the puck coming. It goes back to the player and he puts it in the open net. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

“Are we supposed to smile and be happy after that and say, ‘Thank you’ to the linesman? I don’t think so. I’m a little bit disappointed about that, because I felt there was a minute left in the game [and] we still had a chance to score.”

The Sabres scored four straight goals between the first and second periods, chasing Ben Scrivens from the net 1:28 into the second period.