James O'Brien

First strike: Lightning take Game 1 from Red Wings


The Tampa Bay Lightning faced some lineup questions heading into Game 1 against the Detroit Red Wings, yet every decision and healthy return ended up helping them win 3-2.

Tyler Johnson was a game-time decision heading in, and guys like Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov weren’t necessarily guarantees to play either. Johnson grabbed two assists, Kucherov scored two goals and grabbed a helper while Hedman had an electric would-be goal that was nullified by a video review.

From the “drama” category: plenty of eyes were on Jonathan Drouin, and the prodigal prospect impressed many with his assertive play.

So, the Lightning enjoyed big contributions from guys who may not have been healthy enough to play and one guy who seemed like he’d played his last game for the organization back in late December.

A strange way to do it, you might say, but Tampa Bay played well and now hold a 1-0 series lead against the Red Wings.

If the rough stuff and tight play are any indication, this could be quite a dramatic series.

No Kidding: Andrew Ladd will play for Blackhawks in Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, left, talks with left wing Andrew Ladd during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Sunday,Feb. 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

There was some concern that Andrew Ladd would need to miss Game 1 as his wife seemed ready to have a baby, but apparently that situation is, uh, hour-to-hour.

With that in mind, Ladd managed to get to St. Louis in time to suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Blues on Wednesday.

Keep this goofy situation in mind if Ladd ends up being a difference-maker in this contest, which is absolutely a possibility.

Antti Raanta replaces Henrik Lundqvist, who is day-to-day


Remember that optimism about Henrik Lundqvist at least avoiding an injury before giving up that 1-0 goal?

Those positive thoughts might have been hasty. Antti Raanta came out to start in the New York Rangers net instead of Lundqvist to begin the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Marc Staal stick-to-Lundqvist’s-face incident happened late in the first period, so it may have come after some assessment that Hank wasn’t quite right.

So, we’ll maybe have an idea regarding how long this will be a “Battle of the Backups.” Stay tuned.

Update: Lundqvist is considered day-to-day. Perhaps Game 2 being on Saturday will constitute enough “days” for Hank to heal up?

Video: Henrik Lundqvist shakes off stick to face, allows 1-0 goal


The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced bad luck when it came to the health of their goalies heading into Game 1. The New York Rangers felt a bit of their own in the first period.

On the bright side, it seems like Henrik Lundqvist is OK after Marc Staal‘s errant stick caught his face. He needed a little touch-up on the bench before heading back, which drew boos from fans.

Penguins fans should have been happy about that, though, as the Penguins scored the 1-0 goal soon after that moment.

Does that have anything to do with Lundqvist possibly being thrown off or would it have happened anyway? That’s really just a debate to pass the time, as the two teams entered the first intermission with the Penguins up 1-0 regardless.

Update: Maybe Lundqvist isn’t quite OK, after all. Click here for more.

Killorn’s hit on Larkin sets off Lightning – Red Wings violence (Video)

Detroit Red Wings – Tampa Bay Lightning likely ranks as the series that would be least likely to draw big-time fireworks as far as physicality goes.

The playoffs bring out the competitive sides – and sometimes the dark sides – of players more than regular season games, so sometimes even less fight-friendly teams get angry when they start fighting over territory.

That happened during the second period of the Red Wings – Lightning game, as Alex Killorn‘s hit on Dylan Larkin set off a series of squabbles between the two teams. You can watch the sometimes chaotic, sometimes amusing anger in the video above.

No power plays surfaced from those scuffles.

But plenty of penalties.