James O'Brien

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 24, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Bishop bounced back in Game 5, but did the Rangers test him enough?

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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop silenced some critics with a Game 5 shutout, but as is often the case, blanking the New York Rangers 2-0 also came down to how his teammates (and opponents) performed.

For the Lightning, it was exactly the type of game they need to play to win it all, as much-heralded defenseman Anton Stralman notes.

 

Different people beyond the marquee stars were highlighted, as Jon Cooper called Tampa Bay’s penalty kill a key while Bishop thought Brian Boyle’s shot-blocking was most impressive.

Steven Stamkos, meanwhile, goes on to praise Tampa Bay’s defensive effort as its best since they shut down the Montreal Canadiens to end their second-round series in Game 6.

Of course, there’s the flip side of the coin: the Rangers feel like they didn’t do enough to beat Bishop, who stopped all 26 of their shots.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault noted how much time New York spent in Tampa Bay’s zone for stretches of Game 5, yet they didn’t have much to show for it. To the NHL on NBC crew, it all comes down to a lack of net-front presence:

In other words, Bishop’s most painful moments might have come before the game even started.

New York needs to find a way to get through the strong defense of players like Stralman and Hedman (plus the fearless work of guys including Boyle) to put more heat on Bishop going forward, or their dreams of another Stanley Cup Final appearance might get dashed.

Surging Stamkos: Lightning put Rangers on the brink

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Make no mistake about it: Steven Stamkos is red-hot, and he’s taking his Tampa Bay Lightning with him. The Bolts blanked the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 5 to grab a 3-2 series lead on Sunday.

Stamkos assisted on Valtteri Filppula’s 1-0 goal and then took advantage of some great passing from “The Triplets” to score a tap-in 2-0 tally on the power play. Those two goals came within a five-minute stretch late in the second period that really changed the complexion of a tight contest.

There were mistakes on both sides as Matt Carle and Keith Yandle coughed up some costly turnovers (among others). Ultimately, it seemed like the Lightning beat the Rangers at “their own game,” so to speak. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman were brilliant at times in their own end, earning the praise they received in many circles.

Henrik Lundqvist was actually quite sharp, as his high-difficulty glove save on Stamkos might have ranked a little higher on highlight reels if the rest of the contest went better for the Rangers.

Instead, Ben Bishop enjoyed a nice rebound game in the form of a relatively easy shutout. It’s also probably accurate to say that Tampa Bay’s special teams scored a serious win over New York’s power play and penalty kill units.

Fans at Madison Square Garden even lightly booed the Blueshirts heading into the second intermission:

The big story is probably the continued rise of Stamkos. He tied a Lightning playoff record by scoring a goal in his fourth consecutive game and now has seven points in that four-game span. His confidence has been as obvious as his point-scoring, too, really.

Bishop managed to steal some spotlight in the third period, although the Lightning defense showed they can play that lock-it-down style of defense when they need to. (A wide-open style might be their preference, but you need to show that you can switch gears, too.)

Rangers fans have a right to feel down. New York carried the play for significant stretches, yet they find themselves on the brink of elimination once again.

It’s no secret that Alain Vigneault’s bunch tends to ratchet up its efforts a few notches with everything on the line, either. They fought back from 3-1 series deficits both in this postseason and their lengthy 2014 run.

They’ll need to dig deep yet again, but at least they know – from experience – that they can do it.

Meanwhile, you can’t begrudge Lightning fans if they’re excited about being one win away from the big time:

Video: Filppula, Stamkos score two big goals for Bolts

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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula doesn’t shoot the puck very often, yet every now and then he lets a great one go that makes people wonder why not.

That happened in Game 5, as he took advantage of some great passing to score a 1-0 tally in the second period against the New York Rangers:

On one hand, it seems like goals haven’t been that tough to come by in this series. On the other, the Lightning are 7-0 in these playoffs when scoring the first goal. If that holds, it’s a big tally by Filppula.

Update: The Rangers head into the third period with a big challenge: score at least two goals. After a nice assist on that Filppula goal, Steven Stamkos took advantage of some great passing by “The Triplets” to score a rather easy-looking power-play goal:

Video: Lundqvist snares Stamkos’ scary shot

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In hockey, you don’t always get to see many star vs. star moments, but that’s often what makes them so special.

As their conference final series has gone along, we’ve seen a number of moments where Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos challenged New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist’s glove has come through a few times, but his stop in the second period of Game 5 was a true masterpiece:

How many goalies could stare down Stamkos in such a one-on-one situation and come out on top? Goodness.

Blackhawks’ Bickell says wear-and-tear goes both ways

Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Three
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Plenty has been made about the Anaheim Ducks’ bigger bodies and perceived superior depth allowing them to grind down the Chicago Blackhawks. Still, it’s not as if playoff hockey is a walk in the park for the Ducks, either.

Ryan Kesler once again hammered the issue of hammering the Blackhawks, but his opponents largely dismissed any disadvantage to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I think it goes both ways,” Bryan Bickell said. “They are wearing us down, but they’re getting tired from wearing us down.”

That must be true, especially since both teams played a similar amount of games heading into this series.

Sure, laying on the body can grind down an opponent, but the team delivering a lopsided amount of hits traditionally finds itself chasing the puck more than their “victims.” With that, less puck possession can often mean being forced to block more shots.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s clear that the Ducks are blocking a lot of Blackhawks shot attempts. Here’s the game-by-game count:

Game 1: Ducks blocked shots:22 Blackhawks blocked shots:9
Game 2: Ducks:35 ‘Hawks:29
Game 3: Ducks:27 ‘Hawks:9
Game 4: Ducks:34 ‘Hawks:20

Through four games, the Ducks have blocked 118 shots compared to just 67 for the Blackhawks. Anaheim has generated a 220-158 hit advantage so far … is that a wash, then?

This is not to say that postseason hockey is any less of a grind. Instead, the point seems clear: both teams are ending up with plenty of bruises.

Related: Kesler thinks Ducks are wearing Blackhawks down