James O'Brien

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

Is Tyler Johnson injured? Speculation grows

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The cliche is probably somewhat true: it’s plausible that everyone’s a little banged up by this time of year.

Still, there’s a difference between “regular trips to the ice bath” and having injury issues limiting your effectiveness, and the buzz is building about rising Tampa Bay Lightning star Tyler Johnson.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie brought up some credible concerns, wondering if Jonathan Drouin’s possible Stanley Cup Final debut may coincide with a less-than-healthy No. 9.

Even with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1, the Lightning have enjoyed quite a bit of success with an extra defenseman in their mix (going with 11 forwards and seven blueliners). McKenzie wonders if this situation will bump that back to the traditional setup of 12 forwards and six defensemen.

Johnson says no, stats say maybe

Good luck getting any transparent injury updates this far into the playoffs – teams aren’t even divulging which half of a player’s torso is in jeopardy at this point – but the 24-year-old is denying that he’s hurt. For whatever that’s worth.

The speculation is fueled by a poor game by the standards of Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. They didn’t perform well whether you look at deeper possession stats or merely note that the trio failed to generate a point and only combined for two shots on goal. (Kucherov and Johnson finished Game 1 with -1 ratings, too.)

Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times that he isn’t injured, but admits that “The Triplets” need to up their collective game.

“Our line right now, we’re playing just average,” Johnson said. “We’re not doing as well as we should, and we know that. It’s time for us to step up.”

Johnson dismissed the injury scuttlebutt while Lightning head coach Jon Cooper doesn’t seem too concerned about this mini-slump for “The Triplets.” That concern may build if Game 2 doesn’t go Tampa Bay’s way, though.

Leafs’ summer of change continues: Pellerin promoted, Staios leaves

pelleringetty
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For the second straight summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made significant changes to its front office. The round of alterations continued on Friday, as Scott Pellerin was promoted after Steve Staios left the organization.

Specifically, Pellerin (pictured) was elevated to the role of Director of Player Development while Staios departed to become president of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

Staios, 41, is likely more familiar with hockey fans as he managed 1,001 career regular season games before retiring in 2012 (where he jumped right into a role with the Leafs). Pellerin played in 536 NHL games himself, getting his first front office experience in the Los Angeles Kings organization as an assistant coach for the Manchester Monarchs.

The 45-year-old’s promotion is just one of several moves made within the Leafs organization as of late.

More moves:

Leafs fire Nonis, Horacheck

Core players expect changes

AHL alterations

Mike Babcock hiring will make waves

Buds hire director of sports science from NBA’s Nets

Lightning coach isn’t concerned about lull for ‘Triplets’

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat
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Heading into the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the story for the Stanley Cup Final was as much about “The Triplets” as it was about Steven Stamkos. The trio of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov didn’t fare so well for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1, however.

The three couldn’t get much done against the Chicago Blackhawks in an eventual 2-1 loss, and the Tampa Times points out that Johnson’s struggles have persisted for several games now.

Don’t expect Lightning head coach Jon Cooper to panic about it, though.

“They’ve proven time and time again, they may be kept off the score sheet a game here, a game there, but you’re not going to keep them off for long,” Cooper said. “Those kids will find a way.”

Whatever way you look at it, Game 1 really wasn’t flattering to the trio.

All three boasted disappointing possession stats. “The Triplets” combined for just two shots on goal, and none of them came from Kucherov.

Considering the two-way talent that Chicago possesses, this is likely the biggest scoring challenge that Palat, Johnson and Kucherov have faced. At least their coach is confident they can get done, though.

PHT Morning Skate: Coach’s challenges and Brian Boyle’s hair

Panthers v Cowboys
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Could Duncan Keith be the greatest Chicago Blackhawks defenseman ever? (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Coming soon to the NHL: the coach’s challenge? (The Hockey News)

This puppet rendition of Jaromir Jagr MIGHT give you nightmares. (Puck Daddy)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been rewarded for being patient regarding drafting Russian players, especially Nikita Kucherov. (Sportsnet)

Seriously, Jimmy Fallon (or at least one of his writers) really thinks that Brian Boyle looks like a Disney prince, most specifically “Alladin.” He argues as much in the Stanley Cup Superlatives:

 

Striking turn: Blackhawks take late lead with two goals in 1:58

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks - Game Five
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Well then.

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed content to nurse a 1-0 lead through the meat of Game 1 as Ben Bishop’s shutout streak became more and more of a story. The Chicago Blackhawks showed how difficult it is to prevent them from scoring a single goal … and then added another for good measure.

First things first, Teuvo Teravainen tied things up with about six minutes left in the third period:

Things only got worse for Tampa Bay from there, as Antoine Vermette took advantage of a healthy bounce to make it 2-1 less than two minutes later:

Just like that, the desperate scramble to score became the Lightning’s responsibility. If the Bolts can’t send this game to overtime, expect plenty of questions about their decision to play “prevent defense” instead of pressing for a bigger lead.