James O'Brien

Tampa Bay Lightning v Arizona Coyotes

The Victor: Hedman sets up Paquette’s goal (Video)

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If you want a contrast between defensemen Victor Hedman and Kyle Cumiskey, merely watch the goal that put the Tampa Bay Lightning up 3-2 against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3.

Hedman generated his second beautiful (and primary) assist of the night setting up this tally by Cedric Paquette, while Cumiskey was exposed on a rare shift:

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook rightfully get a lot of attention, yet the way the 2015 Stanley Cup Final is going, Hedman might just become a mainstream star. (He’s already a star to many, after all.)

Video: Blackhawks, Bolts trade goals in 13 seconds

Brandon Saad, Ondrej Palat
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The Chicago Blackhawks wore down Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning during an impressive shift in the third period of Game 3. At the end of that sequence: Brandon Saad made no mistake of his one-timer chance to reward Chicago with a 2-1 lead:

That reward lasted … for 13 seconds.

Ondrej Palat erased that deficit mere moments later, one of those developments that would be more jaw-dropping if the 2015 Stanley Cup Final hadn’t already treated us to so many head-scratching moments already.

With that, it’s 2-2, and who knows what will happen next? That’s not such a bad thought for hockey fans, though, right?

Cooper says Bishop is ‘fine,’ chalks up slow movement to size (Video)

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Five
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It feels like all eyes are on Ben Bishop in Game 3, as his movements seem … labored.

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper addressed the much-discussed subject of Bishop’s health in this quick interview with Pierre McGuire. Let’s just say many aren’t entirely sold on his explanation (which seems to come down to “goalies that tall take a long time to get up”).

Drawing all that attention isn’t always such a bad thing, though, as it’s plausible that Bishop was able to buy a goalie interference call, which set up a 5-on-3 opportunity. Judge for yourself: was this a shaky call?

(Joel Quenneville was incensed.)

It’s difficult to believe, but there were no goals in that zany second period, and Game 3 remains 1-1.

Don’t expect the Bishop injury questions to slow down anytime soon. Oh yeah, if that’s enough drama for you, Johnny Oduya’s possible ailment may cause Chicago to go even less balanced with its defensive minutes:

Update: Early on in the third, it looks like Oduya is OK.

Video: Crawford stifles Kucherov, Bishop’s healthy enough to stop Vermette

Ben Bishop
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Say what you will about Ben Bishop (possibly) playing hurt in Game 3. If you look at the box score alone, you’d think that he’s having a great night.

The Chicago Blackhawks managed a playoff-high 19 shots on goal in the first period, yet only Brad Richards’ power-play goal beat Bishop. The big goalie’s lateral movement looks limited, to say the least, yet he was spry enough to stop Antoine Vermette here:

Did Vermette fail in forcing Bishop to make a tougher save? Maybe, but so far Lightning head coach Jon Cooper looks more reasonable than many expected in leaving Bishop in.

Then again, maybe it’s one of those games? Nikita Kucherov got an even better chance against Corey Crawford – who’s had some adventurous moments in Game 3 himself – but Crawford was game to the challenge.

So far, contract talk is all about term for Panthers, Huberdeau

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers
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Despite missing the playoffs, the Florida Panthers made some nice strides in 2014-15, and Jonathan Huberdeau was a big part of that climb. Now the two sides need to determine how his next contract will go.

At 22, Huberdeau is a restricted free agent. The leverage is largely on Florida’s side, even considering the fact that the young forward led the team in scoring by ten points with a career-high 54.

As the third pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, the belief is that Huberdeau will only get better from here. So what kind of price is right?

It turns out that the biggest issue is actually term, or at least that contract talks won’t really kick off until the two sides agree on that direction. Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald that the team is pretty open-minded when it comes to the length of a deal.

“The biggest thing is agreeing on terms, and once we figure that out we’ll start talking numbers,” Tallon said. “We’re looking at a bridge [contract] or something a little longer or a long-term contract. We’re open to anything. We’ll get something done that’s best for both of us.”

His RFA status limits his leverage, yet at just 22, there are quite a few ways things can go. (A longer deal might not be so bad since he’s so far from unrestricted status.)

Aside from Brian Campbell’s notorious (and soon to expire) $7.14 million cap hit, the Panthers don’t boast a ton of big-money contracts (unless you count Roberto Luongo’s deal, which is more about term). That situation can change as Florida’s young players mature, so Huberdeau’s next contract could very well be the benchmark for other important pieces of the Panthers’ future.