Author: Jason Brough

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

Cooper had high praise for Drouin


TAMPA — Despite playing a team-low 7:52, Jonathan Drouin left his coach decidedly impressed after being inserted into the Lightning lineup for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought Jo was great,” said Jon Cooper. “He did everything we wanted him to. He took some short shifts, which cut his ice time down a little bit. But he came into that game, and he’s been prepared to play during our run here.”

Drouin had his best moments early on. With a little luck, he might’ve scored on his first shift with linemates Brenden Morrow and Brian Boyle. He finished with two shots on goal. He missed the net on another attempt.

“The adrenaline, all that stuff, he was really fired up,” said Cooper.

But later in the first, the 20-year-old had a turnover in the offensive zone that led to a Chicago scoring chance. And early in the second period, his line was on for a goal against.

“As the game went on, you know, everybody comes back to earth a little bit,” said Cooper. “I thought that line did very well in the first period. Then special teams and things took over. It was harder to get guys out.”

Cooper did not say whether Drouin would play in Chicago. It’s always a different story on the road, where it’s tougher to protect young players who are still, in the coach’s mind, learning that there’s “more than one net in a rink.”

But Drouin made a strong case tonight to remain in the lineup, and in the process gave the entire hockey world a glimpse at why the Lightning used the third overall pick to draft him.

Lightning silent on goalie situation, but have confidence in young Vasilevskiy

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

TAMPA — Andrei Vasilevskiy had to be prodded by the Lightning’s PR staff to come out and speak to the media. The 20-year-old Russian didn’t want any cameras around. He often consulted a translator during a brief scrum with reporters. He was nervous, but also happy.

Nervous because of the throng of reporters pushing microphones in his face. Happy because he’d just come off the bench — twice, actually — in the third period of a tied Stanley Cup Final game, and he ended up getting the win.

“Just feel to myself happy,” he said. “Every game, I’m just ready. If coach tell me, ‘Go in,’ I go in. That’s it.”

Vasilevskiy only had to stop five shots in replacing Ben Bishop, who twice left the game for reasons the Lightning weren’t sharing. But it was an incredibly big moment for a rookie goalie with next to no playoff experience. If the Lightning had lost and gone back to Chicago trailing 2-0, the Lightning would be in serious, serious trouble.

“Nervous?” he said. “Just maybe little bit. But after first couple shots, I [felt] better.”

And the second time he had to replace Bishop?

“First time maybe more nerves, but second time just play,” he said.

Captain Steven Stamkos was asked what came to mind when he saw Vasilevskiy come in.

“You know what? Usually in a situation like that, you tighten up,” he said. ” Obviously, you feel for him getting thrown in there like that. But we have confidence in that kid.”

“I know we have two unbelievably capable goaltenders,” echoed coach Jon Cooper. “When Bish had to leave, there wasn’t an ounce of stress on anybody on our bench, including myself. The kid proved it when he went in. He was great.”

The question now is whether the “kid” will be forced to start Game 3 Monday in Chicago.

“I will not answer a question about the goaltending or what happened tonight,” Cooper said, to nobody’s surprise.

Vasilevskiy only started 13 games during the regular season. His last start came way back on March 31. Prior to tonight, he’d only made a pair of relief appearances in the playoffs.

“He’s a pretty confident kid,” said Stamkos. “I think it helped that he’s come in relief a couple of times this playoffs. He’s got a taste of it. This will just add to his confidence. He made some big saves.

“I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going on, but he played great tonight and it was nice to finish off the game for him.”

Bickell says he cleared concussion test, but doesn’t know what’s wrong

Bryan Bickell

TAMPA — It’s not a concussion.

But other than ruling that possibility out, Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell isn’t quite sure what’s been ailing him.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” he said today. “It’s something that comes and goes. It could come after I’m done talking to you. I don’t know.”

Bickell was forced to miss Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with what the club called an “upper-body” injury. He also played just 4:22 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

“We did all those concussion tests and everything was clear,” he said. “It’s just a frustrating thing to come up this time of year.”

Bickell practiced today and hopes to play tomorrow; however, his status remains unclear, whether he’s healthy or not.

That’s because Kris Versteeg drew into the lineup for Bickell on Wednesday and impressed coach Joel Quenneville.

“I liked his game,” Quenneville said. “He had good pace to his game. Good energy.”

Bickell skated in Marcus Kruger’s spot on the fourth line in practice today. Quenneville said Kruger was resting.