Author: Jason Brough

New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven

Home record, depth scoring top list of Lightning concerns


TAMPA — Despite having made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been a wildly inconsistent team at home during these playoffs.

Of the Lightning’s five home losses (against five home victories), four have been by four goals. In the first round, there was a 4-0 defeat to Detroit; in the second, they lost 6-2 to Montreal; and in the Eastern Conference Final, they lost 5-1 and 7-3 to the Rangers.

So, with home-ice advantage over the Blackhawks, captain Steven Stamkos wants the Lightning to have the same “mentality” at Amalie Arena that they’ve had on the road, where they’ve gone an impressive 7-3 in the postseason.

“It’s being okay with a tight game early on, not feeling the pressure of playing at home or feeling the need to put on a show for your fans or for your family and friends in the stands,” said Stamkos. “We’ve been fine with tight games on the road because we know we’ll find a way in the end. We’ve shown that we can do that. We have to find a way to have that same mentality at home.”

Coach Jon Cooper didn’t disagree with his captain’s take.

“I think sometimes at home, especially against the Rangers, we fell behind early (and) we just tried to chase the game,” he said. “Do we get caught up in our atmosphere, the crowd, everything that’s going on? We might.”

That said, Cooper noted that the Lightning went 32-8-1 at home during the regular season, and it was their 18-16-7 road record for which they “got a little bit maligned.”

“As it turns out, if it wasn’t for our road play, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” he said.

Whether at home or away, one thing the Lightning could really use is more scoring from forwards not named Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, or Ondrej Palat.

Those six comprise Tampa Bay’s top two lines. Combined, they’ve scored 45 goals.

The rest of the forwards have combined for just four goals.

“I think we feel real fortunate to be where we are with laying it on the shoulders of six guys basically,” said veteran winger Brenden Morrow, who has no points in 18 playoff games. “We need to find somebody else. We need scoring contributions from a lot of other people now.”

The obvious candidate is Ryan Callahan, the $34.8 million winger who has just one goal on 39 shots in the playoffs. Brian Boyle, with just one goal on 31 shots, is another veteran who’s had trouble putting the puck in the net.

Related: Fifteen years later, Morrow gets another shot at the Cup

Chicago mayor rips Lightning for being ‘afraid’ to sell tickets to Blackhawks fans

New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have a friendly Stanley Cup Final wager with his counterpart in Tampa, but he’s not impressed with the Lightning’s policy that requires a Florida address to purchase playoff tickets.

“Chicago Blackhawks supporters are known to be among the best in the NHL, and certainly we wish the Tampa Bay Lightning management would welcome Chicago fans to their city and not be afraid to let them into their arena for the Stanley Cup finals,” Emanuel said in a release, per the Tampa Bay Times.

“As mayor of Chicago, I welcome Tampa fans — and hockey fans from around the country — to fly to Chicago and enjoy our world-class hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions, and then go watch Stanley Cup hockey in Chicago.”

The policy has also drawn harsh criticism from those in the Chicago media.

The Lightning have defended the policy by saying they “don’t feel the need to apologize for doing our best to create a home atmosphere for our season ticket members and our team.”

Melnyk released from hospital after successful liver transplant

Eugene Melnyk

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been released from the hospital following a successful liver transplant on May 19, the club announced today.

“Mr. Melnyk’s recovery has been proceeding very well since undergoing his transplant,” said Dr. Atul Humar in a release. “As with all of our transplant patients, Mr. Melnyk has been monitored closely by his transplant team and his general health has improved to the point where he can begin the next phase of his recovery. In addition, we are pleased to report that the anonymous donor has also been discharged and is doing extremely well.”

Melnyk went public with his search for a live liver donor in mid-May. Within days, more than 500 donor applications were received.

It’s Manchester (Kings) versus Utica (Canucks) in the Calder Cup Finals

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vancouver Canucks

The Calder Cup Finals are all set. It’ll be the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, versus the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) in a seven-game series starting Saturday in Manchester.

The Monarchs have been led in the playoffs by 23-year-old forward Jordan Weal, who leads all scorers with 19 points in 14 games.

The Comets, meanwhile, have been bolstered by the goaltending of Jacob Markstrom, who earned his second shutout of the playoffs in Tuesday’s series-clinching victory over Grand Rapids.

Game 1 – Sat., June 6 – Utica at Manchester, 6:00
Game 2 – Sun., June 7 – Utica at Manchester, 5:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 10 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 12 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 13 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 16 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 17 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00

 Related: Benning trying to figure where Markstrom ‘fits in’

‘Home-grown talent’ a staple of Blackhawks and Lightning


TAMPA — It’s a fine line that NHL general managers have to walk in the salary-cap era. On the one hand, everyone knows it’s important to develop prospects properly, and that rushing youngsters can be ruinous.

“It’s very difficult to just jump into the NHL and be an impact player,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “It’s not easy. The schedule, the travel, the different buildings you go into. I mean, you have to experience all that so you sort of get that out of the way, then you can play hockey.”

On the other hand, young players are inexpensive, and there aren’t many, if any, teams that win the Stanley Cup without youngsters making a major contribution.

“You need young players to succeed in this day and age,” confirmed Bowman, who would certainly know.

Not only do youngsters come with a relatively low cap hit, they possess certain physical attributes that make them ideally suited for the pace of today’s NHL.

“That’s kind of what today’s game is getting to, that quick and speed game,” said Lightning veteran Brenden Morrow. “I think those young legs really help.”

As such, those one, two, or three years after a prospect is drafted have become more vital than ever.

“What we try to do with our young players is not rush them to the point where the expectations are unrealistic,” said Bowman. “We try to give these guys a chance. When they do make it into the NHL, they’ve had some time to develop their game, to gain some confidence usually in the [American Hockey League].

The Lightning, like the Blackhawks, are stocked with players that they’ve drafted and developed.

“When you look back at any team that gets to this point, any team that has any kind of long‑term sustained success, it’s really true home‑grown talent,” said GM Steve Yzerman. “It’s just impossible, even more so with the salary cap, to try to build a team to be successful over a period of time just through free agency and through trades.”

Oh, and it helps to have a bit of good fortune too.

“We’ve been lucky,” said Yzerman. “If we’d have known [Ondrej Palat] was going to be that good, we wouldn’t have waited ’til the seventh round to get him.”

In 2010, when the Blackhawks won their first Cup since 1961, Jonathan Toews was only 22 and Patrick Kane was just 21.

Whoever wins it this year will have players of a similar age.

If it’s Chicago, it’ll be 22-year-old Brandon Saad and 20-year-old Teuvo Teravainen.

If it’s Tampa Bay, it’ll be, well, take your pick. Captain Steven Stamkos is only 25, and he already considers himself an “old fart”.