Author: Mike Halford


Bolts lament passive third period: ‘We just sat back way too much’


TAMPA — Former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Tortorella used to have a saying:

Safe is death.”

On Wednesday night, his old team should’ve heeded that advice.

The Lightning played it safe in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and, without getting too hyperbolic, it basically killed them. It was the topic of conversation in the dressing room following the 2-1 loss, in which the Blackhawks rallied to score two goals in 1:58 in the third period — a period that saw the Bolts put just five shots on goal.

“You can’t take anything for granted against a team like that,” defenseman Anton Stralman said. “You can’t give them the room and space we did for 15 minutes in the third period. We just sat back too much and got away from our game a little bit.

“So, lesson learned.”

There were signs Tampa was reverting into a defensive shell in the second period, but the third was when the team really hunkered down. The Bolts rarely ventured forward and went over 13 minutes without registering a shot on Corey Crawford — this from a team that averaged close to 30 a night during the regular season.

“We just got away from playing smart defensive hockey and keeping pressure on them,” captain Steve Stamkos explained. “We’ve done it in the past. Whether it was chips and flips and getting rid of the puck, not making the confident play that we’ve made in the past.

“That’s a tough one to swallow.”

In Tampa Bay’s defense, some of this mentality might’ve carried over from an airtight performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. At MSG, the Bolts smothered the Rangers in what was one of the team’s best checking performances of the playoffs; there was also that Game 7 mindset of killing time to get the win, which was clearly on display again tonight.

“Tonight in the third period we played almost a half-ice game,” head coach Jon Cooper explained. “Against a team like Chicago, you can’t let them keep coming at you the way we did.

“I thought we had chances to put them away. We didn’t put them away. And once you do that, to me, that was letting them hang around.”

Comeback ‘Hawks: Chicago stuns Tampa Bay with late rally to take Game 1

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

TAMPA — It took less than two minutes. One hundred and eighteen seconds, to be exact.

That’s all the Chicago Blackhawks needed to turn Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final completely on its head, as Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored 1:58 apart in the third period to earn a 2-1 win and stun the Lightning — and their fans — at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night.

It was a signature comeback win for Chicago, which for the second time this postseason won a game it trailed after two periods. The ‘Hawks also stole home-ice advantage, guaranteeing at least a split in Tampa before heading home to the United Center for Games 3 and 4.

The loss will undoubtedly sting the Bolts. Owners of the NHL’s best offense during the regular season, Tampa Bay took an early first-period lead on Alex Killorn’s slick re-direct, then slowly reverted into a defensive shell.

“We just sat back a little too much,” said Tampa captain Steve Stamkos.

If there was ever a time to trot out the “prevent defense only prevents you from winning” cliché, tonight was that time.

The mantra especially held true in the third period. As the ‘Hawks poured it on, looking to beat Ben Bishop after being stymied for the first 40 minutes, the Lightning played not to lose and went over 13 minutes without a shot on goal in the final frame.

For a series that many expected to be filled with goals and scoring chances, Game 1 didn’t fit the bill. Chicago fired a postseason-low 21 shots on Bishop, while Corey Crawford was forced to make just 22 stops — five of which came in the third period.

As mentioned above, the loss is a stinger for Tampa Bay and it’ll be interesting to see how the club reacts. While it’s only one game and the first of the series, there is some history worth noting — since the Stanley Cup Final went to best-of-7 in 1939, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to win it all 77 percent of the time.

Bettman isn’t thrilled with how this compensatory pick thing is going


TAMPA — The experiment hasn’t failed yet, but the early returns aren’t good.

That was the message from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday, speaking to the oft-criticized decision of allowing teams to seek compensatory draft picks in exchange for coaches, GMs and front office executives being hired away by other NHL teams.

“Pleased isn’t exactly the word I would use,” Bettman said, when asked how the system was working. “We put in the policy [for compensation] on January 1, and we’ll let it run a full year before we consider doing anything. At that point in time the options will be to clarify, modify or eliminate it.”

The commissioner explained that, after years of ‘cajoling,’ GMs were finally granted their wish for compensatory picks this year. Bettman’s problem? He says the old system was simple.

This new one has proven to be a little more complex.

The original understanding was that teams would be compensated for losing employees that were, you know, employed. But what’s transpired is that clubs that have dismissed people — Pittsburgh with Dan Bylsma, San Jose with Todd McLellan, Boston with Peter Chiarelli — still received compensatory picks, which opened a can of worms and led to complaints the spirit of the rule was being violated.

To that, the NHL has a response.

“I don’t think based on the conversations that led to the rule it violates the spirit at all,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly explained. “The fact of the matter is, clubs still have the right to deny permission to those employees to talk to any other team based on the terms of their contract.

“So if they have to grant permission in the first place, they should be entitled to compensation.”

In the end, Bettman sounded resigned to the fact that the system’s in place and will continue to be until January 2016. He didn’t rule out revising the policy, but did say pick that have already changed hands will remain that way, adding “what’s done is done.”

“Everybody’s operating under a system — possibly with some adjustments to people’s interpretations — that this is a system that GMs wanted,” Bettman explained. “We’ll see how it works for a year.

“It is what it is.”