The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to squeak by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, but captain Steven Stamkos didn’t play a major role in the series. He did chip in three assists and had a plus-three rating, but the 25-year-old forward didn’t have a single goal in the seven-game series.
“I think the fact that Stammer hasn’t scored and we won the series probably bodes well,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper argued, per Bryan Burns of the Lightning’s website.
It certainly highlights the team’s depth, which has been a strong point this season thanks to the efforts of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat. All three finished the regular season with at least 60 points to help the Lightning lead the league offensively.
Still, the Canadiens are a very strong team this season and were able to sweep Tampa Bay back in 2014. It would be very challenging for the Lightning to get by Montreal without significant contributions from Stamkos.
“Trust me, Stammer’s time to shine is coming up,” Cooper said, according to NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu.
The Lightning need to hope that’s the case.
Are the Detroit Red Wings a team moving up courtesy of a young core led by Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser, and Petr Mrazek? Or are they a fading dynasty having already lost former leaders like Nicklas Lidstrom and on the brink of watching the two stars they have left head off into the sunset?
“Who’s going to replace Pav?” head coach Mike Babcock asked, per NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu. One of the best two-way forwards in the game, Pavel Datsyuk will turn 37 in July. Henrik Zetterberg will celebrate his 35th birthday in October.
“Our team is not as good as it was,” Babcock also noted, according to Postmedia News’ Michael Traikos.
That’s hard to dispute. Detroit has only won a single playoff series in its last four campaigns after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years in 2008-09. They won it all in 2008. Once Zetterberg and Datsyuk are gone or even just less effective, will the Red Wings start missing the playoffs entirely? Do they have anyone on their roster capable of filling that massive void?
Certainly the future isn’t all fire and brimstone for Detroit. The players mentioned off the bat have proven to be solid contributors and with their help, Detroit both made the playoffs and gave Tampa Bay a run for its money in the first round. The fact that the Red Wings came within a hair of advancing can’t be just brushed under the rug.
That being said, Babcock has raised legitimate points, and it will only add fuel to the speculation that the highly regarded coach will walk as a free agent this summer. Babcock didn’t confirm anything tonight, but Edmonton, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, and likely others would certainly be eager to sign him if he’s available.
The Detroit Red Wings got off to a great start in Game 7 and had the seeming had the edge for most of the contest except where it mattered most. Detroit’s strong play never translated into a goal and Tampa Bay went on to earn a 2-0 victory.
Ben Bishop deserves a lot of credit for pushing the Lightning into the second round. He turned aside all 31 shots he faced and kept Tampa Bay in this game during a rough 40 minutes. Along the way the Red Wings had four opportunities with the man advantage, which is a big deal when you consider that they had the second-best ranked power play in the league during the regular season, but Bishop and Tampa Bay’s defense got through each one.
The scoreless tie was finally broken 3:58 minutes into the third frame when defenseman Braydon Coburn nailed a one-timer past Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek. They had an opportunity to add an insurance goal late in the third, but it was disallowed due to matching penalties:
That proved to be moot though as the Lightning later sealed the deal with an empty netter from Anton Stralman.
Tampa Bay will now play the Canadiens for the second straight year. Last time Montreal beat the Lightning in four games, but Bishop was unavailable for that series. This time around the goaltender is healthy and heading to Montreal on a high note.
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had to surrender quite a bit to the Philadelphia Flyers to acquire defenseman Braydon Coburn, but it’s paid off in a big way tonight.
With Game 7 between Tampa Bay and Detroit still scoreless in the third period, Coburn launched a big one-timer after being set up by Ryan Callahan. You can see that potentially decisive goal below:
The Red Wings outshot the Lightning nearly 2-to-1 in the first 40 minutes, but they couldn’t beat Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop. Drew Miller had a golden opportunity though.
With the game scoreless midway through the second period and the series on the line, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop decided to take a big risk by leaving his net to pursue a loose puck in the middle of the Lightning’s zone. Red Wings forward Drew Miller was also in pursuit, creating an opportunity for him to potentially win the race and score on the now wide open net.
Miller won that race cleanly and was able to flip the puck over a diving Bishop, but it sailed harmlessly wide of the net to keep the contest tied. You can see that opportunity below:
That being said, Bishop is having a great game with 23 saves through 40 minutes to keep this one scoreless.