Ryan Callahan has already resumed skating after his emergency appendectomy surgery on Monday. If he is healthy enough to play, he’ll be going up against the team he used to captain, the New York Rangers, in the Eastern Conference Final.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotions actually going back there for a playoff game, and I’m excited,” Callahan said, per Ottawa Sun. Not that he thinks the Eastern Conference Final could get much bigger regardless of the opponent. At the end of the day this is about fighting to reach the Stanley Cup Final and he would be pumped to face any adversary to get there.
Indeed, Lightning coach Jon Cooper thinks that the rematch between Callahan and former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis, who was moved in the same March 2014 trade, “will mean more externally than it does internally.” Although he can’t help but be one of the many people that’s intrigued by the storyline.
“How often do two captains get traded for each other?” Cooper asked. “And then are going to end up going against each other in the Eastern Conference final? You can’t make that stuff up. It’s a pretty appealing story. So I’m actually interested to see how it’s going to turn out.”
It will be interesting to see if either of them end up being a significant factor offensively in this series. Although Callahan has helped Tampa Bay get this far, he’s also been limited to three assists in 12 playoff contests. St. Louis has just four assists in 12 postseason games.
Either one of them has the potential to tip the scale against their former squad.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Joe Barajas turned someone’s hair into a portrait of Rangers forward Chris Kreider (h/t Puck Daddy):
Stars captain Jamie Benn has decided to stay in North Texas rather than return to Victoria, British Columbia for the summer so that he can make sure his recovery from two hip surgeries goes according to plan. (Dallas Morning News)
Despite rallying back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 6, Montreal didn’t fare well against Tampa Bay tonight. With his team eliminated, Canadiens bench boss Michel Therrien offered a harsh assessment of what happened.
“I felt that physically and mentally we were drained. It’s disappointing but I guess those things happen,” Therrien said, per the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban partially echoed that sentiment by stating, “We knew they were going to come out with their best effort tonight and we didn’t match it.”
They seem to differ regarding where Montreal’s stands overall though. The Canadiens have won their division in two of the last three years and have advanced to at least the second round in back-to-back campaigns, but Therrien still sees them as a transitional team.
“I can’t focus on saying we need to wait a couple of years before we can contend,” Subban countered, according to NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu. “We need to contend now.”
Carey Price will turn 28 in August, Subban celebrates his 26th birthday on Wednesday, and Max Pacioretty will be 27 in November. That’s the core of the team and with that in mind, the Canadiens should be in win now mode. At the same time, forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are just starting to come into their own and perhaps they’ll be the difference in a couple years.
Montreal could certainly use the offensive help as it averaged a pedestrian 2.61 goals per game in the regular season and that went down to 2.08 in the playoffs.
While Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had a generally strong series, he didn’t even last to the halfway point of Game 4 before being pulled. After that contest, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban remarked, “I think Bishop sort of was sitting on a horseshoe for a little bit there. He’s played well, but he’s been lucky, as well.”
Subban thought Bishop’s Game 4 struggles would provide Montreal with confidence going forward, but the goalie responded by turning aside 45 of 48 shots over the final two contests of the second round. Tampa Bay still narrowly lost Game 5, but was able to eliminate the Canadiens tonight.
“Thank Goodness for my lucky horseshoe,” Bishop said after Tuesday’s game, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.
Bishop has let in some shaky goals over the course of the playoffs, but he also has a 1.81 GAA and .931 save percentage in 13 contests. With that in mind, it seems fair to say that he’s been a big part of Tampa Bay’s success thus far. His work is far from over though as Tampa Bay now sets its sights on reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004.
When a team establishes a 3-0 series lead as Tampa Bay did against Montreal, it gains breathing room as the onus is on the other squad to stage a historic comeback. Even still, the Lightning deserve credit for stepping up in Game 6 against the Canadiens after what was likely two frustrating losses.
“That was probably the best game we played all playoffs,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said in his postgame interview.
Tampa Bay had a clear edge in shots (28-19), faceoff wins (36-25), and hits (33-22) tonight. This game also saw Stamkos score his third goal in five games. After a rough first round, he couldn’t be much hotter going into the Eastern Conference Final.