This is the first time the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers will face off in a playoff series, but it doesn’t really feel like it.
The reasoning is simple: there are so many players facing their former teammates in this conference final squabble.
Martin St. Louis (pictured) versus his former team is the obvious headliner, although Ryan Callahan may steal his thunder if he managed to play this afternoon. Beyond that, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle were useful members of last year’s Stanley Cup Finalist Rangers squad while Dan Boyle won a championship with the Bolts many moons ago.
“It’s a little bit of made-for-TV,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told the Bergen Record. “How often do two captains get traded for each other? Guys that have been big parts of a team and move on to free agency. In part, not because they didn’t want to be there but, in the salary cap era, this is what happens.”
Speaking of made-for-TV, you can watch Game 1 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final on NBC and also stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra.
As projected, Cooper instead inserted Jonathan Marchessault into the lineup over Jonathan Drouin. That decision raised a few eyebrows as Drouin is a highly regarded young forward while Marchessault has just four games worth of NHL experience.
That being said, Marchessault has excelled in the minors with 24 goals and 67 points in 68 AHL games this season. He’ll play alongside Cedric Paquette. Tampa Bay is going with seven defensemen with Nikita Nesterov serving as the extra blueliner.
Callahan’s absence is also projected to led to Brenden Morrow playing alongside Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown. Tampa Bay’s top two lines should stay the same.
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.
Jacob Markstrom was one of the most notable players involved in the sixth-longest game in AHL history. (Puck Daddy)
Ten amazing rookie playoff performances from the past 10 years, or “Cam Ward gets to be on a flattering list.” (The Hockey News)
Get to know high-end 2016 NHL Draft prospect Auston Matthews. (Sportsnet)
P.K. Subban isn’t ready to golf just yet.
“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” took a lengthy look at the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs with a superlatives segment, which amounts to a lot of NHL player mugshot jokes. We shall now refer to Brian Boyle as “The Disney Prince.”
The Alex Ovechkin – Bond villain comparison seems oddly familiar, though, doesn’t it?
Tampa Bay had a lot to be happy about after its 6-2 victory over Montreal in Game 2 on Sunday, but the one blemish was the loss of forward Cedric Paquette. He sustained an undisclosed injury during that contest and couldn’t participate in Game 3 as a result.
Promising rookie Jonathan Drouin was inserted into the lineup as a result, but was held to just 9:54 minutes of playing time and was on the ice for Montreal’s lone goal in the Lightning’s 2-1 victory.
Paquette is ready to return for Game 4 tonight, but rather than push Drouin out again, veteran Brenden Morrow will sit instead. Drouin will play on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and fellow rookie Vladislav Namestnikov. Meanwhile, Paquette is projected to skate alongside Valtteri Filppula and J.T. Brown.
In nine playoff contests, Paquette has scored a goal and averaged 13:08 minutes of ice time.
The Habs have history with getting in Ben Bishop’s wheelhouse — see here — and that trend continued on Sunday as they took a pair of third-period penalties on the Bolts goalie in an eventual 6-2 loss.
Despite the effort, Montreal’s moves moves don’t seem to have rattled Bishop much (.959 save percentage through two games) — and they don’t seem to have rattled his teammates much, either.
“They have been falling on him and hitting him — I think last night was obvious,” Lightning forward Brian Boyle explained on Tuesday. “[Torrey] Mitchell and [Brandon] Prust slew-footing him, those are penalties and they’re going to get called and they’re going to go in the box.
“We’re going to try and stay disciplined. We’ll protect our goalie as we see fit. But sometimes it’s OK to take a punch in the face in the playoffs if you’re going to go on the power play.”
Mitchell was called for tripping Bishop early in the third period and Tampa Bay converted with the man advantage, scoring its fourth and final PPG of the game. All told, the Lightning went 50 percent on the power play and used Montreal’s lack of discipline to revive a unit that had struggled coming into this series, as the Bolts were just 2-for-30 on the PP in Round 1 against Detroit.
As for the rough stuff, Boyle preached discipline on Tuesday, but also suggested his team was more than willing to step up and protect Bishop when the time calls. Evidence of that was on display last night, as Braydon Coburn dropped the gloves almost immediately after Prust ran Bishop — a move that Prust approved of, noting that the Bolts remained in control of the situation.
“I don’t know what [Prust] is thinking, and I don’t really care,” Boyle explained. “Everybody understands it’s a 6-2 game. I think [Coburn] did a great job in doing what he did.
“You see things happen like that in lopsided wins. You expect and be ready for them and as long as nobody’s injured, you just kind of forget about them.”