Anton Stralman will face his former team for the chance to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.
A year ago, Stralman made it that far as a member of the New York Rangers. But after a steady and solid post-season performance, the now 28-year-old defenseman signed last summer with the Tampa Bay Lightning as an unrestricted free agent to a five-year, $22.5 million deal.
The investment has already started to pay off. In his first season with the Lightning, Stralman posted a career-high in goals (nine) and points (39). He’s also riding a three-game point streak into this Eastern Conference Final between the Lightning and Rangers.
“The media that’s been around me much of the year, I’ve used this line about Anton, he may not win the Norris Trophy, but his partner will. That’s how good he can make you look,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told reporters.
“People should just watch him. He’s always on the right side of the puck. He uses his body in such a way that he doesn’t have to play a big heavy game, but he can play it because his body position is literally perfect every time he’s around the puck.
“He’s also got nerves of steel.”
Ryan Callahan remains day-to-day after undergoing an emergency appendectomy earlier in the week. It’ll be up to him whether he plays in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between his Lightning and his former Rangers, slated for tomorrow afternoon at MSG.
Callahan missed Tuesday’s Game 6 of the Lightning’s second-round series versus Montreal, but managed to return to practice yesterday. The 30-year-old winger practiced again today, skating on a line with Cedric Paquette and Jonathan Marchessault.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters that it was “a pain-tolerance thing” for Callahan now.
“Ultimately it’s up to Ryan Callahan,” said Cooper.
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.
2.00 — Goals per game for the Rangers in these playoffs. The reason they’re in the conference finals is they’ve only given up 1.67 per game, thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist (.944 save percentage). Remarkably, six of the Rangers’ eight wins have been by a score of 2-1. Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider lead the Blueshirts with five goals each, followed by Derek Stepan with three, while Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, Kevin Hayes, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle have two each.
55.4 — Anaheim’s faceoff percentage, the highest of the four remaining teams. The Ducks struggled in this area last postseason, but the addition of Ryan Kesler (63.7% this year), who replaced Nick Bonino (45.8% last year), has really helped them. Should be interesting to see how Kesler does against Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in the game.
10-1 — The combined overtime record of the four remaining teams, led by the Rangers (4-0). The only team that’s suffered an overtime loss is Anaheim (Game 3 versus Calgary).
48.31 — Tampa Bay’s Corsi close percentage, the lowest of the four remaining teams. Which lends credence to the notion that the Lightning haven’t really played up to their potential in the postseason. In a related story, Ben Bishop was excellent versus Montreal, registering a save percentage of .940 in six games, while outplaying Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price. Let’s see how Bishop does versus Lundqvist.
9 — Power-play goals allowed by Chicago. Six to Nashville, then three more to Minnesota. Poor penalty killing is not something that’s normally associated with successful playoff teams, so the Blackhawks will want to tighten that area up versus the Ducks, who’ve scored nine power-play goals in nine games.
Less than 72 hours after going under the knife, Ryan Callahan is back on the ice.
The Tampa Bay winger — who missed Tuesday’s series-clinching Game 6 win over Montreal due to emergency appendectomy surgery — returned to practice on Thursday, presumably with an eye to draw back into the lineup for the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers, which begins on Saturday.
Callahan, 30, had three assists through 12 playoff games prior to the procedure, leading the Bolts with a plus-7 rating while sitting second on the team in hits, with 42. Those numbers came on the heels of a regular season in which he tied a career-high in points, with 54, while averaging 17:44 TOI per night.
So needless to say, he’s a pretty key contributor for the Lightning.
It’ll be interesting to see how Callahan does in his first practice back, and how Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper addresses the situation. Jonathan Marchessault replaced Callahan in the lineup against Montreal on Tuesday, but it’s likely that Callahan will do everything in his power to be ready for Saturday, as the former Rangers captain spent the first seven years of his career with the Blueshirts.