The Wraparound: Could Stanley Cup Final shift to Tampa Bay save Lightning?

The Wraparound: Could Stanley Cup Final shift to Tampa Bay save the Lightning?
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The Wraparound is your look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Game 3 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, including the all-important television information.

• Can the Lightning recover from a stunning 7-0 Game 2 blowout, or will the Avalanche push them to the brink of elimination?

• John Tortorella was officially hired as the next head coach of the Flyers on Friday

Heading into the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, it was no secret that the Avalanche possessed more team speed than the Lightning. Instead, the assumption was that the wily veterans would find ways to slow the young upstarts down.

That, uh, hasn’t happened so far.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Understandably, the Lightning basically treat their Game 2 debacle as a “burn the tape”-type experience. Throw a few “man up” comments out there. Deflect questions about leaving Andrei Vasilevskiy out there to absorb a seven-goal shellacking.

Starting with Game 3 Monday night (8 p.m. ET), a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered. To an extent maybe even literally.

Really, though, do the Lightning have a chance to get back in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final against the Avalanche? Let’s consider a few reasons why the series shifting to Tampa Bay could make a difference.

First, there are the typical differences in home ice

At times, home-ice advantage can be exaggerated in the NHL. Yet, the Lightning have already leveraged that edge during their push for a Stanley Cup three-peat. Look no further than how aggressively Jon Cooper chased matchups involving Anthony Cirelli. With the luxury of the last change, top forwards couldn’t escape a player who’s been making a Selke-level defensive impact.

It’s quite possible that, with a clean slate, the last change could matter.

Of course, there’s only so much Cirelli, Vasilevskiy, or any single player can do when the Avs are creating such a locomotive pace.

That’s where things could be interesting.

With Games 3 and 4 in Tampa Bay, the Avalanche won’t enjoy the same feverish home crowd to feed off of. This is anecdotal, but there’s often the feeling of a snowball effect (Avalanche pun partially intended) for a road team. Give up a goal and then another, and a contest can get away from you fast when everyone’s screaming and/or singing pop punk at your demise.

Getting away from mile-high elevation could be godsend for Lightning against Avalanche

From a “sports science” standpoint, the most interesting — if almost intangible — factor might be what makes the Avalanche’s home-ice advantage unique (or at least unusual) in the NHL. That’s the “mile-high” elevation.

Long story short, athletes not used to mile-high altitude can tire/get winded faster. From the NBA’s Nuggets to the these Avalanche, it really only makes sense to err toward a high-tempo style. Yet, instead of merely leaning in that direction, the Avs dove in head-first.

Frighteningly, the Avalanche aren’t just challenging the Lightning with pure skating speed. Just about every facet of their game keeps the puck moving. Their defensemen brilliantly move the puck up the ice. Most of the time, that means quick and efficient breakout passing. If those opportunities aren’t there — or a Cale Makar merely sees a chance to go coast to coast — then they have the ability to skate the puck up themselves.

[Related: Avs defying the odds with playoff goaltending]

As strong as the Avalanche were on the road this season (24-14-3), the Avalanche were incredible at home, posting a 32-5-4 record.

Considering many of the key players on each side by age, and a faster pace once again favors Colorado.

  • Nathan MacKinnon is a barrel of energy at 26. The rest of the NHL must come to grips with Cale Makar merely being 23. Valeri Nichushkin, 27, has been a menace in just about every section of the ice. Andre Burakovsky, 27, has been dynamic (though he may be injured). Even seemingly slowed, 26-year-old Mikko Rantanen is another physical force. 21-year-old defenseman Bowen Byram is coming into his own, while Devon Toews (28) is as smooth as they come.

[More on Nichushkin taking a star turn during playoffs, Cup Final]

Of course, it’s not just age that factors into fresher legs vs. a drive to slow the pace. The Lightning have just played a stunning amount of hockey the past three years. Tampa Bay’s played a whopping 67 playoff games the past three seasons, while the Avalanche are tied for a distant second with 41 playoff GP.

During this run alone, the Lightning have played three more games than the Avalanche. The Avs also enjoyed that cushy rest between previous rounds, arguably worthy of the dreaded rust.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not shocking that an already-fast Lightning team looked that much quicker than the Lightning in Colorado. That also might have exacerbated issues for Andrei Vasilveskiy.

Life could end up at least a bit easier for Vasilevskiy …

While it’s resounding how much Vasilevskiy’s accomplished at a mere age 27, even a younger goalie can wobble when you put too much on their shoulders. (Fatigue’s something he owned up to, at least earlier in his run as a No. 1.)

Could mile-high elevation have made already-challenging matters worse for Vasilevskiy early on? It’s possible. It was noted how tired Vasilevskiy looked after Artturi Lehkonen scored a PPG in Game 1:

In contemplating the rush goals and opportunities the Avalanche generated in Game 2 especially, maybe a return home can tip the scales just enough for Vasilevskiy and their structure to rebound? Maybe they can trap/slow down Colorado more effectively when they’re not gasping for air.

Among other things, the Bolts may also be able to churn out some of Jon Cooper’s fabled “adjustments.” Either way, the Lightning clearly need a lot to change if they hope to have a fighting chance in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.


Game 1 – Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3 – June 20: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – June 22: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – June 24: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 6 – June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)

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    Rangers sign Filip Chytil to 4-year extension

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    NEW YORK — The New York Rangers have signed forward Filip Chytil to a four-year contract extension worth $17.75 million, locking up another member of their core long term.

    The team announced the deal Wednesday night. Chytil will count just under $4.44 million annually against the salary cap through the 2026-27 season.

    Chytil, 23, is in the midst of a career year. He has set career highs with 22 goals, 20 assists and 42 points in 66 games for the playoff-bound Rangers.

    The Czech native is the team’s sixth-leading scorer and ranks fourth on the roster in goals. The 2017 first-round pick has 144 points in 342 NHL regular-season and playoff games. He was set to be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

    New York already had top center Mika Zibanejad signed through 2030, No. 1 defenseman Adam Fox through 2029, veteran Chris Kreider through 2027, winger Artemi Panarin through 2026 and reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin through 2025.

    General manager Chris Drury’s next order of business is an extension for 2020 top pick Alexis Lafrenière, who is only signed through the remainder of this season and can be a restricted free agent.

    Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

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    CHICAGO — Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to the ice but hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 years.

    Toews, 34, skated with teammates prior to Chicago’s game with the Dallas Stars. It was his first time practicing with them since a game in Edmonton on Jan. 28.

    He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and “long COVID.”

    In meeting with reporters, Toews stopped short of saying he hoped to play in any of last-place Chicago’s nine remaining games. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

    Toews said he’s feeling stronger, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play again for the Blackhawks or another team.

    “Both if I’m being fully honest,” Toews said. “I feel like I’ve said it already, that I’ve gotten to the point where my health is more important.

    “When you’re young and you’re playing for a Stanley Cup and everyone’s playing through something, that means something and it’s worthwhile. But I’m at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing.”

    Toews, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick (third overall) in 2006, joined the team in 2007 and was a pillar of Stanley Cup championship clubs in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.

    In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, he’s posted 45 goals and 74 assists, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.

    Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response System, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue.

    He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22, then started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down.

    Entering this season, it looked as if Chicago might deal him, as it did fellow star Patrick Kane, before the March trade deadline. But Kane went to the New York Rangers and Toews to injured reserve.

    Toews believed he was progressing before a relapse in January left him so sore and tired that he could barely “put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.”

    Toews said his progress over the past month has been “pretty encouraging” and he’s delighted to be back among his teammates. He has no timetable beyond that.

    “We’re just going to go day by day here,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. He deserves anything he wants to try to achieve here.”

    Richardson hoped Toews “can take that next step later in the week and hopefully (he) gives us the green light to go in a game.”

    But Toews emphasized his long-term health and ability to lead a “normal life” is most important. He wants to go out on a positive note and not hit the ice for a game playing through excessive pain and dysfunction.

    “It’s definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here as a Blackhawk in Chicago,” Toews said. “It’s definitely very important for me to go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I’ve been able to be part of here in Chicago.”

    Budding Wild star Matt Boldy more willing to shoot, and it shows

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Boldy was unable to resist a smile in the aftermath of his second hat trick in five games for the Minnesota Wild, a young right wing and reluctant star trying to make sense of a remarkable hot streak.

    Does the puck feel as if it’s automatically going in the net these days each time he shoots?

    “Yeah, it does,” Boldy said in the locker room after leading the first-place Wild to a 5-1 win over Seattle. “My linemates are playing great. Hopefully you guys are giving them a lot of credit. You look at some of those goals – just putting it on a tee for me.”

    This non-attention-seeker has found himself squarely in the NHL spotlight. Boldy has 11 goals in nine games since Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined with a lower-body injury to raise his goal total to 28, in part because he’s been more willing to shoot. With vision and stickhandling as strengths and the humility of being a second-year player, it’s easy to be in a pass-first mindset.

    “Everybody kind of took turns talking to him. But it’s not that he didn’t want to. A lot of times a situation like that where a guy’s got that skillset, it’s a real unselfish quality, right?” coach Dean Evason said. “But I think he gets now that he helps the team a lot when he scores goals.”

    The Wild were confident enough in Boldy’s scoring ability to commit a seven-year, $49 million contract extension to him earlier this winter, after all.

    “I think I’ve always had that mentality, but sometimes you just get into spots and it comes off your stick good,” Boldy said. “When things are going well, the puck goes in the net.”’

    The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov. Boldy is a big reason why.

    “You go through the slumps, you learn what you need to do to score. I think he’s found a good way to be in the right spot and shoot the puck when he had a good opportunity,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said.

    The Wild have only won one division title in 22 years, the five-team Northwest Division in 2007-08. They’re leading the eight-team Central Division with eight games to go, with both Colorado and Dallas too close for comfort. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2015.

    With Kaprizov due back before the postseason and Boldy on this heater, a Wild team that ranks just 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.93) ought to have a better chance to advance. Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson have been ideal linemates for the Boston College product and Massachusetts native.

    Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy turns 22 next week, so there’s still time for one or two more.

    “He’s big. He controls the puck a lot. He’s got a good shot, good release. He’s smart. He switches it up. He’s got good moves on breakaways. He’s a total player,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”Fun to watch him grow this year.”

    Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

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    Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

    Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

    “It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

    The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

    “I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

    Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

    Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

    The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

    “Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

    Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

    Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

    “I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


    The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

    During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


    Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.