Lightning limp into Game 4 without Hedman, Stralman

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing a potential sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC; Live stream), and they’re going to have to find a way to win without Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.

Head coach Jon Cooper announced that Hedman and Stralman are out, while Alex Killorn is a game-time decision. Of course, the biggest lineup note is that Nikita Kucherov is back in the mix after sitting out Game 3 thanks to his one-game suspension, but these are big absences on the defensive side.

Via The Athletic’s Joe Smith, the Lightning will continue to roll with:

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Braydon CoburnJan Rutta

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In a detailed, fantastic piece for The Athletic (sub required), Alison Lukan detailed how the Blue Jackets’ forecheck (by way of a 1-2-2 setup) has been giving the Lightning fits so far in this Round 1 series.

“(We are) trying to find ways to limit their opportunities through their speed and their skill,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “That’s making sure we play disciplined and stay above the puck. When you go, it’s about not getting beat up the ice, and if (a Lightning player) moves the puck and your partner goes, you have to make sure you get back and get ahead of that guy and reload for him.”

Earlier in Round 1, much was made about Hedman being on the ice for some glaring Blue Jackets goals, particularly a David Savard goal that was key in Columbus’ Game 1 comeback. It was tough to shake the impression that injury issues limited Hedman’s mobility, and the big Swede missing big games only strengthens that possibility.

Yet, as much as Hedman’s missed on the defensive side, his absence really hurts the Lightning’s ability to break Columbus’ system with crisp, clean passes (and also the ability to skate the puck up the ice, when that makes sense).

The Hedman loss stings, as you’d frankly expect when a team is missing a Norris-level defenseman. It also might push someone useful like Sergachev a little out of their (or Cooper’s) comfort zone.

On the bright side, Lukan points out that Kucherov isn’t just a great weapon for Tampa Bay in the offensive zone, but is also one of the Lightning’s best players when it comes to the transition game.

Heading into Game 4, the Lightning played into typical cliches by talking about taking things “one period at a time,” and there might be some wisdom within the well-worn words. More than anything else, the Lightning could really benefit from starting Tuesday’s contest with a lead, preferably an early one. If Columbus is chasing a score, the Blue Jackets might be a little bit more willing to “cheat” or get too aggressive, potentially opening up lanes and other opportunities for the Lightning to really get rolling.

Still, between the Blue Jackets’ commitment to clogging things up, officials generally putting away their whistles when it comes to obstruction, and Sergei Bobrovsky‘s bank-account-fattening brilliance, Columbus is unlikely to make this easy on the Lightning. Not having Hedman, Stralman, and possibly Killorn only makes the mountain taller.

The Lightning hope to avoid being swept by Columbus Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC (Live stream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Wraparound: Blue Jackets aim to pad series lead

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Can the Columbus Blue Jackets do it?

After stunning the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Jackets will look to go up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series against one of the best teams in NHL history. Even the most optimistic Blue Jackets supporter probably didn’t expect them to take the first two games in Tampa, but they’ll have an opportunity to do so tonight (7 p.m. ET; CNBC; live stream).

There are several reasons why Columbus was able to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the first game. They started winning more 50/50 puck battles, Sergei Bobrovsky came up with some big saves, Tampa Bay took their foot of the gas, but the biggest reason they were finally able to climb that hill was thanks to their special teams.

When they were trailing 3-2 in the third frame, Brandon Dubinsky took a four-minute hi-sticking penalty on Cedric Paquette that could have put an end to the Blue Jackets’ comeback bid. Instead, Josh Anderson managed to score the equalizer while his team was shorthanded. You may not realize this, but Tampa Bay and Columbus both finished the regular season with the top penalty-killing percentage in the league at 85 percent. So it’s not surprising to see this team excel in that area of the game.

The surprise came just over two minutes later, when Seth Jones put his team ahead for good with a power-play tally. They ranked 28th in the NHL on the man-advantage during the regular season. That was huge considering they gave up a shorthanded tally to Alex Killorn in the first period.

Winning the special teams battle against a team that finished first on the power play and tied for first on the penalty kill won’t be easy going forward, but for one night the Jackets showed that they could get production from both of their units.

Can they do it again? That might be the difference between going up 2-0 or heading back home tied 1-1.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 2: Penguins vs. Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (Islanders lead 1-0): The Penguins managed to overcome three one-goal deficits in Game 1, but they eventually lost in overtime. To make the Islanders truly uncomfortable, you have to make them open up. And the only way they open up, is if they fall behind and are forced to chase the game. That’s the key for Pittsburgh. Doing that at Nassau Coliseum in front of that lively crowd is going to be easier said than done though. (NBCSN; Live stream)

Game 2: Blues at Jets, 9:30 p.m. ET (Blues lead 1-0): If you like big bodies flying around at each other on a sheet of ice, you’ve come to the right place. We saw a tight-checking game with two confident goalies that played really well. As Mark Scheifele found out in the final minute of Game 1, solving Jordan Binnington isn’t going to be easy. The Jets will have to find a way to find the back of the net more than just once. If this series goes the distance, will either one of these teams have anything left in the tank? (CNBC; Live stream)

Game 2: Golden Knights at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sharks lead 1-0): Game 1 couldn’t have gone any better for San Jose, as almost all of their top players managed to find their way onto the scoresheet. The Golden Knights have to find a way to slow down the Sharks and they need to stay out of the penalty box. Even though Martin Jones picked up the win in the first game, he still looked shaky at times. Vegas could stand to make his life a little more difficult. (NBCSN; Live stream)

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 2: Hurricanes at Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 2: Stars at Predators, 6 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 2: Maple Leafs at bruins, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 3: Avalanche at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Blue Jackets shock Lightning with stunning Game 1 comeback

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After the first period of Game 1, it seemed like the Blue Jackets would be lucky just to protect their dignity. Instead, they’ll leave Amalie Arena with an absolutely shocking 1-0 series lead against the mighty, historically-great Tampa Bay Lightning after Columbus won 4-3.

Tampa Bay took a commanding 3-0 lead during the opening frame, and considering some posts hit and jittery moments for Sergei Bobrovsky, the margin could have been even larger. This contest provided the first goal and fight of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it seemed like Bobrovsky might be the first goalie replacement.

Instead, Bobrovsky helped the Blue Jackets pull off the first borderline-unthinkable upset of this young postseason.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Blue Jackets bounced back slightly during the second period, but they only managed to cut the Lightning’s lead to 3-1 going into the third. For a while, it seemed like the Lightning would cruise through this one.

Then things started to get strange. All due respect to a solid-enough defenseman in David Savard, but few would imagine him to pull off these moves and this goal, particularly in totally faking out Norris-winner Victor Hedman:

That goal gave the Blue Jackets some daylight for the first time in quite a while, but it seemed like a rally would be cut short by a stick that created a cut. Cedric Paquette was bloodied by Brandon Dubinsky‘s stick, prompting a four-minute minor. Perfect opportunity for easily the best power play in the NHL this season, right?

Uh, about that …

To start the metaphorical bleeding for the Bolts, Josh Anderson showed tremendous patience on a shorthanded breakaway, eventually waiting long enough for Steven Stamkos to slightly bump his own goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and scored a stunning 3-3 goal.

Alex Killorn then committed a high-sticking penalty himself, short-circuiting the remainder of the Lightning’s power play, and opening the door for an abbreviated Columbus power play. Despite not having a ton of time, Artemi Panarin found Seth Jones, who scored a tremendous power-play goal. It was then 4-3 for Columbus with less than six minutes remaining, and Tampa Bay failed to shake off the shock of this comeback.

The Blue Jackets fought for their playoff lives during this stretch, making people wonder if management made a huge mistake in going all-in at the trade deadline. It wasn’t always pretty, but Columbus hung in there, and now they lead an absolute Goliath of a team 1-0 in this Round 1 series.

Blue Jackets-Lightning Game 2 from Amalie Arena will be Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blue Jackets – Lightning provide first goal, fight of playoffs

After a high-scoring 2018-19 regular season, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to a fast start.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning are setting the tone in Game 1. About three minutes into the contest, Dan Girardi was whistled for illegal hit to the head on his former Rangers teammate Brandon Dubinsky, which inspired something you probably didn’t expect this soon: the first fight of the postseason.

Check out the hit and fight here:

The Blue Jackets ended up getting a two-minute power play advantage from that ensuing fracas, but it really just started the bleeding for Columbus. Alex Killorn snagged the puck from Seth Jones, opening up a breakaway and a shorthanded goal, the first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch that video in the clip above this post’s headline.

Things didn’t get any better for the Blue Jackets from that 1-0 goal. Anthony Cirelli made it 2-0 on a goal Sergei Bobrovsky would want back, while Yanni Gourde‘s deflection on a 3-0 goal was something Bob really had no chance on.

So, two-out-of-three goals weren’t Bob’s bad, but he had some other shaky moments, and the conventional wisdom that the Blue Jackets will need brilliant goaltending to steal games from the Bolts continues to hold.

It begs the question: will the Blue Jackets also provide another first for this postseason: the first goalie change?

Game 2 of Blue Jackets-Lightning is Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blue Jackets get huge win; Torts calls Shaw hit ‘ridiculously suspendable’

AP
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Since going all in at the NHL trade deadline the Columbus Blue Jackets have been … confusing.

Honestly, that is probably the only way to describe the past month as they have failed to consistently play up to the expectations they created with a flurry of blockbuster trades and have been unable to make any kind of a significant move in the standings.

Their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night was probably the most significant one remaining on their schedule, simply because this is one of the teams they are directly competing with for a playoff spot. A regulation win would result in a four-point swing in the standings for one of them.

It was the Blue Jackets that ended up coming out on the positive side of that swing.

They managed to shake off an ugly first period performance and stormed back for a 6-2 win that brought them even with the Canadiens in the standings at 90 points and, for now, gives them possession of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also now just one point back of the Carolina Hurricanes, who lost again to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, for the first Wild Card spot.

Oliver Bjorkstrand was the biggest offensive star for the Blue Jackets with a pair of goals, while Artemi Panarin, Brandon Dubinsky, David Savard, and Riley Nash also found the back of the net.

The other big story in this game was a hit by Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw that knocked Blue Jackets defender Adam McQuaid out of the game. Have a look.

Shaw was given a two-minute minor for interference during the game, but the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is already looking at it for potential supplemental discipline.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who went absolutely ballistic on the bench after the hit, called it “Suspendable. Ridiculously suspendable” in his post-game press conference.

Shaw was announced as the Canadiens’ nominee Masterton Trophy earlier in the day. He has 18 goals and 43 total points in only 57 games has been one of the Canadiens’ most productive forwards this season.

With Paul Byron already injured as a result of his fight on Tuesday night the Canadiens could find themselves without two key forwards at a pivotal point in their season.

Given that their remaining schedule is absolutely brutal (their final four regular season games are against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets — four teams that are not only playoff teams, but are also legitimate Stanley Cup contenders) the timing of all of that could not possibly be worse.

UPDATE:

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.