If your team had a Vezina candidate in net and your offence chipped in with a dozen goals in two playoff games, chances are you’d be pretty upbeat entering a Game 3.
But the Calgary Flames are really worried. They can’t stay out of the penalty box, Jacob Markstrom has allowed 11 goals and they can’t stop or solve Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid. In fact, forward Tyler Toffoli doesn’t even recognize his Flames team that split the first two games of the Battle of Alberta in Calgary.
With playoff series resuming in Edmonton, Tampa Bay and New York today, here are five things to know:
LIGHTNING DOWNPLAYING HISTORIC CHASE
Jon Cooper is one of those live-in-the-moment, one day at a time type coaches. But with two full days off in the Battle of Florida, and the next two games on home ice, the bench boss of the Tampa Bay Lightning at least thought about becoming the first team in 40 years to win three consecutive Stanley Cups.
The Lightning lead the Florida Panthers in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-0 with Game 3 this afternoon. The last team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles was the New York Islanders, who won four in a row from 1980-83.
“We are in the history books, and we’re going to go down as two-time champs. It’s not like people do that every day. It rarely happens. But to do three, now you’re becoming one of the best teams of the decades,” Cooper said.
“When you think in generations, there’s the ’80s Islanders, and the ’80s Oilers or the ’70s Montreal Canadiens. Whatever they’re calling this last decade in years to come, it’ll be the whatever Lightning. “That’s what we’re chasing.”
FLAMES BURN HOT AND COLD
Defence and structure were trademarks of a Flames team that topped the Pacific Division this season with 111 points. But both have been suspect in the first two games of their intense series with the high-flying Oilers.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve done a really good job of playing our type of hockey,” said Toffoli. “The past two games here we haven’t really been playing to our foundation. It’s been getting away from us.”
Toffoli, who won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, said the Flames must get back to their trusted habits to win in the Alberta capital tonight and not go down 2-1 in the series.
“It’s playoff hockey, it’s not going to be perfect every single night,” he said. “Things happen within a game and we have to stay composed. If we stay five-on-five we’re in a good spot.”
McDAVID THE MAGNIFICENT
Forward Evander Kane tried his hand at playing philosopher king after his Oilers lost to Calgary in Game 1: “If we don’t give up nine goals (Friday), I really like our chances.”
Kane, who had a stronger game and an assist for the Oilers in a gritty 5-3 Game 2 victory, also said having Connor McDavid on his team increases the Oilers’ chances.
“Everybody who’s watching this series … you don’t have to say much.,” said Oilers’ forward Zach Hyman. “It’s just so evident. (McDavid’s) the best player in the world and he’s pushing himself, and I said it before, when you’re the best, it’s easy to be comfortable because guys are chasing you.
“ … And he’s a guy who wants to win more than anybody. So you’re seeing him push himself, push our team and those are the results.”
McDavid leads the NHL playoffs in scoring with six goals and 14 assists in nine games.
RANGERS NEED TO TAKE RISKS
The New York Rangers need someone to make a big play, score a big goal, deliver in the clutch. Today is when they need it to happen if they hope to make it a series with the stingy Carolina Hurricanes.
Carolina, with 2-1 and 2-0 wins in the first two games, haven’t been spectacular on offence, but they have been good enough.
“I want more offence from our top players and I’m sure [Hurricanes’ coach Rod] Brind’Amour is saying the same thing,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “But they’re 2-0 and we’re 0-2 so we’ve got to find a way to get a little bit more.”
New York has a 49-48 edge in shots on goal through two games. Carolina has a 119-113 advantage in shot attempts.
“They had nine chances (Friday) night and we had five or six, so it was a defensive battle,” Gallant said. “So, I’m not going to blame our guys for not creating scoring chances. Their guys didn’t have a whole lot either.”
But the difference between how the Rangers’ top players played against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round versus how they’re playing against the Hurricanes comes down to risk. New York will have to increase the risk if the Rangers hope to extend the series.
BAD BREAK FOR AVALANCHE
The Colorado Avalanche haven’t lost on the road in the 2022 playoffs, but they suffered a big loss Saturday during a 5-2 win over the Blues in St. Louis.
Colorado defenceman Samuel Girard will miss the remainder of the playoffs because of a broken sternum. He was injured at 1:42 of the first period when he was checked hard behind his net by Blues’ forward Ivan Barbashev.
“Looking back on it, I mean, it’s a heavy collusion. He just catches him in a bad spot,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “But I thought it was a legal check, to be honest with you. He kind of goes in on his head side, but he got a lot of body there. [Girard] was turned the wrong way, and he went in awkward and it was a heavy check. Unfortunate, but to be honest, I think it was a legal check.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2022
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