March 12th 2020 will forever be known as the date that the last active sports domino fell. Both the NBA and NHL who were in mid-season, paused due to the emergence of Covid-19 (aka Coronavirus). Now 138 days later the NHL has restarted the league with six teams playing exhibition games on Tuesday. The Eastern and Western conferences have traveled to their hub cities in Canada ready to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-2020 season. All that matters is…. LIGHTNING HOCKEY IS BACK!
Ready to hit someone else
Following practice on Tuesday Head Coach Jon Cooper spoke via Zoom to the media. In typical Cooper fashion he was lively and joking around. Two quotes though really stood out.
“I think to see another color jersey is going to be a nice thing, there’s been a lot of talk on the ice. Man it’s gonna be nice to play someone else.”
“In a regular training camp you are playing another team probably four or five days into camp. And we’ve been seeing the same jersey since July 13th.”
Those are both telling statements by the man who guides the ship for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Its been 139 days since they Lightning were slated to face the Philadelphia Flyers. While the fans are clamoring for hockey, the players are surely chomping at the bit to get back on the ice to face someone, anyone not in a Lightning jersey.
And for the Lightning the first team they get to hit is the Florida Panthers. The last time these two teams faced off was December 23rd. A game where the Lightning won decisively 6-1 behind two goals from defenseman Victor Hedman, who is not with the team in Toronto yet. Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos did travel with the team, but is not in the lineup today.
🎥 Coop on the goalies, tomorrow’s lineup, and using the exhibition game as an evaluation tool for our games ahead. pic.twitter.com/XxYaoMkrqU
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) July 28, 2020
Comforts of home
The NHL has done a great job making it’s players feel at home in their respective bubbles. Included in each players rooms the NHL have added digital photo frames of the players families and friends. A lot of players have said they will be playing a lot of cards and board games. Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby even brought his guitar to entertain his teammates. The NHL has made it a point to make their players as comfortable as possible. While being away from your family until the potential conference final is tough, the players are making the most of being back on a hockey rink with the ability to finish the season.
As of now with every team having reported to their respective bubbles, no one has tested positive for Covid-19 (Yes I am knocking on wood).
Yup you read that right, this is NOT a drill the game on your tv was NOT a repeat game from earlier in the season. You could tell through the early part of the first period these teams hadn’t played in a while. Kevin Shattenkrik had the honor of getting the first team penalty with a slashing call at 4:44 of the first period. Luke Schenn got the second at 10:19 for delay of game after the puck went over the glass. At 13:42 of the first period who else but Brayden Point puts the Lightning ahead 1-0 over the Panthers. Ondrej Palat got the lone assist on the goal. Point backhanded a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky. With five seconds left in the first Point would strike again, this time off a pass from Kevin Shattenkirk for a 2-0 lead.
Is he faster?? We think he’s faster. 💨 pic.twitter.com/jv5gvAL5aI
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) July 29, 2020
Guess who’s back, back again, Kuch is back tell a friend
Not even two minutes into the second period Nikita Kucherov decided he didn’t want Brayden Point having all the fun. At 1:53 of the second period Kucherov put the Bolts up 3-0. Barely three minutes later Luke Schenn said what the heck I want a goal on Bobrovsky too! His goal at 5:13 putting the Bolts up 4-0. If this is how this team is playing after 139 days off, the Lightning will be a force of nature to be reckoned with in the playoffs. With four goals on the board, Point has three points (2g-1a), Kucherov has two points (1g-1a), Palat has two as well (2a) Yanni Gourde, Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev all have 1 (1a).
Beautiful pass from Pally and Luke makes it four! pic.twitter.com/DzG7OUucwz
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) July 29, 2020
Kucherov keeps the Bolts rolling
Just when the Panthers thought it was safe to go back onto the ice after an intermission, Kucherov strikes. Near the midway point of the 3rd period Kucherov struck for his second goal of the game, proving him and Point together is a lethal tandem. Vasilevskiy would hold onto the shutout and lead the team to a 5-0 score in their one and only exhibition game.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Brayden Point – 2 goals 2 assist, and looks faster then before the pause. The top line of Kucherov, Point and Palat accounted for 10 total points.
2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – 26 for 26 on saves for the shutout.
3rd Star: Nikita Kucherov – 2 goal 1 assist
Monday night the Lightning face the Washington Capitals in the first of three round robin games to determine playoff seeding
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