And Then There Were Four

We are nearing the end of this intense 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with only four teams left competing in the Western and Eastern Conference finals. Here’s a look at the first couple games and what to watch for in games to come.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1)

To start out game one, starting goaltender for the Lightning, Ben Bishop, tweaked his leg and was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Bishop was later quoted “I fell back and felt something I’ve never felt before, and just pain right away” (via NHL-Transcripts). Although it seemed very serious, Bishop will most likely be ready for game 3.

After losing Bishop, the Lightning went to work by not missing a beat with back-up goalie 21 year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net. Although being out shot 20-35 the lightning held on to win 3-1 with goals from Johnathon Drouin, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat.

Sidney Crosby and Matt Cullen celebrate after winning game 2 in OT (chicagotribune.com)

Game two started out with both teams scoring two goals in the first period. It then went scoreless until Sidney Crosby scored on a one-timer 40 seconds into the first overtime period. Crosby hadn’t scored a goal since the first round against the New York Rangers. Phil Kessel and Matt Cullen scored the other two goals for the Penguins on Monday.

Game three is going back to Tampa Bay, where Ben Bishop and even Steven Stamkos may return.

San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues (0-1)

Joe Thornton and David Backes checking on each other’s beards. (ddexpress.info)

Game after game the Blues goalie, Brian Elliot, proves any doubters wrong. Only allowing one goal off 32 San Jose Shots, Elliot is nearing if not already at the “Elite” status. Blues captain David Backes said, “When your goalie is your best player, it gives you a great chance of winning and that was the case” (ESPN). Although it is a pretty obvious statement, it is the truth, the Sharks are going to have a tough time scoring throughout the series.

I see the rest of the series looking pretty similar to game one. Hard-hitting, low scoring, and coming down to the wire. Also something to watch for is the way the Blues handle the red hot Logan Couture, who is leading the NHL in points in the playoffs. In the first game Logan was held in check by the great St. Louis defense. Holding Couture to just two SOG (shots on goal).

San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues/ May 17th/ 7:00 CT/ Game two

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Tampa Bay Lightning / May 18th/ 7:00 CT/ Game three

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