Lightning passing mettle tests this postseason


Lightning passing mettle tests this postseason

TAMPA, Fla. — How to handle the difficult moments: It’s what ultimately shows mettle, be it in a person or a team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken their tests, so to speak, this postseason. So far, they've passed.

The Lightning might be young. They might not have the postseason experience of the Blackhawks. But they know how to handle themselves when things get tough. Now that mettle gets the ultimate test beginning on Wednesday, when the Lightning host the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Tampa Bay came back from a 3-2 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in its first-round series and then blanked the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the Cup Final. But coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning started learning lessons two seasons ago when Steven Stamkos broke his leg in November 2013. Several players, including Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn, got increased responsibilities in Stamkos’ absence. That and getting swept by the Montreal Canadiens last spring had the right effects on the Lightning.

“We went into the summer with the sting of what had happened. I think it fueled us this year,” Cooper said. “We’ve had a history of not going into these long losing streaks because of the attitude that’s in that room. It’s been pretty cool to watch them as the series has gone on.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks]

Viktor Hedman also pointed to last year’s loss to the Canadiens as a wake-up call.

“To get swept left a bitter taste in our mouth after that series,” he said. “The experience we gained from that helped our growth. We faced a lot of adversity with injuries, but nothing seems to bother this team. We keep pushing through. We’re very proud to be a part of this team.”

Tampa Bay has a lot of young players who haven’t seen too many playoff series, let alone lengthy ones. But the Lightning’s offseason acquisitions helped bolster their seasoned-veteran presence. Last summer the Bolts signed Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, both of whom went to the 2014 Cup Final with the New York Rangers. They also signed Brendan Morrow, the former captain of the Dallas Stars who went on several postseason runs with that team, including one all the way to the 2000 Cup Final.

Morrow said he’s been impressed with the Lightning’s resolve.

“It seems like the bigger stage, the tougher the game, they rally and find ways,” he said. “It’s kind of been the same group that’s doing it; we’d like to find secondary scoring to help the Stamkos and (Tyler) Johnson lines. But every test we’ve been put in, every big game we’ve (rose) to the occasion.”

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Tampa Bay might not have a core like the Blackhawks that has been tested through many lengthy postseason runs. But the Lightning do have a good mix of players, a lot of youthful speed and confidence, be it from past experiences or this postseason’s tests.

“Every round has given us a different challenge. To go up three games in a round (vs. Montreal), then give it up and then have to win that. To have a chance to win at home against the Presidents Trophy champs (Rangers), blow that, then have to go up and win in an environment that nobody’s really won before,” Cooper said. “Every time there’s been that little bit of adversity, we feel like we’re down and out, they come back with a knockout punch. But that started two years ago, and the attitude has not changed.”

Blackhawks emergency goaltender Scott Foster made his return at the NHL Awards to present the Vezina Trophy, and it was perfect

Blackhawks emergency goaltender Scott Foster made his return at the NHL Awards to present the Vezina Trophy, and it was perfect

After staying out of the public eye since his historic emergency relief appearance, Scott Foster emerged in Vegas at the NHL Awards and it was perfect. 

The 36-year-old accountant fittingly presented the Vezina Trophy award for the league's top goaltender and joked that he needed to speed it up because he had to get back to work.

Check him out on stage:

What a moment. And well done, NHL. 

Foster stopped all seven shots he faced in 14:01 of action in the Blackhawks' 6-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on March 30.

Nashville Predators netminder Pekke Rinne took home the award, but you can't argue against Foster's 1.000 career save percentage.

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Noah Dobson

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 180 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A very effective two-way defenseman with good puck distribution and a strong shot from the points on the power play. He is a point-producer with size, who defends and utilizes strong positioning and a good stick in the defensive zone."

NHL player comparable: Brent Burns

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks lacked defensemen that generated offense last year. They also lacked defenders than can ... defend. Dobson is a player who can do both, and if he slips past Vancouver at No. 7, the Blackhawks may have a difficult decision on their hands.

Dobson could solve some of those defensive issues, but it likely wouldn't be in time for the 2018-19 season. He needs time to develop properly.

The Blackhawks like to evaluate prospects based on what their ceiling is and where they're at in their development curve, and if they see major upside here, they'll go for it. It just depends if there's somebody available that they like better.