Tyler Johnson Leading the Way for the Bolts, Working Well With ‘Triplet’s Line’

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When you hear about the Tampa Bay Lightning, you would usually hear a name synonymous with the team, and that’s none other than star-studded centerman, team captain and elite goal scorer Steven Stamkos. Not so much here in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Enter centerman Tyler Johnson, who leads the League with 12 playoff goals. Originally undrafted, the right-shooting forward made his NHL debut for the Lightning back in the 2012-2013 regular season playing 14 games, scoring 3 goals and collecting 3 helpers for a total of 6 points, while splitting time with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse crunch where he scored 37 goals and accumulated 65 points in 62 games played.

He has improved a lot since then; most notably this past season when in 77 games he potted a career-high 29 goals and collected 43 assists for 72 points. (Credits to hockey-reference)

Not only is he of good size at 5’ 8”, 183 lbs, he’s got tremendous skating ability along with the hockey sense, not to mention he’s worked well along with his linemates, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat; the three of them nicknamed “The Triplets Line”.

Here are a few examples from the playoffs:

Round 1 Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Detroit Red Wings

Though not shown on the video, the play starts from behind the net. The puck is rimmed along the wall up #9, Tyler Johnson, who then passes it up along the point to #89, Nikita Nesterov. Then there’s going to be a give-and-go. At the tail end of that passing play is where you see the remaining sequence on the power play starting to happen at the 36-second mark of the video.

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Now you’ve got all three defenders for Detroit puck-focused and you’ve got a 1-3-1 formation for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ondrej Palat, #18, and #24, Ryan Callahan are at the net getting set to battle for the rebound opportunities.

 

Nesterov’s shot is going to hit the far post, and now Tyler Johnson has that all the room at the wide-open net. And he picks the far corner.

Great puck movement by the Tampa Bay Lightning and good on Johnson to cash in the rebound opportunity. That made it 1-0 on the PP.

 

Round 1 Game 4: Detroit Red Wings @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Here, it’s a 4-on-4. The Lightning are breaking out of the own zone (not shown in the highlights video). Anton Stralman, #6, passes the puck to Tyler Johnson as they enter the Neutral Zone. At around the 2:11 mark, you see Johnson skating through on the entry with the puck. defenseman Darren Helm (#43 for the Red Wings) tries to pinch on the entry into the attacking zone. As Helm attempts to reach for the puck and pin Johnson along the wall, Johnson does a really good job of using his body position to protect the puck and uses his skating ability to skate towards goalie Petr Mrazek and shoots it off the bar and in.

 

Round 2 Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Montreal Canadiens

For this goal, the Habs were simply trying to get the puck out of the own zone. However, the Lightning retained possession of it. Starting at 1:24, you see a simple little indirect pass off the boards by Andrej Sustr to Matt Carle who slaps the puck towards the net but watch the work of Tyler Johnson at the front of the net to deflect the puck in. That goal would also be the first of the game to beat goaltender Carey Price.

 

Round 4 Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning @ New York Rangers

In a game where Tyler Johnson netted in his first career postseason hat trick, one theme is common; right place, right time.

Goal #1: For his first one, which would open up the scoring for both teams, Johnson goes on a short-handed breakaway and while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops the initial shot, the puck just trickles in from under Lundqvist and past the goal line before a Ranger crashes into the net and dislodging it. The play would be reviewed and the goal would count.

Goal #2: The Lightning are on the PP. They get some nice puck movement between Palat, Kucherov, and Stamkos taking the one-timer which is initially blocked. Stamkos gets it to Johnson in the slot area who snipes it above the glove of Lundqvist.

Goal #3: The whole Triplets line of Kucherov, Palat, and of course, Johnson is involved in this. It’s almost a 3-on-1 with Kucherov, Palat, and Johnson. Kucherov passes it to Palat who shoots it on net. Lundqvist gets a piece of it. Tyler Johnson crashes the net and puts it in for the hat trick.

Tyler Johnson has definitely been a factor for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as have the rest of his line mates on that line. Together, the three of them have so far combined for 25 of Tampa Bay’s 47 goals in the playoffs. Look for them to continue to be a force against the New York Rangers in this series. As for Tyler Johnson, well, so far he’s my top candidate for playoff MVP if the Lightning do make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year.

 

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Champions Hockey League 2015 Pools Released

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On Wednesday, May 13th, the Champions Hockey League pools for 2015-16 were released. This year’s tournament will feature four more teams, increasing the size of the event from 44 to 48 teams. Instead of last year’s 11 groups of four, the 2015-16 season will feature 16 groups of three teams.

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Todd McLellan Named New Oilers Head Coach

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The Edmonton Oilers have announced, today, that Todd McLellan will be their new head coach for the next 5 upcoming seasons.

The former head coach of the San Jose Sharks had mutually parted ways with Team Teal earlier this offseason.

During his past seven seasons in San Jose, he had posted a 311-163-66 record overall. He also led the Sharks to six playoff appearances, four 40-plus win seasons, three 100-point seasons, captured the President’s Trophy in ’09, three Pacific Division titles and made back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Finals (2010, 2011).

He was also an assistant coach to Mike Babcock for the Detroit Red Wings and helped capture the Stanley Cup in 2008, as well as two President’s Trophies (2006, 2008).

Lately, he had also coached Team Canada at the 2015 World Hockey Championships in Prague, leading them to their first gold medal win since 2007 by routing the Russians 6-1 and finishing the tournament with an unbeaten record of 10-0

The Oilers, winners of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, will have a chance at picking Connor McDavid at no. 1 overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. With such a highly touted prospect in McDavid and a great head coach in McLellan, things are seemingly turning for the better in Edmonton. This will be an interesting team to watch for the years to come.

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What It Takes to Win the Stanley Cup

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Every postseason since I started watching hockey (and the Sharks) in 2010, it has never ceased to amaze me how much passion the players put into the sport come playoff time. This is the time of year that, as a player, you want to put everything you have out there. You want to step your game up. Every hit, every shot, every decision you make on every shift counts. And, of course, if you’re a goalie every save matters. This is the time of year that the top performers bring their game to a-whole-nother level.

Yes, every team (players, coaches, etc.) get frustrated when things aren’t going their way. But keep in mind that there’s only one champion at the end. Only 16 teams have a chance in the playoffs, and there are 30 teams in the NHL.

So, I ask the question. What really does it take to win hockey’s Holy Grail? Here are a number of things I’ve seen in the past few postseasons.

Team Defense

There’s an old sports saying that goes “offense wins games; defense wins championships”. That’s never been more true here in the new NHL. Remember back in the old days when scoring 50+ goals in the first couple games in the season seemed like a piece of cake (at least to guys like Wayne Gretzky)? That had a lot to do with how the game was played back then. Of course, those days have now gone out the window. Nowadays, coaches stress on playing tight D, not just from the defense who are supposed to play that role, but the forwards as well.

Rolling On All Fours

Hockey’s a team game. It’s not a one-player deal, and the goalies can’t be stealing every game. Thus, every player has to be active and aware of the situation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a forward or a defenseman. You have to keep your head up on a swivel. Also, it’s very important that everyone communicates so as to reduce the amount of errors during the game. Finally, what this part is really about, while defense is extremely important during the playoffs, offensive depth scoring is just as important. If you don’t get contributions from your third and fourth lines, you’re not going to get very far in the postseason.

All In

There’s no question that every player is dialed in come playoff time. Everyone knows what’s at stake. They have everything to play for, from their season to their own individual pride. So, of course you’d expect them to start blocking shots and being involved every which way they can without being undisciplined.

Goaltending

Goalies are the last line of defense. Whenever there’s a defensive breakdown, they’re the ones who are called on to make the big saves. That’s why goaltending is a HUGE part of the playoffs. You have to have great goaltending if you want to be serious about making a push for the Cup. If you have even decent goaltending, you’re not going to make it.

Finally… Execution & Puck Luck

Whether or not you believe in the Hockey Gods, you have to admit that there is at least some amount of puck luck involved for a team to win the Cup. Yes, the passes have to be tape-to-tape. Yes, the plays have to be direct and straight-forward. They can’t be cute. However, the puck bounces around so much on the ice, especially on bad ice. Sometimes you just have to make your own breaks to create offensive chances.

Of course, there are a variety of other minor and bigger details including face-off wins (which in turn lead to puck possession). But, you don’t need all the analytics in the hockey world to know or realize how hard it is to win a championship in the National Hockey League. For all you new or casual hockey fans, just watch a lot of hockey. Watch Cup-contending teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings and how they play. You’ll know exactly what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.

If any of you other die-hard hockey fans have other factors in mind or want to comment on the few things I’ve touched on, please do! We welcome all comments so long as they’re classy. Constructive criticism is also welcome.

 

St. Louis Blues Once Again Make An Early Exit

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COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Blues have been heavy favorites for the past two seasons to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup. Both years, the Blues have made a hasty exit from the playoffs, not winning a series. Fans and commentators were excited this post-season when the Blues faced off against the Minnesota Wild. Many thought the Blues would have a tough series but would prevail in the end. That is until small mistakes began to add up and the offense crumbled.

History did, in a sense, repeat itself once again.

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