This season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had Montreal’s number, winning all
four of their matchups. They’ve won in large part due to solid goaltending
but there are other significant challenges that they pose to the Habs. As
part of our continuing series preview, our writers offer up their thoughts on
what the Lightning’s biggest threats are.
Simon Aronson: The biggest threat that they pose comes from
behind the bench in head coach Jon Cooper. Cooper took the Lightning, who
finished 14th in the East in 2013 to earning home ice in 2014. Cooper and the
Lightning have had considerable success despite losing Steven Stamkos to injury
for over half the season and trading away reigning scoring champion Martin St.
Louis. He has a history of success, winning championships in the USHL in 2010
and in the AHL in 2012. By comparison, Michel Therrien’s only championship came
in 1996 as the head coach of the Granby Predateurs in the QMJHL. Although I
don’t consider Therrien to be a bad coach, I do give the advantage to Cooper for
exceeding expectations despite adversity this season.
Matt Dilworth: It would be ignorant to deny that Stamkos is the
biggest threat in Tampa Bay’s arsenal, but I think it is Ben Bishop that could
cause the most damage to Montreal. He has played very well this year,
particularly against the Canadiens, and is in consideration for the Vezina
Trophy. Although his numbers have faltered somewhat since the Olympics, Bishop
remains the Lightning’s MVP this year, and if he maintains his high level of
play it will be very difficult for the Canadiens to win four games.
Matt Gauthier: Ben Bishop. With a few big saves, he could
make the Habs play on their heels.
Brian La Rose: I’m going to go a bit of a different route and
suggest that Tampa’s team speed will be a concern. The Lightning are fast,
it’s one of the benefits of having as many young impact players as they do.
Montreal’s defence, to put it nicely, isn’t the most fleet of foot. If
Michel Therrien wants to put more size on the back end (either Murray or Tinordi),
this could be even more of a concern. The Habs have been guilty at times
this year of playing too casually in the offensive end, leading to odd-man
rushes the other way and hoping that Carey Price bails them out. If that
happens in this series, it won’t be too long before Tampa’s speed becomes a
problem to deal with.
Kevin Meldrum: Tampa’s biggest scoring threat is Stamkos, but
the Habs need to make sure that their top threat isn’t Bishop. Goaltending wins
in a series, Montreal needs to get in his face and put pressure on him every
chance to stop him from finding his comfort zone.
Norm Szcyrek: Coaching is Tampa’s biggest threat. Jon Cooper
has won at the AHL level with several of the players he’s brought with him to
the NHL. Doing so with a relatively young squad, and without an injured Stamkos
for most of the season while keeping the Lightning near the top of their
conference are signs of a great coach. If Cooper’s squad is able to neutralize
the Habs’ offence and score a few goals, then I don’t have confidence that
Michel Therrien has the ability to make in game adjustments to counter coming
from behind against Tampa.
Mitchell Tierney: It has been defence, not offence, that has
been a lethal weapon for the Bolts against the Habs this season. So Bishop is
far and away the most important piece for the team. The Canadiens have not found
a way to beat him yet, which is likely the biggest concern going into the
playoffs. If he can do to them what Anderson did last year things could be over
pretty quickly between these two teams.