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2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs: May 20 Bolts @ Rangers

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BABCOCK, right?! And the ECF is also happening.

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

I write this with the full understanding that exactly zero Leafs fans give a shit about the ECF today, which makes sense because bigger, more exciting things are happening. For example, someone in the Maple Leaf organization had a huge yen for a Detroit-style chili hotdog, flew a plane south, and now EVERYONE is desperate to find out how it tasted -- and whether or not it's a sandwich. This is a huge concern!

In all seriousness:

CONGRATS, LEAFS! 

That being said, it means I get to write anything I want in this space knowing that I'm talking to myself (and possibly Species).

Eastern Conference Finals schedule:

Game Date Time Location Network
3 Wednesday 5/20 8 PM Amalie NBCSN, CBC, TVA
4 Friday 5/22 8 PM Amalie NBCSN, CBC, TVA
5 Sunday 5/24 8 PM MSG NBCSN, CBC, TVA
*6 Tuesday 5/26 8 PM Amalie NBCSN, CBC, TVA
*7 Friday 5/29 8 PM MSG NBCSN, CBC, TVA

I had the best moment of Schadenfreude earlier.

I was a little late listening to Monday's Hockey Today, which recapped the weekend's games. Saturday's recap was obviously about a boring Tampa team losing by the same boring margin to a boring Rangers team -- a point that Pierre LeBrun harped on in the segment. "I feel like I'm not getting my money's worth in entertainment," he sighed. This was echoed in his article about the first game, entitled Rangers' stifling defense isn't pretty, but it gets the job done:

It has been a spring of regression for the NHL halfway through these playoffs, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (...)

Here’s the thing, though. The Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning are here to try to save the day, all three clubs playing a positive brand of hockey that gives you hope all is not lost. They’re just so much fun to watch with an emphasis on skill, skating and yes, scoring.

But we were reminded Saturday afternoon that the New York Rangers stand in the way.

LeBrun's depressing prediction, if I can womansplain for a second, is that the Rangers play boring-ass defensive hockey and tend to be so good at it that other teams are trapped in their game, and this happened in spades last Saturday. He predicted that it will likely happen so often that the Rags make it out of this round as the boring winners.

I mentioned having a feeling of schadenfreude.

This was because in the second game at Madison Square Garden, the Bolts schooled the Rangers in unpredictable, chaotic, crazy hockey with tons of goals, and I honestly just love it when Pierre "LeHab" is wrong. I felt like the Bolts got to teach a whole fanbase about what it's like for a team to burst out of the defensive system, take advantage of mistakes, and pound home more that Lundqvist has felt in a long time.

(An aside to this point is that a lot of hockey players, even Rangers players, are fans of the triplets. Former Bolt and current Ranger Dan Boyle said that anyone who likes clever passes and good plays enjoys watching them. Even Pierre LeBrun paused in his melancholy shrine-lighting in front of a Canadiens poster to wax lyrical about Tyler Johnson after Monday night's game, in an article entitled Johnson is making it happen for Lightning every night. [lol]

Somewhere, Alex Ovechkin is eating popcorn in a Tampa Triplets shirt, telling jokes like "Hey Backsy, you know what is time on watch right now? SIX PAST LUNDQVIST.")

And as for unsuspecting Rangers fans, the lady who is kind enough to take our Solar Bears pictures is also a Rangers fan, and her twitter erupted with shock and anguish that her team was getting so strangely embarrassed. In the spirit of competition, I'm sure she wouldn't mind me quoting her as saying in calm desperation mid-game: "It's a 3 goal deficit-not an easy feat but not impossible. #BelieveInBlue."

A few Blueshirt Banter staff members also started retweeting people's posts asking whether Henrik Lundqvist should be pulled and Cam Talbot put in his place. They did so to embarrass people who did not believe in Lundqvist... And Lundqvist lost despite this outpouring of belief. It occurs to me to point out that the Canadiens believed in Carey Price to this extent too, and didn't pull him for a single game against Tampa, making his final adjusted SV% in the series somewhere south of .900.

I posit that the Canadiens never pulled Price because they believed in his absolute ability to stop Tampa's offense, even when the team in front of him broke down. I'm betting that the Rangers won't pull Lundqvist either in this series because they not only believe in his goaltending, but the defensive team in front of him as well. SHOULD they have this much belief, in the face of the crazily unpredictable Lightning offense? It would be a joy I can only dream about to sink Lundqvist's SV% into the floor the same way the Bolts sank Price's.

So did the Bolts manage to play a good game last Monday (kinda), and can they repeat it (maybe)?

I have no idea. In the words of Bolts' radio call guy, David Mishkin, it was a bumpy ride:

The Rangers had several chances to tie the game after the Stepan tally had cut the Lightning lead to 3-2. That was when Bishop was at his best – and he received the aforementioned block from Hedman. During that time, the Lightning didn’t manage the puck as well as they had done earlier in the game. But they survived that New York surge with their lead intact – and then they broke the game open in the third.

So it may not have been a smooth ride for the whole 60 minutes. But the Lightning showed how dangerous they can be when they are executing well, which they did for most of the opening 30 minutes when they built their lead. Still, as Victor Hedman told us during our postgame interview on Lightning Radio, he feels that the Lightning have more to give. They’ll aim to be even better in Game Three on Wednesday.

So in between posting gifs of Babcock's face on piles of money, let's sit back and watch the Tyler Johnson vs. Lundqvist show, and see if the Bolts can continue the fabulous trend of making elite goaltenders look shakier than Ben Bishop.