21-year old Andrei Vasilevskiy has had limited experience as a starting NHL goaltender. However, when Tampa Bay Lightning starting goalie Ben Bishop was hurt in game 1 of the eastern conference finals against the Penguins then the Lightning knew that if they were going to make it to the Stanley Cup then they would have to rely upon Vasilevsky for the rest of the eastern conference finals. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they couldn’t find a way to get to the Stanley Cup as they lost to Pittsburgh 2-1 in Game 7 on Thursday. The issue wasn’t that Vasilevskiy was not performing well. In fact, he was the one that gave Tampa Bay the chance to win the series with his timely saves. However, the defense in front of him was just not supporting him at all. Tampa Bay’s defensemen turned over the puck too often and they at times just lost players right in front of the net which allowed easy opportunities against Vasilevskiy. Also, the Lightning defenseman pinched in too far into the offensive zone a lot which created odd-man situations as well. Give credit to Pittsburgh for putting tons of pressure on Vasilevskiy, but the Lightning defense deserves a lot of the blame in this series. It is unacceptable for Vasilevskiy to have to face 259 shots in the Eastern conference finals as that averages out to exactly 37 shots faced per game. Vasilevskiy did his best to make difficult saves, but ultimately when you face that many shots and quality chances then some pucks are bound to go into the back of the net. Vasilevskiy had a really good .923 save percentage, but maybe if the Lightning controlled the puck a little bit more and didn’t allow as many shots then that could have allowed Tampa Bay to win the series. The Lightning need to better support their goaltender next season because it is difficult for any goaltender to stop tons of shots in a game especially with a 21-year old inexperienced goalie like Vasilevskiy.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks swapped defenseman in a trade on Monday as the Penguins dealt Rob Scuderi to the Blackhawks for Trevor Daley. Scuderi is 36 years old, but he has never been known for his offense as he only has 4 assists this season and his career high in points was 16 points with the Penguins in 2008. Scuderi only has 8 goals in his 11-year NHL career, so it is clear that Chicago will only be getting a defensive player only. Meanwhile, the Penguins are clearly getting the better end of this deal because they are getting a younger defenseman with Trevor Daley. He is 32 years old and he clearly is much better offensively than Scuderi is. Daley had 38 points with Dallas last season and he still has a lot of years left in him. Pittsburgh didn’t have much of a future with Scuderi, so to get a much more proven defenseman is a huge victory for them. I don’t know why Chicago made this trade because they are giving up a defenseman that still has many years left in him for a defenseman that is offensively challenged and only has maybe 2 or 3 years left. They are both making the same amount of money, but getting rid of a good defenseman like Trevor Daley doesn’t make much sense.
Blackhawks Grade: D- – Scuderi brings a gritty player with a lot of experience, but that is basically all he brings. He has been offensively challenged his entire career and for Chicago to give up a better defenseman like Daley is really shocking.
Penguins Grade: A – Scuderi wasn’t bringing the Penguins much anyway and he is 36 years old, so he doesn’t have much of a future with the team anyway. Meanwhile, they are getting a much better offensive player with Trevor Daley and he is only 32 years old, so he has the potential to be with Pittsburgh for several more years.
I don’t know if left wing Tomas Fleischmann is the same player that he was with the Florida Panthers in 2011 when he scored 61 points, but even if he is half the player that he was at that time then the Montreal Canadiens could still be getting a really good player for an amazingly low price. Fleischmann agreed to a 1-year/$750,000 on Sunday with the Canadiens after proving his worth during a professional tryout with the team during training camp. Fleischmann only had 27 points last season, but he will definitely be a good addition for more much needed depth for Montreal. I don’t think that the Canadiens expect him to play on the top 2 lines this season, but he can provide a scoring threat on probably the 4th line. This is a low-risk signing for the Canadiens just prior to the start of the 2015 regular season and it would be hard to see him not doing well for Montreal given this opportunity.
The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to finally starting what is likely going to be a lengthy rebuild process and they already traded star right winger Phil Kessel to the Penguins this offseason. However, trading Kessel could be just be the start of trading away players for prospects and the next victims of the rebuild mode could be Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Bozak has a lot of trade value, but that value could be diminishing in my opinion because he relied upon Kessel a lot to boost his value. The Arizona Coyotes have already inquired about him and I believe that it would be best for Toronto to get rid of him before the season. However, I think that Toronto would rather hold on to Bozak and they would love to trade Joffrey Lupul because he hasn’t been as productive recently and he still had 3 years left on his contract. The odds are if the Maple Leafs even get some decent trade offer for Lupul then they would easily would be willing to part with him. Lupul is almost 32 years old and he is still a decent 3rd-line type player, but his age and salary appears to be turning teams away from acquiring him. It has also been rumored that captain Dion Phaneuf could be traded soon and Toronto might even be able to get more than they did with Kessel for him, but Phaneuf would be a good veteran leader for the rebuilding Maple Leafs and I just don’t see Toronto trading him. It is probably best to get rid of Lupul and Bozak for the right offer because there isn’t much that they can offer the Maple Leafs anymore.
It was clear defenseman Mike Green probably wasn’t going back to the Capitals since Washington already had put a lot of money into their other defenseman. However, Green was still able to find a really good fit in free agency in free agency as the Red Wings signed him to a 3-year/$18 million contract. The Red Wings have a really good ability score goals, but the defense was a big issue for Detroit last season. Niklas Kronwall is a really good defenseman for the Red Wings, but he is already 34 years old and the problem is that the Red Wings had nobody to help him out on defense last year. Now, with the addition of Mike Green then the Red Wings will have one of the best defensive pairings in the league. Green is only 29 years old, so he can help take some of the pressure off of Kronwall so that he won’t have to play 24 minutes per game like he did last season. Also, Green isn’t only known for his defense as he has proven with the Capitals that he can be one of the best defenseman in the league. He had 45 points last year for Washington and I think he can really be beneficial to a player like Pavel Datsyuk who relies upon the defenseman to give him the puck and allow him to score goals. I’m thinking that Green can play on the 1st power-play unit for Detroit in 2015 and then Kronwall could move to the 2nd unit which would make the Red Wings power play that much better. Overall, the Red Wings really needed some better play from their defense and don’t be fooled because Green can make the Red Wings offense much better as well.
The New York Rangers are currently locked into a 2-2 series tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the eastern conference finals after the Rangers defeated Tampa Bay 5-1 on Friday. New York’s offense has been stepping up this series, but it is actually the play of Henrik Lundqvist that is keeping New York’s hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup alive. Tampa Bay had the top offense in all of the NHL this season and nothing much has changed in that aspect this postseason. However, the two games this series that the Rangers have won have been where the Lightning only score one goal. The Lightning will get their share of shots and it is too much to ask of New York’s defense for them to completely halt Tampa Bay’s offense. Instead, they have relied upon Lundqvist’s miraculous saves to keep them alive this series. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has allowed a lot of goals this series to the Rangers, so if Lundqvist can just limit Tampa Bay’s offense from scoring then there is no doubt that the Rangers have a tremendous shot to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the 2nd straight year.
The Red Wings and Lightning head to Detroit for game 3 on Tuesday with the series tied at 1-1 after Tampa Bay defeated Detroit 5-1 on Saturday. However, the Lightning could easily have a 2-0 series lead if it weren’t for a miraculous 44 save performance by Red Wings goaltender Peter Mrazek in game 1. Mrazek certainly hasn’t gotten much help from his defense this series as Mrazek faced a total of 64 shots through the first 2 games. I know that Tampa Bay has a really good offense, but Detroit really needs to limit the 2nd chance opportunities because Mrazek won’t be able to handle that many shots. Mrazek has been terrific this season, although if the Red Wings allow Tampa Bay’s dynamic scorers like Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson to get near him then they likely won’t see the 2nd round of the playoffs.