Well, so much for logic prevailing. Perhaps the Lightning had a secret ingredient in their locker room that helped them bounce back from a Game 6 7-3 home humiliation to respond in the best way possible. By shutting out the Rangers in a Game 7 at MSG. A place that had never experienced defeat along with a nearly impenetrable goalie.
It didn’t matter much because the Lightning were by far the better team in a stunning 2-0 Game 7 win that mirrored their Game 5 victory. That both came by identical scores summed up an unusual series. Remarkably, the home team only won twice. For the Rangers, home ice meant zilch along with history as they managed to drop the final three games at MSG by a combined score of 10-2.
Part of the reason Tampa prevailed was the play of former Blueshirts Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle. Stralman was one of his team’s best throughout the Eastern Conference Final doing some stellar defensive work alongside partner Victor Hedman against the Rangers’ top guns. After a bad Game 6, he responded with a stellar game blanketing the top line of J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. Stralman also blocked four shots while being on for the final four minutes to preserve the Bolts’ big win.
As for Callahan, he got better as the series went on. In fact, he was one of the few Lightning to show for Game 6 beating former teammate Henrik Lundqvist on a breakaway. In Game 7 back at a familiar building that once revered him, Callahan was a force recording a game high seven shots. As it turned out, the Rangers former captain who was traded over a year ago for Martin St. Louis was much more visible. In on the forecheck and outracing many Rangers to loose pucks, his experience came through. The hunger showed for a player who now gets to compete for his first Cup.
For Stralman and Boyle, they were here last year with the Rangers. Both key cogs that Glen Sather couldn’t afford to keep last summer, they improved their Game 7 perfect records with Stralman now 7-0 and Boyle 6-0. Don’t think falling short to the Kings for the Cup didn’t play a role in helping motivate their younger Lightning teammates including captain Steven Stamkos along with Triplets Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
Having those kind of gritty players who know what it takes to win in these kind of games had to be a big reason the Lightning were able to brush off tough home defeats in Games 4 and 6 by shutting the Rangers down. By playing a more defensive oriented style which all three former Blueshirts were part of, they allowed Ben Bishop to see the puck. He stopped all 22 shots for his second shutout of the series with both coming at the Garden. They did the same thing to the Red Wings in Game 7 of Round 1.
Not much was said about Tampa’s more experienced players which also include Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn. Perhaps that was a factor in allowing them believe they could do it. They’re moving on.