The NHL playoffs have been robust, fun, competitive, tough, and full of intrigue. Last night, however, there was none of this stuff. Defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning secured an 8-0 lead over the New York Islanders. Even though former general manager Steve Yzerman has returned to his Detroit roots, his fingerprints are still on the entire list.
When Yzerman took over as general manager in 2010, the Lightning had missed the playoffs for three straight years. His Lightning, between 2010 and 2018 when he retired, made a Stanley Cup final appearance and three conference finals. They never won a championship during their tenure, but they laid the groundwork for a power play. A year after he left, the team he helped build won it all.
It was through the fish where last night’s drubbing pillars were placed. Nikita Kucherov, who Yzerman signed for in the second round in 2011, had three assists last night. Ondřej Palát, selected for the seventh round in 2011, had a goal. Brayden Point, third last in 2014, scored a goal as well (more on Point in a bit). Anthony Cirelli, third last in 2015, had a helping hand. Then there’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, his netminder of the first round of 2012, who is now without a doubt the game’s best goalkeeper. It has launched a shutout and is a firm option between the tubes.
In the deluge of goals last night, a late one was scored on a power play by Point, which widened its goal range to eight games. He is one of two players in NHL history with a playoff goal streak of that length, joining Reggie Leach, who scored a 10-game streak in 1976, just like the other.
Last night was game 5 in a linked series. The previous four games had been decided by a total margin of five goals. The Islanders had won Saturday 3-2. Tampa Bay apparently decided it was enough and dominated – really dominated – by the puck drop. They won the opening match, and Steven Stamkos opened the scoring flood just 45 seconds into the game.
Lightning would score twice as much in the first period, three times in the second period, and twice as much in the final period. It was the equivalent of making your dishes with a fire pit.
Yzerman’s reconstruction has made Tampa Bay ready as a dominant force in the NHL. For Detroit Red Wings fans, who have seen their historic franchise beaten after a record 25 seasons of direct playoff spots ended after 2016, they should be encouraged by every good show they see from the Lightning.
Reconstruction in Detroit is underway, but it will require patience for a fanbase that isn’t accustomed to doing things that way. Yzerman, undeniably, is not in a race. On several occasions, he refused to put a timetable on rebuilding, carefully and patiently acquiring young talent and allowing them the luxury of developing before being asked to contribute to the NHL club. Defender Moritz Seider, sixth overall pick in 2019, and Lucas Raymond, fourth overall pick in 2020, have developed into the Swedish league. Seider won the award for best defender in the league last season.
“Well, I don’t commit to these guys who are still on the list,” Yzerman said of his top young prospects. “They’re going to make the team. If they make the team, we’ll be happy. But they’re young guys. I want them to make the team and have a positive impact. Our expectation and our hope is that Moritz is ready to go. We’ll see him next. Lucas, I don’t want to rule him out, but we’ll let the situation play out, and if they show they’re ready to go, they’ll be on the team, but I won’t force or rush them. really happy. We have expectations for them. But will it be next season or next season? I’m not sure. “
Yzerman has five picks in the first two rounds of this year’s NHL engagement, including his sixth overall pick once. For Hockeytown, as Detroit is called, the future is bright. Be patient, and trust the Yzerplan.