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Garrison: Off days provide chance to relax with family

Jason Garrison - Special to

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison will be blogging for periodically throughout the Stanley Cup Final. In this edition, he explains the importance of having days off throughout the Final.

BRANDON, Fla. -- Two days off between games in this Stanley Cup Final gives us a lot of time to unwind and just get away from everything for a bit. We all need it. It helps.

We flew home on Thursday, and I probably walked in my door around 1:30 or 2 p.m. I had family that was in Chicago flying back here a little later in the day, so I got home and just cleaned up a little bit, unpacked and relaxed before everybody got in.

I had a massage appointment. Let's call it a sports massage appointment. We have a team masseuse, but at that time of the day they're busy and they've been traveling, so I have somebody I see on a regular basis.

Anyway, that was later in the day, and then my family got in. I had my aunt and uncle in for Game 2, and now they're back along with my cousin and good friend. My dad and sister get in tonight. More family friends are also coming in.

High-scoring Lightning trying to win Cup with defense

Friday, 06.12.2015 / 4:02 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

BRANDON, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are two victories from becoming the first team to win the Stanley Cup in the same season in which they led the NHL in scoring since the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins.

The irony is that the high-scoring Lightning are trying to win the Cup with defense.

"Obviously scoring goals is a lot more fun than keeping them out of the net," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "But keeping them out of the net is what is going to get you the big shiny trophy at the end. They're realizing that.

"If each team is going to get limited chances, I like our odds with anybody we play."

Lightning decided on Vasilevskiy before playoffs

Friday, 06.12.2015 / 3:14 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BRANDON, Fla. -- Were it not for a bold move in early February, the Tampa Bay Lightning might have turned to a different Russian goaltender in Games 2 and 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, now thrust into the heart of the biggest story of the Final, spent much of the 2014-15 season as the No. 3 goaltender on Tampa Bay's depth chart. Veteran Evgeni Nabokov, 39, had been signed to a one-year contract in July to back up Ben Bishop and to give Vasilevskiy more time to develop with Syracuse in the American Hockey League.

Nabokov struggled in limited duty, and when the calendar turned to February the Lightning decided Vasilevskiy's time had arrived. Tampa Bay waived Nabokov and bumped Vasilevskiy, born 19 years to the day after the 39-year-old veteran, up the depth chart.

Lightning goaltender Bishop possible for Game 5

Friday, 06.12.2015 / 1:26 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BRANDON, Fla. -- Goaltender Ben Bishop did not practice Friday for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and his status for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final remains uncertain.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Friday that Bishop will be evaluated Saturday morning before a decision is made for Game 5 at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2. Game 6 is Monday at United Center.

Farrish: Fatigue a factor for Blackhawks defensemen

Friday, 06.12.2015 / 1:03 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Final, has enlisted the help of Dave Farrish to break down the action. Farrish will be checking in throughout the series.

Farrish was an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005-14. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also coached 1,027 games in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Farrish, a former defenseman, played 430 games in seven seasons in the NHL.

In putting the Stanley Cup Final into context through four games, former NHL assistant coach Dave Farrish said he thinks the Chicago Blackhawks should feel fortunate to be tied in the series going into Game 5 on Saturday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I would say Chicago survived [to win Game 4]," Farrish said of the Blackhawks 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at United Center that evened the best-of-7 series at 2-2. "Really they were fortunate to win that one. I think they owe [goalie] Corey Crawford a lot after that one. He certainly won that one for them."

Canucks prospect Virtanen gets first pro look in Utica

Friday, 06.12.2015 / 12:06 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to

For the past two seasons, all anyone in the city of Utica, N.Y., can talk about are the Comets.

In their homes, at their schools, in the workplace, the Comets dominate the conversation. Around town, business windows are adorned with newspaper inserts proclaiming, "WE WANT THE CUP." Their home ice, the Utica Memorial Auditorium, sold out 27 times in the regular season and all 13 games in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Buildings light up blue and green at night, and office windows are coordinated to spell out "Comets" once the sun goes down.

In Utica, the Comets are at the heart of what makes the city tick, and Vancouver Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen learned this almost immediately.

"The first game when I got to Utica was pretty cool. I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I got there it was just unbelievable," Virtanen said recently in an interview with radio station TSN 1040 in Vancouver. "The fans were unbelievable, and the atmosphere. … They're behind our team, and it definitely gives the guys momentum to go out there and work hard."

Struggling Lightning power play focused on basics

Thursday, 06.11.2015 / 11:02 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Corey Long - Correspondent

TAMPA -- Captain Steven Stamkos wants the Tampa Bay Lightning to get back to basics on the power play and work harder to generate chances.

The Lightning are 1-for-11 on the power play through four games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks and have all of 12 shots on goal. Tampa Bay failed to generate a goal during a lengthy two-man advantage in the second period of Game 3 but managed a 3-2 victory. The Lightning went 0-for-4 in Game 4, a 2-1 loss.

Tampa Bay and Chicago are tied 2-2, with Game 5 in the best-of-7 series at Amalie Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lightning captain Stamkos confident goals will come

Thursday, 06.11.2015 / 5:39 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Standing behind the play, watching everything develop, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman's first reaction was to raise his arms. And why wouldn't he?

Hedman saw Steven Stamkos, one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, with the puck on his stick in the slot, staring at a wide-open net, with 1:13 remaining in the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at United Center.

Hedman had to think it was a guarantee, a sure goal. Everyone on the Lightning bench was thinking the same thing. Heck, even Stamkos had to have that thought too.

Matchup: Inside Game 4 for Vasilevskiy, Crawford

Thursday, 06.11.2015 / 4:38 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

A huge part of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final has been the battle between 2013 Cup winner Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning. A new wrinkle was added to the battle Wednesday when rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop as the Game 4 starter. Bishop is day-to-day because of an unspecified injury. scouted the goalies before the series and is tracking their performances each game, identifying attack trends and shot quality. Kevin Woodley, managing editor of InGoal Magazine, uses Double Blue Sports Analytics software to chart goals and shots in each game. Here are his findings from Game 4, a 2-1 victory by the Blackhawks.

The spotlight may have been on Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was making his first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but for the second straight game Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks was the busier of the two goaltenders, by shot quantity and quality.

The Lightning continue to make life more difficult for Crawford than the Blackhawks have done for Ben Bishop or Vasilevskiy, who started for the injured Bishop in Game 4.

Just as Chicago failed to generate a lot of lateral chances against a clearly hobbled Bishop in Game 3, there wasn't much pressure placed on Vasilevskiy, a 20-year-old Russian rookie, in Game 4. The Blackhawks had two shots on goal in the first period and 19 for the game.

Blackhawks enter Game 5 still seeking complete effort

Thursday, 06.11.2015 / 4:12 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks got the win they needed in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, tying the best-of-7 series 2-2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that doesn't mean they're pleased with the performance.

The Blackhawks will look to play a complete game as the series shifts to Amalie Arena for Game 5 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Well, I mean, we're in the winning business," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said at a press conference Thursday at United Center. "I don't think you should ever be satisfied with the way things go. I think you want to find ways where you can better yourselves, better the situation. I think after four games there's been some progress, some areas where we need to improve. We know we have to be better. We're looking to get better as we go into Game 5."

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Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on rookie goaltender Garret Sparks, who made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win vs. Oilers
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