For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, NHL.com has enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy to break down the action. McCarthy will be checking in throughout the series.
McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was a member of the staff that led the franchise to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had an enormous amount of trouble getting out of their own zone cleanly in a 5-4 overtime loss in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series against the Montreal Canadiens.
If they want to tie the series in Game 2 on Friday, longtime NHL assistant coach Kevin McCarthy believes the Lightning will need to find a way overcome what he felt was a tremendous Canadiens forecheck in Game 1.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper spent a lot of time at practice Thursday working on his team's breakouts from the defensive zone, and McCarthy says he would have done the exact same thing.
"Making that first pass out of the zone is so important," McCarthy told NHL.com. "Montreal did a really good job on the forecheck, they were always on the right side of the puck and the third forward was never too deep."
McCarthy said the Lightning were undone by turnovers in an attempt to make stretch plays through the neutral zone and forcing something the Canadiens were not giving them. It can be corrected by making a relatively simple adjustment.
"When you have an aggressive forechecking team," he said, "reversing the puck is always a good option."
McCarthy loved the way the Canadiens not only forechecked in Game 1, but the way their forwards were tracking back. It is something he feels will need to continue because of how the backchecking forwards were able to disrupt Tampa's entries into the Montreal zone.
"They came back very hard and forced Tampa to dump pucks instead of making east-west plays in the neutral zone to gain the zone," he said.
McCarthy was happy to see his former player with the Philadelphia Flyers Daniel Briere shine in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut for the Canadiens, but he was not the least bit surprised.
"There were times in Philadelphia where Danny would be the first to admit that his game wasn't where it needed to be in the regular season, his consistency wasn't where it needed to be," McCatrthy said. "But I've never seen another player with his ability to flip that switch when the playoffs start.
"You could see it right at the start of the game; his work ethic and intensity were right where it needed to be."