And so the Lightning move on, after winning a Game 7 in which they were a distant second-best team on the ice. But so it goes in the playoffs, when an entire series can come down to a goaltender like Ben Bishop playing out of his mind and a single, skillful, painfully lucky scoring play. “That’s how Game 7s are written,” Jon Cooper said.
It’ll be a shitty, shoulda-would-coulda offseason for the Red Wings, who dominated play, nearly doubling the Lightning’s shot attempts. Detroit didn’t even seem to be terribly missing veteran defensemen Niklas Kronwall, suspended for his Game 6 hit, or Marek Zidlicky, suspected to have suffered a concussion on Monday. But Ben Bishop, who missed the last postseason with injury and could only watch from home as the Lightning got swept, blocked everything he saw.
“It was a seven-game series, but Bish took command of this game,’’ Cooper said. “A lot of the press in this series was talking about the other guy [Detroit rookie goalie Petr Mrazek] and nobody was talking about Bish. Well, now they are talking about Bish.’’
Except, you’ve still got to score. Anton Stralman’s empty netter gave the 2-0 clincher its final scoreline, but it was Braydon Coburn’s long-distance, knuckling one-timer on a pass from Ryan Callahan four minutes into the third period that made the difference.
Coburn was acquired at this season’s trade deadline; Callahan at 2014’s. “When that goal went in,” Cooper said, “I looked up and said, ‘Oh what a trade.’”
A lovely play all around here, as Alex Killorn did dirty work along the boards against two Red Wings just long enough for Ryan Callahan to emerge with the puck. With four Detroit skaters flocking toward his half of the ice (the fifth being pancaked under Killorn behind the net), Callahan never once looked toward goal, but he also looked off the Wings as Coburn slipped in, undetected, by the right circle:
That’s awareness, positioning, and the result of physical play behind the net. But it would not have worked out so perfectly without the stroke of luck that every successful hockey team needs now and again.
When Callahan threaded the pass to Coburn, it happened just as Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser—who had tried and failed to keep the puck from Killorn on the zone entry—skated directly between Mrazek and the puck:
Here’s a split-second later, with the puck halfway across the ice—and Mrazek still has no idea it’s been passed:
“I didn’t see it,” Mrazek would tell reporters after the game. At least not until it was too late. Here, Mrazek has finally picked up the puck, but is woefully out of position, still on the far side of the goalmouth as Coburn begins his downswing:
It doesn’t help that DeKeyser, through no fault of his own, is still in the way.
Mrazek panics, overcommits, lunging to his glove side. Here, the puck has been shot (behind DeKeyser, who has dropped to a knee in an attempt to block it) and Mrazek is mid-lunge, vacating the far post—exactly where Coburn’s shot is headed.
In this photo, by Getty Images’ Mike Carlson, Mrazek is still moving to his left—and reaching out with the glove—as Coburn’s fluttering shot goes over his right shoulder. He never saw it.
Everything had to go right here to beat Mrazek (who looked great last night and has firmly planted himself in the Red Wings’ future): Killorn winning the puck battle, DeKeyser screening his goalie multiple times, Coburn knuckling his shot far corner. But again, this is playoff hockey, and no one ever said it was fair. “We had ten chances and couldn’t score,” Mrazek sighed, “and they scored the one goal.”