The Stanley Cup Final kicked off, and while most news outlets spend the majority of their coverage of the Tampa Bay Lightning whining about their salary cap, and not their roster building or coaching which allows them to do things like have Nikita Kucherov miss the season and still be fine. John Cooper behind the bench doesn’t get his due enough. Yes, he’s got a loaded roster, but he also coached a lot of these guys at Tampa’s AHL team and has certainly developed all of them at the NHL level.
It seems so simple, and yet it gets beyond more NHL coaches than you think. Being at home means you get the last change, which means for a lot of the game a coach can determine what the matchups are on the ice. It should be a really big deal to everyone. Vegas’ Pete DeBoer either didn’t care or forgot about this, because his top two lines kept running into Phillip Danault or Jesperi Kotkaniemi, two of the most balls-out checking centers in the game. It’s a big reason why Vegas’ big player turned into Harvey The Rabbit last round.
Cooper wasn’t going to let that happen, and sent out his top line of Brayden Point, Kucherov, and Ondřej Palát out against Montreal’s top scoring, not checking, line. The three of them combined for seven points and three goals, while Montreal’s line of Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield will have to buff out the dents in their collective skull. That was pretty much the game right there, because if a team can keep Montreal’s one line of scorers from getting going, the Habs are quite punchless. If Montreal doesn’t get more than 20 shots in a game, the Bolts will walk backwards to a second straight Cup.