Tampa, Fla. — For the Red Wings to win this series against the Lightning, somehow, they must contain Tyler Johnson’s line.
Johnson centering wings Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn — Killorn replaced Ondrej Palat from last season’s version of The Triplets — accounted for all three goals in the Game 1 3-2 victory over the Red Wings.
“They have the whole package — speed, skill, talent, determination,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
With so many valuable attributes, Kronwall believes it’s important to limit the room the Lightning line has to operate on the ice.
“Take away more time and space from them,” Kronwall said. “When they get that extra step on you, they make it hard. If we can be there right away, it’ going to be harder for them.”
Johnson was a thorn to the Red Wings’ hopes last season, scoring six goals in the seven-game Lightning series win.
Despite an injury-filled, inconsistent season, Johnson has come out strong in the playoffs.
Kucherov became a 30-goal scorer this season, and had two goals in Game 1, as he’s turned into one of the dynamic offensive players in the league.
Killorn is a bit more of an offensive threat than Palat, though either one would rank among the better, versatile forwards in the NHL.
“They do a good job of creating areas and space to skate into,” defenseman Mike Green said. “We’re conscious of that and we’ll adjust to it.”
Coach Jeff Blashill shuffled his defensive pairings during Friday’s morning skate.
Blashill put Jonathan Ericsson with Danny DeKeyser, while Mike Green with Kyle Quincey and Niklas Kronwall with Alexey Marchenko remained intact.
A final determination, said Blashill, would be made after the pregame warm-up. The Red Wings have used multiple pairings in games recently.
“The one thing I’d say with the (defensive) pairs is we have not, throughout the course of a lot of the year, necessarily just had three pairs,” Blashill said.
“We mix and match them throughout the game, especially against a four-line team, so we have the right matchups against each line.”
The core of both the Red Wings’ and Lightning’s rosters have now played each other three times in playoff series’ in the last four years (the Calder Cup Final in 2013).
The familiarity and testiness boiled over in Game 1 with 18 minor penalties whistled on two teams who generally don’t get involved physically in such a way.
Blashill, though, wasn’t surprised considering the importance of the playoffs.
“I watched the games (in other series) and everybody knows what is at stake and there’s a lot of animosity in the other series,” Blashill said. “Certainly when you’ve played the previous year in a playoff series, and we’ve played four times during the season, no question there’s animosity.
“We both want the same thing and when you both want the same thing, it brings out fierce competitiveness and it showed on both sides.
“But that’s great, it’s what makes playoff hockey great.”
Blashill wouldn’t reveal any lineup changes, though judging from the morning skate, there wasn’t expected to be any changes from the Game 1 lineup.
… Just because Blashill knows Lightning coach Jon Cooper so well, and vice versa, it doesn’t give the advantage to one coach or the other, said Blashill. “Any insight I have on him, he has on me on the reverse, so it’s even at that point,” Blashill said. “He knows my coaching style, he knows my tendencies and the way I run a bench, and vice versa. It doesn’t give either of us an advantage.”