Human beings, no matter how hardy, are susceptible to psychological pressure.
So maybe it’s true that injured Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is feeling as if he might soon be able to rejoin his teammates, his appearance at practice on Tuesday might also serve as a well-timed bit of positive news, an emotional boost for a club that badly needs one.
The Lightning are a young group, but no one need explain what’s at stake in Game 4 of their series against the Montreal Canadiens.
“You have to believe, there’s no other choice,” said Tampa captain Steven Stamkos, who is fit to play despite being accidentally jarred in the head by Alexei Emelin’s knee in game three. “It’s Game 7 for us . . . we have to have that mentality.”
Coach Jon Cooper suggested that Bishop, who is believed to be suffering from an elbow injury, could return, but that “we’re going to need to extend the series.”
At the same time, he said, “(the players) want to play one more game in front of our fans, they want to bring this back.”
Cooper believes his team went some way to solving the Habs’ defensive riddle in the second and third periods of Sunday’s game.
“We’re getting better, the problem is we’re running out of time,” he said.
On the Habs’ side of the ledger, there is also good news.
Singer Ginette Reno – a recent heart attack victim who is something of a cultural monument in Quebec – has got the green light from her cardiologist to sing O Canada in the pregame ceremony.
Reno, who was unknown to most of the Montreal players when she stepped out to a massive roar before Game 3, delivered a blistering rendition that had the Bell Centre in full froth.
“Dear friends, I can confirm that you got me with those waves of love,” she said via her official Facebook page, “so let me reassure you, my heart is well, and my cardiologist has given me his blessing.”
This will please Rene Bourque, who scored 11 seconds into Sunday’s game and jokingly said afterward that Reno should sing before every game.
Reno, who used to often do anthem duty at Quebec Nordiques games, has an outsized personality; in her youth she was famous for a prodigious voice that allowed her to sing without a microphone, and more contemporaneously, she issued a public apology 15 years ago after it emerged that she performed at the wedding of a prominent Hells Angel.
In the Habs’ room, there is quiet confidence heading into these playoffs’ first elimination game.
But there is also wariness.
Forward Daniel Brière remembers roaring back from an 0-3 deficit against the Boston Bruins when he was a member of the Phildelphia Flyers.
It’s only happened three times in NHL history, and hockey being hockey, Brière pointed out that “They have a guy on their team who was part of that too.”
That would be Tampa defenceman Matt Carle.
Brière said the key to progressing is simple: “We just have to keep following the same road we have since the beginning of the playoffs . . . they’re used to facing adversity, they’re not going to give up easily”
Coach Michel Therrien isn’t expected to make any lineup changes, although he did allude to making some adjustments to his game plan – he didn’t expand on that, which isn’t exactly a surprise.
Asked whether he sees banana peel potential in a 3-0 series lead, he said “I don’t see it as a trap, our concentration is always focused on the moment, we have to make sure we’re at our best at every moment, it’s our message to the players.”
Stamkos empathizes with Ducks’ Stéphane Robidas and broken leg
Back to the Lightning in closing, Stamkos spared a special thought on Monday night as he watched the Anaheim Ducks’ Stéphane Robidas being helped off the ice with his second broken leg of the season.
The two have played together at world championships, and suffered broken right tibias within a couple of weeks of each other in November.
They also had nearly identical surgeries to replace them, and pushed hard to recover quickly – in Stamkos’s case to try and make the Canadian Olympic team, and in Robidas’s to be fit for a deadline day trade to a Stanley Cup contender.
“I spoke with him a lot this year, and I sent him a text after the game to wish him the best, and he responded,” said Stamkos. “It was tough to see . . . I was thinking about him.”