TAMPA, Fla. — The Stanley Cup Playoffs are back, and Sun Sports color analyst Bobby Taylor knows the excitement level will be high.
There are many storylines entering the matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens: How will the Lightning do without top goaltender Ben Bishop? How will Anders Lindback fare in Bishop’s absence? How will Tampa Bay score against Carey Price?
Many expect the series to be tight. Taylor does too. He predicts the first playoff action in Tampa since 2011 will provide reason to remember in years to come.
With the Eastern Conference quarterfinals starting Wednesday night, Taylor recently spoke about a variety of issues concerning the Lightning before their return to the postseason.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: What’s it like to have the Stanley Cup Playoffs back in this city?
TAYLOR: If you can recall back in ’04, how nuts it was here. We’d have 22,000 in the building, and we’d have close to 20,000 out on the plaza watching it on the side of the garage. I just think there’s nothing like the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It can go two months — 28 games at the most. It’s a marathon above all marathons. But it’s such an emotional roller coaster that it’s such a great high. There’s never, ever a halfway point. You’re either at the top of the mountain or bottom of the valley. But the highs are so high that it’s such a great feeling. You really get caught up in it. As a player, in the two months, there’s nothing better. You just eat, sleep, drink hockey. Your family has to be understanding. Your wife has to be a rock-solid person, because you’re so focused on this, and it’s such an important part of a hockey player’s life. But there’s nothing better. There’s nothing better than playing in the playoffs.
FSF: What do you think of the Montreal Canadiens?
TAYLOR: If you take a look, both teams are so well-matched. Both of us have got really good goaltending. I think Carey Price’s stint in the Olympics and how well he played in the Olympics might give him a little bit of an edge. Carey has always been a really good goalie. But sometimes, he’d be up and down in the playoffs. I don’t think you’re going to see that this year. I think that Olympics got him really right up there, (and) got him believing that he is where he should be. I think the big edge we have (is that) we’re really good five-on-five. That’s the key for me. If we can stay out of the penalty box and not let Montreal get a power-play goal, a lot of times we’re going to be tough to beat. We’re one of the best teams five-on-five in the league, and that’s a very important factor.
FSF: What’s the secret to beating Carey Price?
TAYLOR: We’ve got to make sure we get the shot pick in front of him. Carey, he’s a big guy, and he also plays high in the crease. In other words, he isn’t one of those guys who plays in deep. He gets out above the crease and down the crease, so you’ve got to really be able to limit his ability to get out that far. So we’ve got to get guys right in around the paint. And they’ll let you do that — you can drive a bulldozer through there, and they’re not going to call anything. That’s going to be an important factor. … I think that’s where a guy like (Ryan) Callahan is really going to help us in that area.
FSF: How much of a setback is Ben Bishop’s injury for the Lightning? And what do you think of the emergence of Anders Lindback?
TAYLOR: That’s going to be the big question mark. … The best part of goalies who get to the upper-echelon, they’re stronger mentally, and they have a higher confidence factor than guys who don’t get to the upper-echelon. And that’s the key. When you take a look at what Lindy has done over the last week — he’s the (NHL’s) first star of the week, which is going to add to his confidence. Back-to-back shutouts. … I see a much calmer guy now in net.
FSF: The Lightning have had many faces rise this season — Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, etc. Who would you like to see contribute the most in this series for the Lightning to be successful?
TAYLOR: I think Teddy Purcell can be that guy. Teddy hasn’t had a good year. You know what? He’ll tell you that. Teddy is a streaky player, but he never got on those streaks this year. … I think that line with him, (Nate) Thompson and (Richard) Panik can be a real difference-maker. Teddy has such skill. When he’s playing, he’s really good. I don’t know, for some reason, he just didn’t play like he can. But he’s a lot better than what he showed — way better than what he showed. He knows that. … To me, he’s the guy who can be the difference-maker.
FSF: How do you see this series going? What’s your prediction?
TAYLOR: I don’t think it’s going to be a short one. Three of the four (regular-season) games went into overtime or a shootout, and the last one was an empty-netter. They’re going to be really tough games. It could be those games where we start at 7 p.m. and every game finishes at 1 in the morning. … I think it’s going to be a tremendous series, because both teams are very similar. They love to skate. They love to play fast. They’ve got great goaltending. It’s going to be so exciting for the fans because, as we all know when you get into the playoffs, the intensity level is jacked up even higher. And the key thing about it? The refs let them play. They let them play. And that’s what makes it even better.