It’s a play Zach Bogosian will always remember from his first playoff run.
Racing down the ice in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Bruins, the Lightning defenseman deked Torey Krug, then slipped between Krug and fellow Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo on his way to the net.
Bogosian’s momentum sent him sprawling, so he passed the puck from his knees to diving forward Blake Coleman, who scored through goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s legs in the first period of the Lightning’s 4-3 overtime win.
“Any time as a defenseman you can kind of jump in late and be that second layer of offense, it’s huge for our group,” Bogosian said after the game. “I saw an opportunity to make a play, and it was a good finish by (Coleman).”
Though nowhere near as spectacular, Bogosian has made three other assists and numerous meaningful plays throughout the first postseason of his 12-year NHL career, helping the Lightning to the conference final.
Bogosian, 30, provided an offensive spark in the first two rounds. Eight Tampa Bay defensemen have scored a combined seven times — five coming from Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman — and contributed 21 assists.
The defense also has been solid in its end as well, blocking 143 shots, including 14 by Bogosian.
In the first round-robin game for playoff seeding, against the Capitals, Bogosian joined Hedman on the Lightning’s top defense pair, just as he did during training camp.
“My job as his defense partner is to try to get him the puck as much as possible,” Bogosian joked ahead of the second round-robin game, against the Bruins. “I think we read off each other pretty well. … We’re looking to build that chemistry, obviously.”
Chemistry was on display during the final two round-robin games and the first-round playoff series against the Blue Jackets. The pair worked well together managing the puck without sacrificing Hedman’s offensive contributions.
“(Bogosian) can skate,” coach Jon Cooper said in early August. “He’s a veteran in this league. He knows where to go. He’s got size. He can end plays down low. Then it comes down to a little bit of chemistry, and (Hedman) … usually, playing with guys like (him) makes it a little bit easier for you. But in saying that, you want to make it easy for Hedman, too. (Bogosian), in the short time we’ve seen it, has shown he can play with him.”
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Bogosian and Hedman were split up after Ryan McDonagh was injured in the first game of the conference semifinal series after getting entangled with Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton.
Without McDonagh for three games, the Lightning added an extra defenseman to the lineup, giving them seven. As a result, Bogosian and Hedman skated with different partners.
Bogosian’s physicality has been an asset. His 24 hits through the first two rounds of the playoffs are third among Lightning defensemen, behind Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev.
The downside to Bogosian’s physical play is the time he has spent in the penalty box.
His 12 penalty minutes this postseason are tied with forward Alex Killorn for second on the Lightning, behind Blake Coleman (23). And while some penalties might have interrupted scoring chances for Lightning opponents, at least two created better ones.
In the series finale against Columbus, Bogosian was called for slashing Riley Nash. Bogosian trailed behind Nash as the forward raced down the slot toward goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and reached out his stick to prevent a scoring chance. A second after Bogosian’s penalty expired, forward Nick Foligno scored for the Blue Jackets.
In Game 3 of the Boston series, Bogosian was called for tripping forward Brad Marchand, the only Bruin in the Lightning zone at the time. Bogosian stopped Marchand from scoring on the play, but Marchand scored almost a minute later on the power play.
In August, Bogosian said coming to a team like the Lightning put him in a position “to play some meaningful hockey.” The excitement of signing with the Lightning doesn’t appear to have worn off.
“It’s been 12 years, and I’ve been waiting a long time for (playoff hockey),” Bogosian said at the time. “I’m superexcited.”
Final days in Toronto
With the Lightning’s travel plans to Edmonton still unknown, the players are enjoying their last days in the Toronto bubble.
Bogosian said he has appreciated being able to FaceTime with his wife, Bianca D’Agostino, and three children, Hunter, Harper and Mila, back home while the team pursues the Stanley Cup.
“It’s tough, you miss them a lot,” Bogosian said Wednesday morning. “I can’t imagine going through this bubble without FaceTime and stuff like that, so that’s obviously helped, but in the same sense it’s not the same.”
The Lightning still don’t know the plan for when they’ll travel to Edmonton or if families will be allowed inside the bubble.
Bogosian said being limited to the bubble for the past month has taken its toll, but staying active has helped keep the dead time moving along. Players have spent time outdoors at BMO field and competed on the inside tennis and squash courts at Hotel X, too.
“Any time you’re in a hotel for this long, as hockey players, most of us are used to maybe a week, two at most, on the road,” Bogosian said. “It’s definitely a different scenario here. Learning every day, adjusting every day and we’ll get through it.”
Defenseman Erik Cernak said Toronto has started to feel like home over the past couple of weeks. Traveling to Edmonton will be an adjustment but a welcome change of scenery.
“I think time will go a little bit faster there,” he said.
Kucherov status unknown, Stamkos still out indefinitely
The status of injured right wing Nikita Kucherov remained unknown. Cooper was not made available to the media Wednesday. He was expected to speak today.
Kucherov was hit in the face by the stick of Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara during the first period of Game 5 on Monday. He returned for part of the second period but did not play in the third or two overtime periods of the 3-2 series-clinching win.
Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos remains out indefinitely after suffering an injury in voluntary workouts during the coronavirus shutdown, general manager Julien BriseBois said. But BriseBois said Stamkos hasn’t been ruled out from playing in the playoffs.
“We will provide an update when we have one,” he said.