David Savard is getting a taste of what he hoped for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the defenseman was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning are getting a taste of what Savard can do for them in their hunt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, which is why they acquired him April 10 from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a three-team trade that included the Detroit Red Wings.
“It’s awesome,” Savard said. “As soon as I heard about the trade coming here, I knew how good of a team they were. I think it’s something special they can accomplish going back to back. It’s one of the best teams in the League for years now. It’s fun for me to be part of this group now and get a chance to go further in the playoffs.”
Savard and rookie forward Ross Colton are the only regulars in the Lightning lineup who weren’t part of the Stanley Cup championship team last season.
But Savard missed the first three games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Second Round because of an upper-body injury. Luke Schenn took his place on the third defense pair with Mikhail Sergachev, but was used sparingly, playing 9:58 per game.
Savard returned for Game 4 on Saturday, skated 13:32 on a defense pair with Sergachev, generated some offense with one shot on goal and three shot attempts, played with some snarl (two hits), and overall helped the Lightning win 6-4 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Tampa Bay can advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals with a win in Game 5 at Carolina on Tuesday (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
“You can see the reasons we got him, and that’s for these kinds of games,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “Physical, shot-blocking machine, not afraid to get up in the play as well, always a good passer. We play a little different than they did in Columbus, but he’s fit in very well. He and ‘Sergy’ have done a great job together. It was obviously good to see him back.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that he felt Savard was a difference-maker in Game 4 even though his two minor penalties, for tripping in the second period and interference in the third, forced the Lightning to kill two penalties successfully without him.
He normally would have been on the penalty kill.
Savard didn’t block a shot after blocking five and getting credited with 23 hits in six games against the Florida Panthers in the first round, most among Lightning defensemen. But he prevented shot attempts by blocking shooting lanes. He defended well down low. He didn’t get beat 1-on-1.
“He had some big moments in the game,” Cooper said.
The key, Cooper said, was that Savard didn’t look slow in returning to a fast-paced, up-and-down game that featured 10 goals, one fewer than the total the Lightning and Hurricanes combined for in the first three games of the series.
“That’s a tough job to come into a series that is this fast and be able to step in and play without playing in the first three games,” Cooper said. “He’s got to play with a little bite and I think he did that the last two games of the Florida series. He was playing nasty out there and I think that helps his game. It continues now.”