The playoffs are a time when teams put it all out there nightly. While the regular season affords the we'll-get-them-next-game aspect, you don't have that in the playoffs to the same extent: You have only seven opportunities to win, and next season (another playoff berth) isn't certain at all. The playoffs are likely the only time the roster of guys you've been playing with all season are going to be assembled; things will change in the off-season and your friends and colleagues may be vastly different come next October. A player might find himself in another town on a team with lower chances to make the playoffs than he had if he remained with the franchise he was playing for last spring.
It's a motivator to put in your top effort; do it for the team, do it for your teammates, and above all else do it for that chance of being immortalized with your name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
That's partly why you don't see back-to-back games very often in the playoffs and why it's such a big deal when they do occur. NHL fans know in general that they can be a taxing experience when they happen during the regular season (travel usually is tied to the games, flying between cities) but the intensity isn't usually playoff level and it isn't so often (at least not for the Tampa Bay Lightning) that the back-to-back games are against the same opponent. This why tonight is a schedule anomaly, an annoyance and a question mark: If they leave it all out there in an effort to win game 3, what are the Bolts and the Canadiens going to have left for tomorrow's game 4?
There's a chance we're going to see repeats of game 1 and 2 from the series, and I don't necessarily mean the outcome but the efforts put forth by both clubs. Game 1 was a fantastic effort by both teams that was evenly played; a sustained effort that went one way instead of the other after in double overtime. It was the stronger game in general from both the teams on ice and the officials. Game 2 was marred by stoppages in the 1st period. It seemed like those stoppages, which were favoring the Canadiens in keeping the puck in the Lightning zone, was almost a deliberate effort on puck control and offensive opportunity. The Habs outshot the Lightning 14-9 in the first.
While the Lightning have offensive weapons aplenty, it was the wide-open effort in game 1 that stifled it and made the Canadiens look like a force to be reckoned with; Les Habs outshot the Lightning 44-35 in that game and offense didn't appear for either club until late in the game, sending it to overtime.
Game 1 could have gone either way. Game 2 was sloppy. Now take the back-to-back element of game 3 and 4 and as was already stated, there's every reason to think we could see a repeat with intensity in game 3 and sloppiness (two hagered teams) in game 4. Where the Lightning are sitting, it puts more weight on tonight because of tomorrow; if Tampa Bay can out-duel the Habs tonight, it puts Montreal in true desperation mode tomorrow when both teams will be won down and likely make more mistakes.
But that desperation comes on the big if they don't fight their way back into the series tonight, this gives the potential for tomorrow (a 2-1 series) to be a real interesting game.
Game 1 was stated as wide open with both teams putting down a great effort and both goalies stopping the opposition flat. Game 2 didn't just have the Lightning getting opportunities but lighting the lamp. Steven Stamkos netting his first of the playoffs took a weight off of the captain, but the question is if he's got more in his system than just one goal from one opportunity?
It's the TKO Trio (Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat) and their 11 goals and 9 assists that have been leading the Lightning in the playoffs. Stamkos' line has been led by Alex Killorn's 2 goals in the playoffs, the three (Killorn, Stamkos and Ryan Callahan) have only 3 goals in the 9 playoff games the team has played in so far, but have racked up 12 assists among them, so while they themselves aren't generating all the offense they could, they are enabling others on the roster.
These two groups haven't exactly created two distinct scoring liens in the playoffs but offensive threats all around.
Cedric Paquette's condition still presents him as a game-time decision and my thoughts remain the same on that one - if things aren't certain, why push for him in the game?
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