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The brink, the verge, the crease; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Detroit Red Wings game 5 preview

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Play in net and how it's gone for both clubs may be what continues or concludes this series.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the first four games of the series between the Lightning and Red Wings, goalie Ben Bishop has been living at his average.  Don't take that as me putting Bishop down, because that's not nearly my intention. We're talking goaltender and average here... Bishop's goals against average for the regular season were 2.06 with an abundantly solid .926 save percentage. There is a plethora of other seasonal number to toss around but this is the second season. You've already seen me talk about starting over... so where is Ben Bishop standing in 4 games played?

To say the Bish-man is standing average comes off like an insult, and yet when you know the average of 2015-16 is the solid, stolid set of statistics, you get a better gist of how impressive #30 has been. Bishop's posted a 2.01 GAA in the playoffs thus far to go along with an intimidating .937 save percentage. Bishop has faced 126 shots on goal, allowing 8 goals in 12 periods of play. He's giving up .66667 goals per period.

That's quite the different perspective than what Jimmy Howard had done for the Red Wings in games 1 and 2; Howard gave up 7 goals on 64 shots faced during that 2 game span. A .891 save percentage looks more impressive than the 3.59 GAA that he touted. On average, he was giving up just slightly more than a goal a period.

But Tampa Bay isn't facing Jimmy Howard in these latter stages of the series, it's Petr Mrazek in net for Detroit and good lord, Mzarek has been solid for the Wings. In six periods of play he's given up a total of 3 goals, or .5 a period. His GAA through that small sample size of two games is 1.52 while his save percentage is an intimidating .939. You can sober up real fast when you notice he's only faced 49 total shots on goal during his time in net; a negligible offensive attack in game 3 kept Mrazek unchallenged. On the other hand, the war of game 4 brought the bravado of 33 shots against him (and how the hell did a team with such a laugher of a power play all season manage to score three times on the power play??).

For all three goalies, it's a small sample size for comparison... Bishop is standing stone, though, while Howard has not fared well. Mrazek has had a great effort from his team in front of him and has been sound. If he remains consistent, it improves Detroit's chances of going to 6 games versus the Bolts.

Goalkeeping aside, things stay in place with the Lightning lineup tonight - lien combos in morning skate at the Amalie. The Killing Joke leads, which is worth noting because Nikita Kucherov is now tied for 4th all time with the Lightning for most power play goals in the playoffs. He's tied with Ondrej Palat with 6 goals. The 6th place man on that list is this also-ran you may have heard of, just possibly. Some dude named Steven Stamkos (did I spell that right?). Kucherov (and Palat) have 6 career power play goals on playoff PP opportunities. Mind you, Kuch has only played in 32 total playoff games in his career (spanning 2014 to now). Palat has only 1 more game played. Stamkos is at 48 playoff games in his career.

Does that tell you how many opportunities / man advantages that these guys have played within? Nope, it also doesn't shine the light on how many times they had assists on other power play goals, but it is impressive as hell... Especially when you think about how lacking the Lightning power play was in general in 2015-16. To have a game like Tuesday's game 4, where all offense form the Lightning came by way of the power play? It rings of day of yore when Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Fredrik Modin were all patrolling the ice in Lightning sweaters. This is a long way from that time.

Depending on power play performance is probably not the wisest of ideas going into this game, especially knowing how heavy the hand of penalty calls have been in favor of Detroit during the series. There has got to be a sound 5-on-5 offensive effort from the Lightning tonight. If it turns into game 3, where too much of the time on ice is spent down a man, odds are this series goes back to Detroit and game 6. If things stay even without penalties handcuffing either team, this'll be a nail-biter or at least has the potential to be if the men in the crease hold their ground like they're capable.

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