Andrei Vasilevskiy has faced 115 shots in his time in the crease for the Tampa Bay Lightning during this series. A 21 year old who had only 21 game starts in his 24 games played at the NHL level during the 2015-16 season. A second-year North American player has faced one hundred and fifteen shots in just under 9 full periods of play (180 minutes). That's 5 shots short of 40 per game in that 3 game span.
What's most frustrating, as a Lightning fan, is to think of the effort in the 1st period of game 3 at the Amalie on Wednesday night and to know how it compared with efforts the Bolts have put forward this season - come out intense and then back off and be taken advantage of until late-late in the game. It was one of the characteristics of the club at times that suggested getting this far was a pipe dream. It translates into an aspect that has been overcome by Tampa Bay this season, but that came with the fact opponents were switched up with regularity over the 82 game process that is an NHL season.
Opponent change isn't in the cards. Lineup change? That's a question to speculate on, but leave Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy out of it. Vasy is the able body at the moment and even if the Bish-man is back to participating in morning skate, he's still on the mend from the game 1 incident in Pittsburgh.
Defense can lead to offense, and I'm not talking blueliners alone here, I mean Tampa Bay collectively doing what they can to limit shots and then doing what they shall with puck control. It's also a case of a consistent effort during the game... Not this "we'll play it hard to open up the action and then catch up late" mess that the Penguins have been striving and thriving because of.
Another little troubling statistic with the shots is the lack there of from wing Nikita Kucherov. Kuch has had put 6 shots down in the entire series, 2 per game. That's a serious downturn compared to some of the other efforts from Kuch during the 2016 NHL Playoffs. Game logs show us he has been shut out with shots during losses (to the Detroit Red Wings) and yet also hit the high-water mark of the playoffs with 7 shots on goal in another loss (April 27 against the Islanders). While Kucherov has had 2 in wins and losses, it just seems odd he seems turned down a notch with his potency when it matters the most.
Kucherov's linemates, Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson, have been consistent on the shooting details... Lower numbers from AK-17 and T.Johnny, but the left wing and center have their potency when they do take more shots on net.
Perhaps that shot factor will play out with line shifts for the Lightning, with Jonathan Drouin playing with Johnson as his center and Kucherov centered by Valtteri Filppula? Maybe it will be as simple as the Triplets reuniting and Alex Killorn shifting to the Filppula/Drouin line. We'll see about that. It wouldn't hurt to have some offense prowess shown by the 3rd and 4th lines either. Threats on offense form all levels stretches opposition just a tad, a wee, wee bit.
Most importantly, stop playing to the NBC Sports lust and want for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their peristeronic habits have done their best to play down the competitive notion that Tampa Bay swept the Penguins in the regular season. You wouldn't think that happened with the quality of coverage playing out in game chatter.
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Bay News 9
- New York Times
- Full Coverage on SB Nation