Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Round 3, Game 2
Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: Capital One Arena
Broadcast / Streaming: NBCSN (link to stream), TVA Sports
Opponent SBNation Site: Japer’s Rink
After game one, Dan Girardi said the Lightning need to do everything they did the opposite in game two. Well, game two sure looked a lot like game one. As I wrote in my rapid reaction to game two yesterday, I don’t really know what the answer is here. The Lightning just aren’t playing the kind of hockey that they need to play to be in this series. Hope isn’t completely gone, but it sure is pretty bleak. A stat has been going around that since 1975, teams that go up 2-0 in the Conference Final round are 39-2. That doesn’t sound very good for the Lightning’s chances.
Now, it’s not over until the horn blows on the fourth win for a team. The Lightning are going to have to win four out of the next five games. And that’s going to include at least two games in Washington. I think to start, Jon Cooper is going to have to blend up the lines in the top nine. I’d leave the fourth line as it is because they’ve been one of the few bright spots. The defense could also get mixed up a bit, perhaps Stralman and Girardi flipping around. Maybe Sergachev getting a bit more ice time since he’s been pretty good.
I know that there are a lot of fans out there on social media screaming about various line-up changes. I’ve seen suggestions to bench McDonagh, Stralman, Johnson, Gourde, and Killorn. I even saw a couple wayward souls suggesting that Vasilevskiy should be benched in favor of Domingue. None of those things are going to happen. They are the players that got the Lightning here and Cooper is not going to shatter the locker room by benching any of them. To think that any of those benchings will actually happen (short of an injury obviously) is simply to operate in a place that is contrary to reality.
The one actual line-up change that I can see happening is Anthony Cirelli. He had looked good in the first two series, but has been one of the players that has struggled against the Capitals. Because of his status as a late-comer to the roster in the season and a 20-year old rookie, his security in the line-up is the lowest. A couple of options to replace him would be Cory Conacher and Matthew Peca.
The other option is to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Fans that I’ve seen suggest a defensemen come into the line-up have usually point towards Jake Dotchin. That’s another one that I doubt will happen. He’s been on the outs with the coaching staff for quite a while now. I don’t think he’s a realistic option right now except in the case of multiple injuries. Andrej Sustr would be the most likely option with Slater Koekkoek as a rather distant second and Dotchin even further behind Koekkoek.
Whatever they do, something has to change. Maybe Cooper will roll out the same lines again and hope that there’s better effort and execution. I think the Lightning are thinking too much though. Late in the season, Cooper while tinkering with the lines was often not setting the lines until just before warm-ups. This was to keep the players from overthinking who their line ups were. Since the Lightning don’t control the match-ups, it could also throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the Capitals’ plans for matching up against certain lines. Taking this strategy could free up the Lightning to play more instinctively and not over think what they are doing or who they are going out to face each shift.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Lineup notes: [Pending morning skate]
J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Yanni Gourde
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman — Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh — Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn — Mikhail Sergachev
Caps AM skate lines are the same:— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) May 13, 2018