Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Nationwide Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: CNBC, FS-SUN, SN360, TVAS
Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon
This is it. The do or die game. If the Tampa Bay Lightning win, we will see them on Thursday with a win in our pockets and a slightly shorter mountain to climb. If the Tampa Bay Lightning lose, then we won’t see them until mid-September, a long five months away. There will be questions as to who stays and who goes, because if the odds are not in Tampa’s favor, big things will need to change, but that is all for another day. Hopefully not tomorrow.
So what do teams needs at this time of year? Goals and stops. Looking at goals through the first three games of the series — which is a painfully small sample size but nonetheless what we have to work with — the Lightning have the fourth-worst goals for rate at 5v5 among the 16 playoff teams. Based on Corsica, the Lightning have been performing like they should have the......fourth-worst goals for rate among playoff teams. So the offense has dried up, they’re not getting to the areas where they need to be and it’s simply not been good enough. You can read Loserpoints’ analysis for a further breakdown.
The team’s shooting percentage has also been in the bottom half of the playoff teams, but Toronto and Colorado both have worse numbers here and they’re up 2-1. Getting Nikita Kucherov back will be a big help in this regard (the team was in the top half in offensive results after game two), but the whole team needs to step up on top of his return. Breaking cycles in the defensive zone, getting the puck cleanly into the offensive zone, and working harder than your opponent to keep the puck in the offensive zone long enough for a defensive mistake is the aim of the game here. This is possibly the last game of the season for these players, possibly the last game they’ll ever play for Tampa.
Defensively, the story is simpler, which makes it more heartbreaking. The Lightning have been one of the best defensive teams in these playoffs, if not the best. They have one of the lowest shots against rates among the 16 teams, and their expected goals against numbers back that value up. They have legitimately done a good job of keeping pucks away from the front of the net and keeping scoring chances down.
Unfortunately, the problem has been rush attempts against and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The young goaltender has been disappointing to say the least. His 5v5 save percentage this season was .929, which is right in the neighbourhood of what Corsica’s model expected him to be at (.928). In the postseason, however, Vasilevskiy has put up a .909 save percentage, despite his team giving him an expected value of .933.
He has been way off the pace and it’s a major reason why this team has lost every game so far. Goaltending is hard to predict, and sometimes this happens, that is always the caveat with goalies. Hopefully either now or in the summer the coaching staff will be able to dissect what went wrong here and he can learn for next year. Vasilevskiy will be here next year.
But anyway, I said there was a chance, right?
In terms of rosters, Nikita Kucherov will be back in the lineup tonight after serving his suspension over the weekend. Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn are both question marks heading into tonight, Hedman is listed as doubtful at this time. As things get finalized throughout the day, we will update this article with the proper lines.
We got a massive shakeup from Jon Cooper and his team at the morning skate. Anthony Cirelli moving up to the first line the headliner. J.T. Miller skated on the second power play unit in the morning but wasn’t listed in the top-12 forwards. Whether he plays or not, and where, is still up in the air.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Mathieu Joseph - Cedric Paquette - Adam Erne
Ryan Callahan - Yanni Gourde - Alex Killorn
Scratched: Danick Martel
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Braydon Coburn - Jan Rutta
Injured: Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman
Brandon Dubinsky was on the ice with the Blue Jackets for practice yesterday, according to Alison Lukan of the Athletic. He may or may not get in tonight. As for Markus Nutivaara, Tortorella doesn’t have an update as of yesterday morning. Columbus has a choice of Adam McQuaid, Adam Clendening, or Andrew Peeke to fill that spot. The Blue Jackets also called up Zac Dalpe from the AHL Cleveland Monsters after their affiliate clinched a playoff spot on Sunday night. Those guys will face the Syracuse Crunch in the first round starting on Friday night. Winner will face Toronto or Rochester.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Josh Anderson
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Alexandre Texier - Riley Nash - Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Dean Kukan - Scott Harrington