It’s time to hand out another round of somewhat arbitrary hardware. The Lightning dispatched the Bruins in five games (look guys, if this is going to be a rivalry, the Bruins are going to have to show up in the playoffs at some point) and while it wasn’t necessarily easy, Tampa Bay was head-and-shoulders above Boston talent-wise throughout the series.
The Lightning’s top line outproduced Boston’s “perfection line” and while Yanni Gourde and his gang wasn’t as dominating as they were against Columbus, they still outplayed any Bruin line they were matched up against. Even Anthony Cirelli’s line played well despite having to take on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak all week long.
Add in an outstanding round by Andrei Vasilevskiy and it’s easy to see why the Lightning are moving on to the Eastern Conference Final. So while, their potential opponents continue to slug it out against each other, let’s reward some excellent play from the second round. In this round, we’re expanding it out to all three finalists (pretty much just so I could include a Dan Vladar high/low-light)
Vezina Trophy -
3. Dan Vladar: No fault of the rookie that he ends up third in a three-person race. Imagine getting the call for your first NHL game and then having to deal with this:
Not cool, Brayden Point, not cool at all.
2. Jaroslav Halak: It wasn’t his fault that the Bruins lost in five games. He didn’t exactly help matters, but aside from a strong performance in Game One, Halak was pretty much average for the rest of the series. With the way his teammates played in front of him, average wasn’t good enough.
His hockey card numbers weren’t pretty as he posted an .896 SV%, and 3.12 GAA. However, some of his underlying stats indicated he wasn’t a human sieve and his numbers were a product of the Lightning getting a ton of quality chances. In all situations he had a Goals Saves Above Average of 1.37 and a High Danger Goals Saved Above Average of 2.13, both of those numbers were actually better than Andrei Vasilevksiy.
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy: At first glance, a series that ends in just five games appears to be a bit of a blowout, but that wasn’t quite the case in this round. Four of the five games were close, with two of them needing extra hockey. And in almost all of them, Vasilevskiy was a huge difference in the Lightning prevailing.
Posting a .936 SV% in all situations is pretty impressive, a .960 at 5v5 is Korpisalo-esque. At even strength he allowed only 5 goals while the metrics showed that he should have surrendered 8. The average distance of the goals scored by the Bruins at 5v5 was under 11 feet, shockingly close considering the crease extends out six feet.
Boston scored primarily on the power play and by bouncing pucks off of Brad Marchand. The long screened shots that Vasilevskiy sometimes has problems with were mostly non-existent and that’s usually a sign that he’s locked in.
Selke Trophy -
3. Barclay Goodrow: He played 76:13 of 5v5 and was on the ice for exactly 0 goals. That’s pretty impressive. Goodrow was also 19 and 11 in the face-off dot and blocked nine shots (which led all forwards). He was even better at face-offs while shorthanded, winning 9 while losing only 5. Only 1 of the Bruins 5 power play goals came while Goodrow was on the ice. This series was a perfect example of why the Lightning gave up a first round pick for him.
2. Patrice Bergeron: I know, a Bruin, weird right? Bergeron wasn’t his usual dominant self but still had a really good series. He was only on the ice for one goal against at even strength, was second at the team with an unblocked shot against rate of 34.87/60. The veteran center won more face-offs than he lost and had 2 takeaways against no giveaways. And it’s not like his takeaways come 200 feet away from the goal, as Ryan McDonagh found out:
1. Blake Coleman: The first round winner defended his title in this round. Like Goodrow he wasn’t on the ice for a 5v5 goal against, limited the unblocked shots against (35.2/60), threw his body around (team-leading 29 hits) and even scored twice. Not a bad round at all.
Norris Memorial Trophy
3. Luke Schenn/Braydon Coburn: Their numbers may not have been Norris-worthy, but they basically came off the bench after not playing a meaningful game in months and held their own. Besides, listing them here will surely upset any Bruins fan hate-reading this article who thinks Torey Krug or Zdeno Chara should get a token vote.
2. Mikhail Sergachev: The offense may not quite be there, but Sergachev played pretty well in his own zone. He was second on the team in ice time with 120:31, posted an excellent expected goals against of 1.51 at 5v5 and didn’t allow an actual goal in 86 minutes of 5v5 play. That’s pretty good for a young defenseman who hasn’t fully grown into his game yet.
1. Victor Hedman: Sergachev may be knocking on the door, but the Big Swede is still the GOAT. He logged his usual big minutes, made hard plays look easy, oh, and ended the series with an overtime goal. Just another routine playoff series for the best defenseman in the history of the organization.
Hart Memorial Trophy -
3. Brad Marchand: Look, we all hate him, but he led Boston forwards in ice time and scored four of the Bruins ten goals (while assisting on another one). He was a threat to score pretty much every time he was on the ice while somehow managing to stand unmarked right next to the goaltender way too often. The combined distance of his goals was roughly 17 inches. He did everything you expect of him except for committing some egregious act like licking someone.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy: See comments in the Vezina section. There was serious consideration for putting him at number one in this section as well, but let’s stick to the NHL tradition of not giving goaltenders MVP awards.
1. Ondrej Palat: Oh my goodness, a healthy Palat is such a joy to watch. He topped the offense with 5 goals, added 2 assists and had a team-high 23 shots on goal. He was on the ice for 26 high-danger chances and posted a 64.53 CF% at 5v5. He was the difference maker in the series as he converted the chances he was given by the Boston defense (who might have been preoccupied with his linemates). Palat didn’t forget about defense either, he managed to throw his body in front of five shots.
Jack Adams -
2. Bruce Cassidy: It wasn’t a great series for Cassidy. He played Nick Ritchie in too many games, refused to switch things up at even strength even when it was apparent that only one line was having any type of success, and, oh year, insinuated that Yanni Gourde faked an injury to gain a penalty. Not a great week for him.
If his power play hadn’t scored at an unsustainable 29% (5 for 17) the Bruins would have been skated out of the building even more. Relying on special teams and one dominant line works in the regular season, but it’s tougher to do in the postseason with the stepped up competition and general lack of calls.
1. Jon Cooper: In the past we’ve been a little critical in how Coach Cooper has handled things in the postseason. In fact, we may have said that he’s been outcoached a time or two during his tenure with the Lightning. Most of the time it’s due to his inflexibility and reliance on making sure his fourth line gets playing time even when the Lightning are desperate for offense.
In this series, Coach Cooper showed that he was able to adapt to changing circumstances in two major cases. First of all he adjusted his power play. It wasn’t by putting Victor Hedman at on the first unit, but by replacing Tyler Johnson with Ondrej Palat and then flip-flopping Palat and Nikita Kucherov. The result - actual goals with an extra skater. Even when they didn’t score they were getting chances - something that they weren’t even sniffing at against Columbus.
His second major move, and one made by necessity, was switching to an 11/7 line-up when Ryan McDonagh was injured. The rotation allowed him to minimize the loss of a top-four blueliner and give the Boston defense some different looks by double shifting his top forwards.
He could have just thrown Braydon Coburn in the line-up and and be done with it, but by adding Luke Schenn as well he was able to control the minutes of his defensive pairs and the two replacements held their own (as well as added a little size in their zone which helped keep the front of Vasilevskiy’s net a little clearer). Mind you, they weren’t great. Schenn in particular had a few terrifying moments as Bruins forwards wheeled by him with a bit too much ease, but on the whole the strategy worked.
In the first two rounds of the playoffs Coach Cooper beat two of the three finalists for this year’s real Jack Adams award. If Philadelphia pulls off the comeback in their series, he has the chance to make it three-for-three. That would be a little sweet revenge for the Lightning bench boss.