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Lightning Round: Bolts will find out their opponent for the ECF tonight

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The last day of the second round!

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders - Game Six Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

On Friday, The Tampa Bay Lightning held their last practice in Toronto before moving to Edmonton on Saturday for the Eastern Conference final. Their opponent for the next round is still not known, as the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders will decide it tonight in Game 7. The first game of the ECF is scheduled on Monday.

During the yesterday’s media availability Jon Cooper promised to provide a new update on Steven Stamkos status before the ECF starts on Monday. Cooper also noticed that despite his absence on the ice, Stamkos has been a leader in the locker room, bringing the group together.

Barclay Goodrow complimented Andrei Vasilevskiy and his puck handling skills, admitting that he didn’t realize how good he was.

Tyler Johnson was asked about similarities of the current team and the 2015 one, which reached the Stanley Cup final. The Lightning forward noted that the depth of the team is a little bit better now, although both teams are very skilled and competitive.

Yesterday Geo summed up the series against the Boston Bruins, breaking down why the Lightning were successful in this matchup [Raw Charge]

Ultimately, the Lightning’s success can be put down to two particular things; their defensive structure and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has the fourth highest xFSv% so far in the second round. A higher xFSv% means that the opponent’s shots are less dangerous. Even with that defensive structure in front of him limiting the Bruins’ chances, he still came up big and exceed his xFSV%. He sported a 4.45 GSAA in the series and is the current leader for the second round (though there are some games left to play as I write this).

Yesterday’s Results

Dallas Stars 5-4 Colorado Avalanche – Stars win series 4-3

The Stars opened the score very quickly: Alex Radulov converted on the power play after Mikko Rantanen took a penalty just two minutes into the game. The Avalanche responded quickly with goals by Vlad Namestnikov and Andre Burakovsky and finished the first period with a 2-1 lead.

Each team allowed a goal in the second period: first Joel Kiviranta scored his first career playoff goal on a delayed penalty and two minutes later Nazem Kadri was first on the puck sending it past Anton Khudobin during the power play. Radulov tied the game in the third period, Namestnikov gave his team lead back three minutes before the end of regulation but just ten seconds later Kiviranta scored another goal, sending both teams to overtime.

The Avalanche were a little bit more dangerous in overtime but eventually fell to the Stars when Kiviranta completed hat-trick and clinched a Western Conference Finals spot for his team. For the young Finnish rookie it was just the first game since August 20 and the third game during this year’s playoff run.

Vancouver Canucks 0-3 Vegas Golden Knights – Knights win series 4-3

The young goalie Thatcher Demko kept the Canucks in the game till 13:52 into the third period when Shea Theodore scored a long-distance shot through traffic in front of Demko.

The Canucks offense though wasn’t there to support the rookie goaltender: the Knights outplayed the opponent in all aspects of the game, including a huge lead in shot attempts (60-20 at 5-on-5) and 77.48% expected goal share.

Thatcher Demko’s rival in the opponent net Robin Lehner played a perfect game, stopping rare but dangerous shots by the Canucks players and recording the third shutout in the series. The Canucks tried to push late in the game but allowed two empty-netter from Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny and the Golden Knights advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the three years of their existence.

Today’s Game

New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers – series tied 3-3

7:30 PM ET; NBC, TVAS, CBC

The winner of this game will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers managed to comeback after trailing 1-3 in the series and might become the only team to advance to the next round after such gap. Whichever team wins they will have just one day to relax before the ECF starts on Monday, unlike the Lightning which haven't played since last Monday.

Other News and Notes

The Western Conference Final will start on Sunday.

The Boston Bruins had their exit interviews yesterday, which as usual revealed that many players were playing despite having health issues

Reportedly the Arizona Coyotes were late on paying signing bonuses to their players, although the problem has been resolved

This also might affect the Coyotes negotiations with pending UFA Taylor Hall, as Darren Dreger hinted, the Montreal Canadiens could be interested.