General Thoughts Going Into the Game
After the first game against the Florida Panthers, a lot of us, even a lot of media and outside watchers, were raving about the game. There was so much skill, so much fun, so much excitement. It was said that this was going to be one of the greatest series played in the playoffs. An all-time classic.
Unfortunately, the rest of the series didn’t live up to that billing. The series soon devolved into a constantly mucked-up mess, with scrums after almost every whistle. There was a game where the Panthers decided they just weren’t going to play hockey midway through because of how far behind they had fallen. It wasn’t really until game six that we got back to some good hockey throughout.
After having stuck through that series of muck hockey, the first game against Carolina was a relief for me. It actually felt like there was two highly talented teams with a primary concern of playing highly skilled hockey. It was a fantastic game, and I hope it continues. Of course, there’s always a possibility that in the playoff hate can flare up, all it takes is one bad hit for that to happen. I just hope it doesn’t.
The NHL has ended up with two of the best match-ups possible in the entire playoffs being played in the second round because of how the divisions worked out. There’s this one between Tampa and Carolina, and then the other match-up across the continent between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Of course, game one of that series ended up being a very dirty muck fest. It was a disgrace. I just hope that Tampa and Carolina can remain above that and continue to provide fans across the NHL with good hockey.
Game one between the Lightning and the Hurricanes ended up being interesting from an advanced analytics viewpoint. The Hurricanes came out with all of the pressure, jump, and drive during the first period. Maybe it was because they had just come off of the overtime win against the Nashville Predators and feeling good. Maybe it was just a case of being at home and wanting to show up for their home fans. Whatever it was, they got on their horse first.
The second and third periods were much more even in terms of puck possession. However, the Lightning made some adjustments after the first period. The first period, when the Lightning got into the offensive zone, they were not able to penetrate to the center of the ice. They were taking a lot of their shots from the outsides and especially the right point, which is weird since the Lightning’s three most offensively capable defensemen are usually manning the left point. In the second and third period, the Lightning got things figured out and did a better job of keeping Carolina to the outside while getting to the middle themselves. The Lightning were far more dangerous in the second frame, and ended up overall pulling the xG battle at 5v5 almost even according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Throughout this series, both teams will be continually adjusting their tactics to answer what the other is doing well. There’s couple of very smart coaches behind the bench in Jon Cooper and Rod Brind’Amour. They’ll be playing chess all series to get the most out of their rosters. The Lightning will need to have the kind of success they did in the second period of game one throughout this series to beat the Hurricanes.
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy was a brick wall in game one. He weathered the Hurricanes in the first period and only got beat by a power play point shot through a screen that was also deflected on the way to the net. So far in most of the advanced analytics, he’s ranking second among goaltenders so far in the playoffs behind Connor Hellebuyck who shut down the Edmonton Oilers in four games.
On the other end, Alex Nedeljkovic put up a great showing in the first game. He had been somewhat average in the series against the Nashville Predators, but had a very strong regular season. He certainly has it within him to be a difference maker in this series, just as Andrei Vasilevskiy does. Game one looked like it was going to go to overtime because of how solidly Nedeljkovic played. After all, it was a small mistake ended up being the difference in game one, a mistake that gave a hole for Barclay Goodrow’s shot to go into the net.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had two injuries for game one. Trade deadline acquisition David Savard missed game one with an upper body injury. He is listed as being day-to-day. Erik Cernak left the game towards the end of the second period after getting sandwiched along the walls. His head came forward and made contact with a Carolina player’s helmet. He did not return for the third period.
Savard and Cernak did not practice yesterday, along with Blake Coleman. In his press conference after practice, Jon Cooper said he would have updates today, but as of writing those haven’t come. He said that Cernak and Savard are both “progressing,” so take that for whatever it might mean. Of Coleman, Cooper said it was a maintenance day. It could just be some rest for Coleman, but also could be a signal that he’s dealing with something minor.
On the other end, the Hurricanes were without Nino Niederreiter for the first game, and it sounds like he is unlikely to return for the series. Rod Brind’Amour stated it was “very, very doubtful” he would return. Niederreiter is a big part of the middle of the line up for the Canes, and it’s a big loss for them to lose to his services even though he only managed to score one goal in six games in the first round against the Nashville Predators.
Here is the lineup from yesterday’s practice. Fredrik Claesson is going to be the option if Savard and Cernak are unable to go. Yes, even above Cal Foote, Ben Thomas, et al. The fact that Sergachev isn’t skating next to McDonagh is a hopeful sign one of Savard or Cernak will be in the lineup. Joseph is presumably the placeholder for Coleman. These lines are from Bryan Burns.
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Mathieu Joseph*
Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Ross Colton
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Fredrik Claesson*
Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn
For the Canes, they didn’t have a practice so here are the lines from the last game. We’ll see any lineup changes when they announce their lines during warm ups.
Brock McGinn - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Jordan Martinook - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Cedric Paquette - Taylor Lorentz - Jesper Fast
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Jake Bean - Jani Hakanpaa