Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey
I woke up this morning to a text from a friend asking if this was a “must win” game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I think most fans would agree that dropping two games at home in the semifinal round of the playoffs would be a harbinger of doom (or a possible sweep). My response was along the lines of “No, just a really would like them to win”. If there is any team left in the playoffs that I would not be surprised to rip off four wins in a row after losing two at home, it’s the Lightning.
That being said, it would be really, really nice for them to come out and play a complete 60 minute while dictating the pace of play against the Islanders. To do so they’ll have to be better with the puck. It sounds like a simple fix, because, on one hand, it is. On the other, it is a little more complicated because the team on the other side of the ice is very good and very committed to causing turnovers.
The Lightning struggled with smooth transitions and breakouts throughout Game One (and many other games this season) and that hurt their offense. It also directly led to one of the Islanders goals. Credit to Steven Stamkos for completely owning his mistake. Now comes the fun part of making sure it doesn’t happen again in Game Two.
When the Lightning fumble the puck around in their own zone, as they did often throughout the night, it not only gives their opponent extra chances to create turnovers in dangerous places, it saps the Bolts attack. The forwards can’t drive into the offensive with speed or numbers and create the space needed to work the puck around the zone. When Tampa Bay exits quickly and cleanly, their transition game will cause the Islanders to scramble and not allow them to settle into their defensive structure. At that point quality chances and hopefully goals will follow.
Recent history dictates that the Bolts will bounce back from their loss. It’s what they’ve done time and time again over their past six playoff series. We all know the record - they haven’t lost back-to-back games in the postseason since the sweep by Columbus two years ago. They adjust and improve their performance after losses as well, if not better, than any team in this league.
“I can’t sit here and say what the result’s going to be, but I know you’ll get a hell of an effort from our guys.”
That was the quote from Coach Cooper yesterday in regards to how the team will respond after the loss. During the off-day practice they reviewed a lot of video, going over where their game broke down and what they need to improve. I fully expect them to be able to execute their game plan tonight. It took a near perfect performance for the Islanders to squeak out a one-goal win in Game One. They will have to repeat that tonight and hope the Lightning struggle again. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for long term success.
If the Bolts play their game, it doesn’t really matter how the Islanders play. Take care of the puck and build the offense from the defensive zone out and the Lightning’s talent should carry the night.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Ross Colton
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard
New York Islanders Lines
Mathew Barzal - Leo Komarov - Jordan Eberle
Brock Nelson - Anthony Beauvillier - Josh Bailey
Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Kyle Palmieri - Travis Zajac
Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin - Cal Clutterbuck
Ryan Pulock - Adam Pelech
Nick Leddy - Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson - Andy Greeme