Over the past two postseasons the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders have played each other nine times (niiiinne times). In five of those games the final score has been 2-1. Over that span there has been only one game where the Islanders have scored more than two goals - Game Three of last season that New York won, 5-3, with one of those goals being an empty netter. When the Bolts see the Isles, the defense gets stingy.
As always, with anything involving the Lightning defense, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy plays a huge role in the success. According to NHL.com’s stat page, in the nine games Vasy has faced the Islanders he’s posted a 1.65 GA/G, .936 SV%. In the six games he faced them last season, Natural Stat Trick has him posting an .870 High Danger Save percentage and allowing just 11 goals against an expected 14.82 . Through three games this year he’s bumped the HDSV% to .897% and allowed only 5 goals against an expected 8.61 in all situations. Pretty good, eh?
On the flip side, with the exception of a few games, New York has done their best to limit the Lightning offense, keeping them to two or fewer goals in five games (Tampa Bay still managed to win three of those games). That’s fairly impressive against the Lightning offense.
So, in order to defeat them last year, and to gain a 2-1 series edge this season, the Lightning have had to grind out wins. It’s something the national press doesn’t really give Tampa enough credit for being able to do. They tend to fixate on their offense and skill with the puck as opposed to their ability to neutralize sustained offense from other teams with solid positioning and puck control. When they are cooking, the defense may allow a shot to get to Vasilevskiy, but they do a good job of making sure there isn’t a follow-up rebound chance.
After facing two teams in Carolina and Florida that prioritized offense over defense, we all knew it was going to be a grind against a team commanded by Barry Trotz. Goals would be at a premium so in order to win, the Bolts would have to make sure they kept the puck out of their net. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been effective. If they can do it two more times they’ll find themselves back in the Stanley Cup. If I was a betting man, and I am, I would guess that at least one of these future games will end with a final score of 2-1.
Hardev recaps the victory pointing out this isn’t the first time the Bolts have squeaked out a win against the Islanders.
For Islanders fans, Game Three had a very Barry Trotz-esque feeling to it. Unfortunately for them it was the Lightning executing the stifling, defense-first game plan that they’ve come to appreciate under their head coach.
Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, aka 2⁄3 of the right side of the Lightning defense weren’t available for the last four-to-five minutes of the game. Per Coach Cooper they took some “stingers”. Both should be okay for Game Four.
Notes from our friends at the Lightning
- The Lightning have won four straight on the road and are 6-1 over all away from Amalie Arena this postseason.
- The Lightning are 10-1 when scoring first in these playoffs.
- Victor Hedman has 13 assists this postseason, good for second in the league. The only player ahead of him - Nikita Kucherov with 18.
- The Lightning didn’t score on the power play, snapping a five-game streak with at least one power play goal.
As you may have heard in the past, Coleman grew up in Texas. He is also rumored to be building a new house there. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent who will likely be priced out of the Lightning’s range. There is no state income tax in Texas. See where I’m going with this?
In the least surprising news in the coaching world, Brind’Amour re-upped his contract with the Hurricanes for three more years. He’s been pretty good for them (at least in the regular season) posting a 120-66-20 record in three seasons and leading them to the playoffs in each of those years.
Look at Rod the Bod dominating the news cycle on a playoff day! He was named the coach of the year in the NHL with 61 first place votes (Coach Cooper finished 8th with just a second and third place vote). It appears the Curse of the Jack Adams may finally be buried. Brind’Amour looks like he’ll be in Carolina for the next few seasons at least and the two winners before him, Barry Trotz and Bruce Cassidy, are still with their respective teams.
Series tied at one
The other semi-final match-up heads north, where the Golden Knights will be the first U.S.-based team to play in Canada since last season’s Bubble Tournament. If they want to win, they probably shouldn’t let the Habs score first (they are 9-1 when they score the first goal).