The Tampa Bay Lightning improved to 6-1 on the road during these playoffs. That’s pretty dang impressive. The Lightning became the 73rd team to reach six road wins during a single playoff. The franchise record is 8, set in 2014-15, when the Lightning went 8-5 on the road. The 2003-04 team went 7-3 on the road on the way to the Stanley Cup.
Stamkos is right. This group has learned a lot over the past eight years. They’ve grown up. They’ve learned about adversity on the ice and what it means. They’ve figured out how to play a more consistent game at home and on the road. Coming into the playoffs as the third seed in the division gave the Lightning plenty of early opportunities to put what they’ve learned into practice. They opened with two wins on the road against the Florida Panthers. They won all three of their road games against the Carolina Hurricanes. Now they’ve taken the first one on the Island, taking the first game 2-1 over the Islanders.
Possession stats, unless otherwise noted, are 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted from NaturalStatTrick.com (NST).
Last night’s game was a bit of a quirky one. The Lightning started off flat, with the team looking like they were back in the first game of the series up until the first commercial break. After that, the team looked much better and generated some dangerous changes. While they got 54.24% of the shot share, they were highly effective in blocking shots leading to a 65.02% share of xG.
The Islanders were still getting quality chances when the puck would make it past all the bodies between the shooter and the net. But the Lightning were the more dangerous team in the first period.
Shot Danger is a simple calculation; Expected Goals For / Fenwick For * 100 expressed as a percentage. While expected goals models don’t really work this way, you can make a generalization that the above formula will give you the average percentage chance of an unblocked shot attempt going into the net and becoming a goal.
By NST’s numbers, the league average for Shot Danger at 5v5 is somewhere around 5.0-5.5%. It varies year to year a bit, but it’s usually in that vicinity. The Lightning had a shot danger of 7.5% in the first period which is pretty good. The Islanders managed a Shot Danger of 5.9%. Still a bit above average, but not nearly as good as the Lightning in terms of generating dangerous shots.
The second period started out similarly for the Lightning, but then the Islanders turned on a switch. Somewhere around the eight minute mark of the second, the Islanders got a long grinding shift in the Lightning’s zone. It seemed like from there on in, the Lightning struggled to get out of their zone, through the neutral zone, and to find any sustained pressure in the offensive zone. The script had been completely flipped on them. Likewise, the third period was the Islanders pushing and pushing with the Lightning turtling up, which we’ve seen before has a tendency to end poorly.
In the second period, the Lightning had a Shot Danger of 4.8% and followed that with an even worse 3.8% in the third period as they collapsed around their own net. In contrast, the Isles ratcheted up the pressure in the second, creating a lot of chaos around the net and just out from it, with a 9.1% shot danger. Just... just think about that for a second. On average, an unblocked shot attempt for the Islanders in the second period should go in 9.1% of the time. They ended up with 1.31 xG for the second period and they did get one goal in, though it was partially the result of a gaff by Erik Cernak that let the Islanders fourth line bang the puck in. The Lightning were able to settle it down a little in the third, but they still gave the Islanders quality chances as the Isles put up a 7% Shot Danger in the third.
Chalk this win up as being largely due to Andrei Vasilevskiy. Brayden Point has been scoring goals at a high rate. Nikita Kucherov has been setting Point up for goals at a high rate. But the real team MVP of the playoffs thus far has to be Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Islanders had 2.7 xG at 5v5 and he allowed one. In All Situations (no score or venue adjustment), the Islanders had 3.15 xG and Vasilevskiy allowed one.
When the Lightning haven’t been able to take over a game with their superior shooting talent out performing their expected goals for performance, it’s been Vasilevskiy that’s been out performing his expectations.
Following Goals Saved Above Expected stats from Evolving-Hockey.com.
After game two against the Islanders, Andrei Vasilevskiy overtook Connor Hellebuyck for the playoff lead in goals saved above expected. Here’s where Vasilevskiy’s Goals Saved Above Expected has been going into and through this series.
- Entering the series - 7.38
- After Game One - 8.09 (+0.71)
- After Game Two - 9.51 (+1.42)
- After Game Three - 11.52 (+2.01)
In this series alone, Vasilevskiy has saved an additional 5 goals above expected. To put that into simpler words, if Vasilevskiy was performing like an average NHL goaltender, the Islanders should have scored five more goals throughout this series. If Vasilevskiy was average, the Lightning could just as easily be down 1-2 or 0-3 in this series. Instead, they have a 2-1 lead in the series.
- Brayden Point set a franchise record by scoring a goal in his sixth straight playoff game. He is the 17th player to put together a streak that long in playoff history. It’s the longest streak since Martin Havlat did it for the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06. There’s also some really impressive names that are ahead of him on this list... Jean Beliveau, Pat LaFontaine, Mario Lemieux, Maurice Richard, Joe Sakic. Historic names and Point is up there with them in the record book. The NHL record is 10 set by Reggie Leach with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976, but second place is a seven game streak.
- The Cirelli line looked really good last night. One of the best games I’ve seen from them in some time. Those three, along with Barclay Goodrow, were the only forwards to finish above 50% in CF%. They were also the only three forwards to finish above 50% in xGF. Cirelli in particular ended up with a 80.73% CF% and 95.68 xGF%. At no point during the game did Andrei Vasilevskiy have to stop a shot when Anthony Cirelli was on the ice. The Isles Shot Danger when Cirelli was on was a whopping 1.7%. That means that all of their shots that weren’t blocked were coming from the points or very bad angles from the boards, and all three missed the net.
- Despite reportedly playing through an injury for much of this season, Victor Hedman was a beast last night. He played 26:37 overall and played around four of the last five minutes of the game with the Lightning defending a one goal lead.
- Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta were both lost to the locker room during the last five minutes of the game. Cernak blocked a shot and was stung by it. Rutta took a shoulder to the head from Matt Martin that went uncalled. After the game, Cooper said that he expected both to be alright and ready to go for game four.
- Here’s the ice time for each defenseman in the last five minutes of the game: Savard 0:31, Sergachev 0:48, Rutta 0:56, Cernak 0:57, McDonagh 2:45, Hedman 4:03. The last five minutes was basically Hedman and McDonagh. Hedman did that on just two shifts too. Cernak and McDonagh came off the ice with 4:49 left and Hedman came on. He played 1:44. He came off the ice for 46 seconds and then went back on and played the last 2:19 of the third period. Talk about a beast.
- It’s great that the Lightning came out of this game with a win. Thank whatever or whoever you believe in for Andrei Vasilevskiy being a member of this team. The Lightning have work to do though. They obviously didn’t play their best game. They let the Isles dictate large stretches of it and dominate the puck. It was much like game one, but the difference was that Vasilevskiy was a little better than Varlamov and in game one it was the opposite in net. The Lightning need to continue to fix their mistakes and their lapses. Don’t look at this game and go “It’s fine, we won anyways!” because that won’t always happen.
- Process Over Results.