After a long (but short) regular season, numerous injuries, three successful playoff rounds, and a solid start to the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning have put themselves in a great spot to win their second championship in a row. While the Game Four loss seems to have rattled a few Lightning fans on social media, the team itself is maintaining it’s stoic approach to the series.
The fourth win is always the hardest and the Lightning aren’t taking the Canadiens lightly. What may seem a fluke to some, is a dedicated approach to what makes Montreal successful. They defend well in their zone, look for opportunities to use their speed to counter-attack, and when all else fails, rely on their goaltender to bail them out. It might not be the most visual style of hockey, but it’s effective.
It does rely on the other team to make mistakes, though. From what we’ve seen over the past two seasons, the Bolts tend to limit those following losses. Expect a clinical precision to the execution of their game plan. Miscues should be hard to come by for Montreal and they will be forced to generate their own offense, something they’ve had trouble doing in this series.
Should the Bolts mess up, history shows us that Andrei Vasilevskiy will be there to bail them out. He doesn’t like losing in the postseason and tends to save his best performances for games following a loss. Prior to Monday’s loss, the Lightning had been defeated six previous times in this postseason. In the six games that followed, all wins by the way, Vasilevskiy allowed a total of 8 goals - with 4 of those coming in the wacky 6-4 win over Carolina in Game Five of those series. He’s posted two straight shutouts following a loss (and three overall) this year. That’s pretty darn good.
He did the same thing last season, allowing just 9 goals in the 6 games following a loss in the bubble. Having that kind of security blanket behind them allows the Lightning to play their aggressive style of offense with the defense free to pinch in since they have the belief that, if they are burned, Vasy will bail them out.
It’s going to be a raucous night in Amalie Arena, and the team should feed off of that energy. Expect them to put pressure on the Canadiens early and force their opponent to chase the game all night long.
Ryan McDonagh is a pretty important guy [Tampa Bay Times]
McDonagh has assisted on three game-winning goals this postseason. From his stretch pass through the neutral zone that sprung Brayden Point for the winner in their Game 1 victory over Florida to Blake Coleman’s diving winner in Game 2 of the final against the Canadiens, it seems like McDonagh has been in the middle of the action.
The league seems fairly certain that the game will go on despite Hurricane Elsa. [ESPN]
Forecasts indicate the worst of the storm will be over by Wednesday afternoon. An NHL source said there was “zero chance” the game would be postponed based on that forecast, barring something unforeseen happening to Amalie Arena, for example.
Lightning turn the page on Game 4 loss [NHL.com]
“They got the goal, and we didn’t. Now we’re going back home, and we have an opportunity again. I think just the whole experience from last year helps us this year, and we’ve just got to be ready from the opening puck drop.” — Anthony Cirelli
Signings continue around the league as teams get things in order a few weeks before the expansion and free agency hit:
- Scott Wedgewood re-signs in in New Jersey. The former Crunch goaltender with make $825,000 on a two-way deal.
- Dominic Toninato is staying in Winnipeg. The forward signed a two-year deal (first year is a two-way deal, the second a one-way) that averages $750,000 per season.
- Christian Wolanin isn’t leaving Los Angeles. He was scheduled to be a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer, but will stay with the Kings in exchange for $750,000 on a two-way deal.
Top pick Owen Power may return to college [Yahoo Sports]
So Power can still be drafted by an NHL organization and remain a part of the franchise while playing hockey at the University of Michigan.
This is a pretty unique situation, however, as not a single No. 1 selection has returned to college instead of turning pro since the draft was implemented in 1963.
Playoff runs may alter Seattle’s expansion draft plans [Seattle Times]
But you also have third-line center Yanni Gourde at a similar $5.17 million annually through those same three years. Gourde, 29, has excelled this postseason as a forechecking beast that gets under everybody’s skin, while adding six goals
There are a lot of hockey players that can refer to themselves as Jaromir Jagr’s former teammate. So many, that at least one has appeared in a Stanley Cup final every year since 1980.