For the fifth time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. In the previous four opportunities the Lightning won the series. If they can pull it off again, it’s another date with the Eastern Conference/Semi-Finals, which would mark the sixth time in the last nine seasons.
It seems a foregone conclusion that they are going to advance past the Florida Panthers, but as Coach Cooper likes to remind everyone, they really haven’t done anything until they’ve won the fourth game of the series. It might be tempting for some, on a back-to-back and with a 3-0 series lead, for the Lightning to give Andrei Vasilevskiy a break and start Brian Elliott.
If this was the regular season, sure, no problem, but this is the playoffs, a most different beast. No win should be taken for granted. A win today wraps up the series and extends the Lightning postgame winning streak to six games. It would also give them a pretty nice break as they wait for the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes.
Also, the Florida Panthers aren’t the type of team you want to give any sort of life to no matter where the series stands. They’ve spent all season coming back in their games and they have the offense to turn things around in a hurry. Now, their defense has been another story so far in this series.
Why keep Vasilevskiy in net? Well, let’s turn to Coach Cooper once again,
“We’ve broken down at times and Vasy’s been there to bail us out.”
Against the Panthers breakdowns often turn to goals against regular goaltenders. Having Vasilevskiy back there gives the Lightning the best shot to win an end this series now. In three games so far he’s posted a .971 SV%, 1.00 GAA, and 6.88 GSAx. He’s doing exactly what the Lightning need him to do, stopping the first shot and letting his teammates clean things up. A breakaway stop on Sam Reinhart early, a left pad save on Reinhart with the score 1-1, a shoulder stop on Jonathan Huberdeau, and 31 other saves frustrated the Panthers all day long.
“He’s a great goalie,” Huberdeau said after the game, “but eventually he’s going to let one in that’s going to help us.”
With the way he’s playing, that “eventually” may be next October, so why give the Panthers a shot at regaining their confidence by starting Elliott? Vasy is in their heads right now. The Lightning are starting to figure things out at 5v5, Three of their five goals were scored at even strength, something they have struggled with this series.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning win 5-1, extend series lead to 3-0 [Raw Charge]
Midway through the second, the Bolts were leading 2-1 when the Panthers threw everything they had at them on the power play. Ryan McDonagh deflected a shot away from an open Lightning net to preserve the lead. Then Steven Stamkos went down and ripped one home to make it 3-1. It could be the turning point that wraps up the series for the Lightning.
The post game quotes from the Panthers referenced in this article are a bit bleak. Florida sounds like a team that has had their confidence broken by the Lightning. Still, the series isn’t over yet Tampa Bay has to put them away.
Maple Leafs re-sign Mark Giordano for 2 more years [Pension Plan Puppets]
The veteran blueliner took a hometown discount to stay in Toronto as he signed a two-year extension that will carry an $800,000 cap hit each season. It’s a solid signing for a team that seams on the cusp of making it out of the first round.
Jordan Binnington out for the rest of Round Two [St. Louis Game Time]
Ville Husso is the new number one netminder for the Blues now as Binnington is out with a lower-body injury. Charlie Lindgren was recalled from Springfield and will be Husso’s back-up for the foreseeable future.
Sam Girard out for the rest of the playoffs [Mile High Hockey]
It was revealed that Girard suffered a broken sternum on the hit from Ivan Barbashev in Game Three of their series.
Kadri was involved in the collision that injured Binnington and following the game were threats made that the Avalance have acknowledged and forwarded to the police.
Yesterday’s Other Games
New York Rangers 3, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Carolina leads series 2:1
Mika Zibanejad scored midway through the first and Chris Kreider added another early in the second. Igor Shesterkin locked in down from there with 43 saves. Carolina had 75 shot attempts in the game with New York blocking 17 of them.
Edmonton Oilers 4, Calgary Flames 1
Edmonton leads series 2:1
Evander Kane recorded a hat trick and Leon Draisaitl had four assists as the Oilers took a surprising 2-1 lead in the series. Milan Lucic was kicked out of the game after he ran Mike Smith:
Colorado leads series 2:1