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Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Game Four Preview and Game Day Thread

A chance to end the series early

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 4

Lightning lead series 3-0

Location: Amalie Arena

Time: 7:00 PM EST

Broadcast/Streaming: TNT, CBC, TVAS, SN

Opponent’s SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

With their win on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning set themselves up for a chance to grab something extremely precious in the second half of the playoffs - time off. If they manage to complete the sweep of the Florida Panthers tonight, they can expect to have about a week off before starting the next series. For a team that played an exhausting seven-game opening series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, that could be a huge bonus going into the Eastern Conference Finals.

It will also give them a chance to recover from some of the bruises they’ve accumulated this round. On Sunday they blocked another 19 Panther’s shots bringing the series total to 35 in three games. That type of dedication to hurling themselves in front of the puck does take it’s toll after awhile so to go almost a week without having to do that would be nice.

It’s not just the blocked shots, but also some of those nagging injuries picked up in the playoffs will get a chance to heal a little. For instance, Nick Paul took a big check along the boards on Sunday and was favoring his left side throughout the game. How nice would a couple of days feel for his shoulder or ribs or whatever is feeling the pain?

As for tonight, there are some things the Lightning need to improve on based on the comments from Coach Cooper after the game. They were a little sloppy with the puck at times and got to scrambling around in their defensive zone a little more than we had seen during their previous wins. It didn’t cost them the game (thanks to Andrei Vasilevskiy) but they are little traits that tend to creep in and eventually cost them a game.

For the first time in the series the Lightning did manage to hold their own at 5v5 for most of the game, more importantly they controlled the pace of play in the first period with a 63.64% share of unblocked shots and 56.41% xGF. It was an advantage they maintained in the second period as well, and that they were able to translate into goals (finally). The overall game numbers evened out a bit as Florida threw everything they had at them in the third, but the defense held strong and seemingly demoralized the Panthers a bit.

Speaking of demoralizing an offense, Vasilevskiy posted yet another game where he saved more than two goals above expected (his fourth straight such game) and stopped 98% of the first shots he faced. As we’ve mentioned, when the Lightning are rolling Vasy is stopping the initial shot and the players in front of him are cleaning up the rebounds. Such was the case yesterday.

The one drawback to a long layoff that may come with a sweep would be Vasilevskiy possibly falling out of the groove he’s currently in, but honestly, the benefits of a little break outweigh him being rusty for a game in the next round.

Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines

Forwards

Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn

Brandon Hagel - Ross Colton - Corey Perry

Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Defense

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Ryan McDonagh - Zach Bogosian

Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote

Jan Rutta

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Florida Panthers Potential Lines

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Claude Giroux

Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair

Noel Acciari - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart

Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist

Defense

Ben Chiarot - Aaron Ekblad

Gus Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar

Brandon Montour - Radko Gudas

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight