Lightning lead series 3:2
Location: Amalie Arena
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent’s SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
The Lightning have put themselves in a position to advance to their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final. Now, as Coach Cooper likes to say, they have to pick up the toughest win of any series - the fourth one. Despite the fact that he acknowledges that they are tough, the Lightning have been pretty good at picking them up.
This season they are 2-0 when having a chance to eliminate their opponent. That’s somewhat of a change over the previous two years where they had a bit of a struggle closing games out having dropped five games over that span. Of course, they’ve ended up finishing off all of those series in the next game so it’s been a case of joy delayed instead of joy denied. Overall when playing in a game where they can eliminate an opponent they are 10-5 in the last three postseasons. Pretty darn good.
How can they run that to 11-5 tonight? Simply by playing like they have over the last three games. Control the puck, shut down the middle of the ice, and for goodness sake, stay out of the penalty box. Over the last three games the Rangers have recorded just one goal at 5v5, Ryan Lindgren’s shortside goal in Game Five. That’s a drastic change from the 8 5v5 goals New York scored in the first two games.
The Lightning haven’t exactly lit up the scoreboard on their own end with 6 5v5 goals over the last three games, not exactly the Gretzky Oilers, but its been good enough. Especially coupled with the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy as he’s gotten back into his playoff groove posting a cumulative 3.12 goals saved above expected in all situations during the three game winning streak compared to the -3.26 he posted in the first two games.
Better puck possession, timely saves, and an opportunistic offense has flipped the script in this series for the Lightning. They can’t relax at this point. New York may be down, but they are not out, not as long as Igor Shesterkin is between the pipes. He’s been good, but not consistently great. Still, with goaltenders you never know. The Lightning need to do what they did in Game Three (throw a bunch of pucks at him) and Game Five (screen him). Make his life difficult.
Coach Cooper gets to control the match-ups again, so expect the Anthony Cirelli line to see their share of work against the Chris Kreider line. There was some criticism among Rangers fans about the lack of 5v5 playing time for the “Kid” line in Game Five. There is some validity to that complaint as all three players are leading the Rangers in possession in this series.
There seems to be a chance that Brayden Point could make his return to the line-up tonight. If he does, that will most likely bump Cirelli down to the third line with Nick Paul and Corey Perry. If he doesn’t, well, the 12/6 has been working. There is a chance Coach Cooper goes back to an 11/7 rotations, especially since Ryan McDonagh and Zach Bogosian seemed to have been banged up a little in Game Five.
The Lightning can’t assume the Rangers have had their spirit broken yet. This Rangers team was written off in both of their previous series yet managed to come back. Finish them off tonight and don’t let the randomness of a Game Seven come into play.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Nick Paul - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon - Riley Nash - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Zach Bogosian
New York Rangers Potential Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Barclay Goodrow - Kevin Rooney - Tyler Motte
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Justin Braun - Braden Schneider