For the third time this postseason, and only the fourth time in their last three postseasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning are facing elimination. Down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche they have slid down to the end of their rope and are hanging on by their fingernails.
There is now no more room for error. The team that has found a way all season long has to do it again. They may be tired, they may be hurting, but they are still breathing, and that’s enough to get things started. The trick will be to outwork, out-chance, and outlast the Avalanche, a franchise itching to complete their own journey from the bottom.
It does seem that Colorado has received the lion’s share of the breaks in the series, but as usual, the team that puts themselves in the best position usually “gets” the most luck. The Lightning are going to need to take more chances in order to generate their own bounces. Lucky for them they have Andrei Vasilevskiy ready to cover up their mistakes. He’s been pretty good during this run when the Bolts have needed them.
2021 - Game 7 - New York Islanders:
0 goals allowed, 21 saves, 100% first save on an expected 93.11% first save, 2.14 goals saved above expected
2022 - Game 6 - Toronto Maple Leafs:
3 goals allowed, 33 saves, 93.88% first save on an expected 93.91% first save, -0.01 goals saved above expected
2022 - Game 7 - Toronto Maple Leafs:
2 goal allowed, 31 saves, 97.92% first save on an expected 92.87% first save, 2.42 goals saved above expected.
Three games, three wins and two dominating performances. Even in his worst game he made the stops that were expected of him. The game plan is usually for Vasy to become a brick wall long enough for the Lightning offense to score just enough to win (all three wins came by just one goal).
With the exception of Game Two in this series, the Lightning have gone toe-to-toe with the most prolific team they’ve faced over the last three years. Be it for a couple of breaks, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Lightning could be up 3-1 in the series. However, they are down an it’s time to leave it all on the ice. Expect everyone to be diving in front of shots when the puck is in the Lightning zone, it’s going to take a miracle for a shot from the point to get through the traffic they are going to build in front of Vasy.
With the Lightning pressing in the offensive zone there are going to be some breakaways for the Avalanche along with some odd-man rushes. That seems to be when he’s at his best in these types of games. Every time he makes one of those high-reflex saves it saps a little bit of energy from the opponent and gives the Lightning a bit of a lift.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning spirits remain high heading into Game Five [Tampa Bay Times]
The Bolts are saying all of the right things. Now they just need to back it up on the ice.
Lightning Cup dynasty on life support, but don’t count them out yet [The Athletic]
“This is not the best situation. But we can make the most of it.”
Patrice Bergeron reportedly returning for 2022-23 season [NBC Sports]
Reports are surfacing that Bergeron, coming off yet another Selke Trophy-winning season, is going to return for another season and will likely sign a one-year deal with Boston. Does that change their rebuilding plans?
Five possible buy-out candidates for this summer [The Hockey News]
The salary cap is going up by a million dollars for next season. That’s going to leave some teams needing to free up some space. Other teams are looking to just cut bait on players. The Hockey News presents five candidates (no members of the Lightning).
Pierre-Luc Dubois to test free agency in 2024 [Yahoo Sports]
Dubois is currently a RFA who won’t hit the unrestricted free agent market until after the 2023-24 season. Could this be a negotiating tactic to lock up a long-term deal with the Winnipeg Jets before that happens? Possibly.
Vegas Golden Knights reportedly sign Reilly Smith to a 3-year deal [Knights on the Ice]
Smith was scheduled to hit the unrestricted free agent market this summer, but instead is reportedly re-signing with the Golden Knights for a 3-year, $5 million per deal. At this point it seems to be a verbal agreement.