Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers: Game Two
New York leads series 1-0
Location: Madison Square Garden
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent’s SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
After a less-than-optimal start to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to bounce back in Game Two against the New York Rangers. Despite the 6-2 loss don’t expect many changes in the line-up or in the game day strategy. What the coaching staff is looking for is simply better execution.
“We have better in us.”
That’s been Coach Cooper’s mantra after poor games all season long and the same applies after Game One. Hopefully, a return to a normal schedule after their 9-day break helps them find that better before this series gets out of hand. On Wednesday, the Rangers showed that they are more than willing to punish any and all mistakes the Lightning make, so step one will be to limit those mistakes.
Step two will be to protect the slot/middle of the ice. Not necessarily from shots, but from the cross-seam passes that New York loves to use to set up their offense.
NYR-TB Statcap— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) June 2, 2022
Final score undersells how good Shesterkin was in this game. 7 (!) cross-seam passes for the Rangers, which is the same number Toronto had in their entire series against Tampa. Three of them from Panarin & almost half of their controlled entries led to chances. pic.twitter.com/3NH5Qs9pzv
They are a lot like the Lightning in the sense that once they’re set up in the offensive zone, they want to get the defenders chasing the puck so that the seams open up and they can move it east to west for one-timers, especially on the power play:
Artemiy Panarin gets the lateral pass over and Mika Zibanejad's one-timer gives the Rangers a 6-2 lead pic.twitter.com/9gJbaeoniz— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 2, 2022
It’s so hard for a goalie to be able to track the puck and get into position when the opponent is able to move the puck quickly and cleanly from one side of the ice to the other (also note the screen in front that Andrei Vasilevskiy has to look around that delays him just a bit from moving over to stop the shot from Mike Zibanejad). The Lightning are at the best when they clog up that middle area and force teams to work the puck around the perimeter instead of going directly across the ice.
The coaching staff is aware of it and surely it was a focus of any video sessions they’ve had over the last day or so. This team has shown an uncanny ability to adapt to their opponents on a game-to-game basis which is probably one of the reasons they have been able to minimize losing streaks in the playoffs. Expect a more concentrated effort on getting sticks to those passes or just filling the lanes with bodies.
Vasilevskiy also spent most of yesterday’s practice working on drills. While his coach went out of his way to defend his play in Game One, there is no doubt that Vasilevskiy was not happy with the way he played. His determination and focus is well known on the team and no one takes losses harder than he does.
While the opening loss could be attributed to the lackluster play of the Lightning there does seem to be a lack of credit being given to the way the Rangers played. They were really good in Game One and capitalized on every mistake the Lightning made. Zibanejad was launching massive one-timers from the left circle all night and Artemi Panarin had one of his best games of the postseason. Igor Shesterkin was as advertised and the Lightning are going to have to be a lot better at getting second-chance opportunities on him if they want to score more than two goals a night. Nick Paul said as much after the game:
“We know he’s going to make some stops but I think the biggest thing is having a second guy there for the rebounds. If he makes the first stop and there’s a puck there, just getting the puck in the net”
Teams don’t luck their way into the ECF. The Rangers should not be taken lightly and they are more than capable of winning this round. With the way the “Kid Line” is producing they can match the Lightning line for line all night long, something Tampa Bay’s opponents have struggled with in the past.
As for the line-up. Yesterday’s practice did have Cole Koepke skating in the place of Brandon Hagel and Riley Nash as a 12th forward. There are no indications that Coach Cooper is planning a switch to a 12/6 rotation, especially on the road where the extra defenseman allows him to mix his forward lines up a bit more for match-ups.
Hagel has been nursing a lower-body injury since Game Two against the Florida Panthers, but has been getting regular shifts on game day. He played over 13 minutes in Game One and did appear to be laboring a bit, but for now remains in the line-up. Should he not be able to go, it’ll probably be Nash cycling in rather than the rookie Koepke (the ECF would be an interesting place to make a NHL-debut, though).
There were some good signs from Wednesday night. New York does seem content to let the Lightning enter the offensive zone a little easier than Toronto did and if the Lightning keep getting their chances (they were on the positive side in possession in two out of the three periods Wednesday) they will eventually convert them. The key will be sustained pressure in the zone, through. They need to keep puck possession and get their cycle game flowing to get the Rangers defenders moving around and keep Shesterkin off balance.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn
Brandon Hagel - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
New York Rangers Potential Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Tyler Motte - Barclay Goodrow - Ryan Reaves
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Justin Braun - Braden Schneider