Location: Amalie Arena
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent’s SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
Through the first two games of this series, it was the New York Rangers dictating the style of play and forcing the Tampa Bay Lightning to make adjustments. With their victory in Game Three, the Lightning managed to flip the script on the series. Add in the the fact that the Rangers might have lost their number two center, Ryan Strome, and now it’s the Rangers that are forced to change how they play if they want to find victory in Tampa tonight.
It’d not really a mystery as to how the Lightning managed to procure a different outcome in the third game of the series. Turnovers. Not of the apple variety, but of the “don’t give the other team the puck” variety. Tampa Bay made it harder for the Rangers to get the puck, harder for them to keep it in the Lightning zone, and harder for them to launch quality attempts at Andrei Vasilevskiy. That pretty much led to a 5v5 shutout for the Bolts. Sure, there were those two pesky power play goals, but short of stealing Mike Zibanajad’s sticks prior to the game, chances are the Rangers are going to get some looks with the extra skater so it would behoove the Lighting to limit the amount of penalties taken (stop running over Igor Shesterkin).
TB-NYR Statcap— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) June 6, 2022
Tampa finally kept the Rangers offense in check, not getting burned on counters or cross-seam plays (although they got a couple through). They had some issues creating clean chances, but Kucherov eventually made a play happen in the final minute. pic.twitter.com/UYoFQOuCIL
Only having 3 turnovers that led to shots was a huge factor in the Lightning’s win on Sunday. They’ll need to maintain that type of puck protection again tonight if they want to even things up and turn this into a best-of-three series.
Not turning the puck over also allowed them to increase the volume of their offense. The one-and-done rushes, or the rushes that were negated with a neutral zone flubbing of the puck translated into more shots on Shesterkin. Sometimes with good goaltenders you just have to keep throwing the puck at them (not literally because that would not count) and work for the lucky bounce or deflection. Waiting for the perfect shot only allows his defenders time to close off lanes and block shots.
Coach Cooper’s ability to match-up his lines worked out well, with three of the Rangers lines posting underwhelming possession numbers and the “Kid Line”, a line that spent most of the first two games weaving around the Lightning zone like they were hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters, was held pretty much in check.
The Rangers may have to deal with some line-up changes as well. Ryan Strome took a love-tap in the back from Ondrej Palat early in Game Three and seemed to pull something in his leg. He returned for a shift and clearly was in discomfort. It sounds like the Rangers expect him to play, but for how long who knows?
Barclay Goodrow, who came back from a blocked-shot related injury in the previous series, took the full brunt of a Victor Hedman slapshot in the third period and was hobbled. While he was able to finish the game, sometimes those types of injuries are worse in the days that follow.
Having to juggle their lines and break up the rotation that works for them could unsettle a young team like New York, especially when Coach Cooper can focus on some of the less-talented replacements that might cycle into the line-up. If Gerard Gallant counters by playing his top lines for more minutes, that could add more wear and tear for later in the series.
As for the Lightning, the 12/6 rotation seemed to work despite Riley Nash’s limited ice time. Chances are Coach Cooper rolls with that again and if Nash struggles on the fourth line, he’ll double-shift a couple of forwards like he did in Game Three.
It would also be nice to get some offensive support from somewhere other than the top line. Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Brandon Hagel, and Nick Paul are pulling their weight when it comes to shutting down the Rangers, but at some point they have to start putting the puck in the net. The Lightning can’t rely on the power play and Nikita Kucherov going beast mode every game.
Hagel/Cirelli/Killorn did show some signs of life in Game Three as they posted 82.76% of the shot attempts at 5v5 when they were on the ice and 100% of the high-danger chances (9-0). Now they have to translate that type of play into actual goals.
The Lightning stopped the slide on Sunday with a win. Now they have to build on that with another solid 60-minute effort tonight. If they do that and pull out the win, things are definitely looking favorable for them moving forward.
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 - 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
Tyler Motte - Barclay Goodrow (?)- Ryan Reaves
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Justin Braun - Braden Schneider