Lightning Round: Reflecting on the first four games of Round 1

Measuring up the Tampa Bay Lightning four games into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they have been put on the brink by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lightning Round: Reflecting on the first four games of Round 1
Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning via Twitter

Four games into the first round and the Tampa Bay Lightning are in a tough position. They just lost both games at home heading into the elimination games, and the chances of seeing the home crowd again is basically a coin toss. Maybe they can force a Game 6, but the series would need to dramatically change if the Lightning want to host Round 2.

It's just how it is. The Lightning out-played the Leafs in Game 3, but lost it. They had a three-goal advantage in Game 4, and blew it. You don't get more chances than that, especially when those were the home ice advantage games.

As for what I believe the team is missing, it mostly goes in line with the series preview I posted. Yes, they miss Erik Cernak in front of the net, moving bodies and recovering rebounds. But I think they miss Ryan McDonagh more. They miss that #3 guy who leads the defensive section of the defense. Ian Cole ain't getting the job done. A McDonagh in the #3 spot pushes everyone else down and saves third-pair calibre guys from having to play higher (Cole, Bogosian, Raddysh). They're missing guys up top like that.

Former coach Derek Lalonde even said on the Canadian broadcast that he notices a big drop-off in who's on the second PK unit for the Lightning and who are the secondary "guys" that need to defend leads. Both of Toronto's goals in the last game came against the second unit after the first unit successfully stopped the power play from gaining a foothold.

Cap space was a hindrance over the summer to adding big players – and I will say that's partially on JBB for some of his signings (Myers, Cole) – but the Lightning had chances to put guys high in their lineup through the trade deadline.

Is a comeback possible, yes they're always possible. The Leafs have blown 3-1 series leads before. At forward, Horvat, Bertuzzi, O'Reilly, Meier. On defense, Ekholm, Orlov, McCabe. But instead those players went to rivals in Boston, Toronto, and elsewhere.

It feels like JBB believed in his group too much, drank the kool-aid, and didn't support them like he needed to.

Here is Justin's recap from last night.

Lightning fail to protect three-goal lead, lose Game Four in overtime, 5-4
The Tampa Bay Lightning built a 4-1 lead with less than ten minutes to go in the third period. Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs scored three times in regulation to tie it and then Alex Kerfoot tipped home the winner in overtime to give Toronto a commanding 3-1 edge in

Lee has the Syracuse Crunch playoff recap. The Crunch's run is going markedly better.

Playoff Crunch Wrap: Delicious Home Cooking
Welcome to the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, Syracuse Crunch fans. There are so many questions revolving around this team. After an up-and-down season, have the Crunch finally flipped the switch? The Groulx Effect so many fans brought to my attention never materialized in the season, but could it be p…

NHL Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 in OT over Tampa Bay Lightning
TOR leads 3-1
Yeah, we know already. The Lightning lose both games at home and travel back to Toronto to stave off elimination on Thursday night.

New Jersey Devils 3-1 over New York Rangers
Series tied 2-2
This is a funny series. The road team has won all four games, meaning New York's commanding advantage heading home got completely wiped out as the Devils found their groove. It's a best-of-three with New Jersey owning Game 7 at home.

Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 over Winnipeg Jets
VGK leads 3-1
Winnipeg is another team on the brink of elimination. Former Bolt Brett Howden had two goals for Vegas.

Seattle Kraken 3-2 in OT over Colorado Avalanche
Series tied 2-2
Seattle's best game of the playoffs keeps them on level ground with the defending champs. This was also Seattle's first home playoff win.

Playoff Schedule Moving Forward

Now, after eight days of 16 teams alternating games, the playoff schedule gets a little wonky. Who made a week 7 days, anyway?

The Lightning and Leafs don't play again until Thursday, New York, New Jersey, Vegas, and Winnipeg are joining them with getting the second day off. Seattle and Colorado are not, they're just playing every other night until the series is over. The Kraken and Avalanche are playing on Wednesday, on the same night as the Bruins and Panthers, who started their two-day break yesterday. This means, the remaining three pairs of teams who play Game 5 tonight (Tuesday) will get their second day off between this game and their Game 6 (Friday).

Basically, three pairs of teams are playing Monday-Thursday, three others are doing Tuesday-Friday, one is doing Sunday-Wednesday, and one is just staying the course.

If that all seems confusing, then you should check out

Through four games, half of the series are tied at two, while the other half have the higher seed up 3-1. There are currently no obvious upsets at the moment. The LA Kings were close to making it happen a couple nights ago, but they let it slip away. Rangers, too, but they lost both games at home.