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NHL Eastern Conference Final Game Night: 9-11-20 Lightning v Islanders

Lightning let the Islanders slip the noose.


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the loss. Bum luck on the first goal where his pad strap came undone and he was out there having to play basically on one leg. He probably wants the Beauvillier goal back that snuck under his arm, but I can't get too mad given the coverage bust there.

First Period
12:58 NYI Clutterbuck (Pulock, Martin)
16:31 TB Sergachev (2), (Gourde)

Second Period
11:50 NYI Pelech (1), (Pageau, Barzal)
13:50 NYI Beauvillier (9), (Nelson, Toews)

Third Period
2:32 TB Palat (7), (Kucherov, Sergachev)(PP)
12:04 TB Johnson (4), (Cernak, Verhaeghe)
16:35 NYI Nelson (8), (Beauvillier, Bailey)
19:24 NYI Pageau (8), (Bailey)(EN)

Mikhail Sergachev was the game's second star.

Despite having Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point out with injury and Alex Killorn out due to suspension and despite brain cramping their way to a two goal Third Period deficit, the Lightning had this game and this series in the palm of their hands and they let the Islanders off the hook. I'm so incredibly frustrated with this one. The Lightning, despite having two rookies in the lineup and missing their Conn Smythe contender Point, had the possession advantage in this game and for the life of me looked like they had the Islanders on the ropes most of the Third Period and were ready to put the Islanders on the canvas for good. They were first on pucks. They were the aggressor on the forecheck. But, my goodness, they let the Islanders off the hook with unforced turnovers and errors all night and you'll never in your life see a more egregious turnover than that hand grenade pass Ryan McDonagh threw poor Barclay Goodrow to hand this game to the Islanders and give them a lifeline in a series it felt like the Lightning were about to take an insurmountable lead in. There's more blame than that to go around. An awfully soft clear attempt by Mitchell Stephens after a fine PK that led to the Islanders' second goal that gets a rookie busted down to the AHL in normal times. A coverage bust between Shattenkirk and McDonagh in a 4-on-4 situation leaving Beauvillier wide open on the Islanders' third goal. Nikita Kucherov target shooting a point shot into a shot blockers shin pads on the empty netter after the Lightning got a good faceoff win and looked setup to make a push for the tying goal. It's just frustrating. You expect a mistake like that from the rookie Stephens, perhaps, but a veteran like McDonagh can't make the kind of bonehead plays he made tonight. Can't happen. And it's not as if it's a hard work beating talent scenario. The Lightning outworked the Islanders tonight. The possession stats show about a 3:2 disparity in shot attempts, but the Lightning just kept gifting the Isles cheap scoring chances on dumb plays.

Man I'm salty. This should be a 3-0 series lead right now. So annoying.

Silver lining: Alex Killorn is coming back next game and if I had to guess there's a pretty sizable chance Brayden Point will be back for Game Five. And, even without those pieces in the lineup, I think tonight really underscored the talent disparity between the two teams. If the Lightning continue to work as hard as they have been and clean up some of the idiocy we witnessed tonight they'll likely have the Isles down on the canvas by this time Sunday night.

Stephens was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:07. Where he did shine, despite his goat horns on the second Isles goal, was in going 82% on 11 draws to spearhead an evening where the team overall hit 58% in the circles. You hate to see all that squandered by brain cramps (talking about the whole team now, not just Stephens).

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Eastern Conference Final Game Night: 9-9-20 Islanders v Lightning

Mine eyes have seen the glory...


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. Timely saves upon timely situational saves in a tight 1-1 contest giving his undermanned team the time to manufacture an amazing victory.

First Period
1:24 NYI Martin (5), (Leddy)
18:25 TB Hedman (7), (Goodrow)

Second Period

Third Period
19:51 TB Kucherov (6), (McDonagh)

Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Well, it was mostly the worst of times. The Lightning, who iced eleven forwards and seven defensemen in the game, lost Alex Killorn to a match penalty boarding major and then later lost Brayden Point to injury putting them down to nine forwards a large part of the game. They had to kill the major penalty in the First Period. They had to kill a 5-on-3 in the Third Period. By all rights, with the adversity thrown in their path, the Lightning had every excuse to pack this one in and move along to Friday night. But, they manufactured a tying goal off a faceoff win in the First Period and, despite their overall manpower disadvantage and heavy legs, they outworked the Islanders for large swaths of the Second and Third Period. You'll never hear this on NBCSN, which has now moved on from acting like North Korean state TV in their Bruins boosterism to being the foremost source for fair and balanced coverage of Matthew Barzal's eminent greatness and generally legendary awesomeness (they're super-objective like that), but the Lightning's expected goals at both 5v5 and in all situations actually was better than the Islanders tonight. That's despite having to kill the major and the 5-on-3. The Lightning didn't luck their way into this win. They earned it. They outplayed the Islanders against all odds.

And, speaking of NBCSN, who in their postgame had the gall to call Nikita Kucherov invisible in this game? Oh my goodness. These people spent the entire game slathering praise on Matthew Barzal like he was the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Matt Barzal: expected goals for was .28 and expected goals against was .76 (net -.48). Nikita Kucherov: expected goals for was .95 and expected goals against was .48 (net +.47). But please, proceed to tell us all how Nikita Kucherov is a bum and Matthew Barzal can both walk on water and turn it into wine. Clown shoes. Shark jumping clown shoes. Any northern market team that did what the Lightning did tonight would've been lauded for having the heart of a lion and the soul of the champion. The Lightning? "Well Jonesy, let's slag on the guy who scored the game winning goal and then talk about how Brayden Point's injury portends doom for the team despite their 2-0 series lead." It's so ridiculously bad. So unbelievably, ridiculously bad. It's infuriating.

So, get well soon Brayden Point, because if he can bounce back quickly the Lightning look ready to make this a short series because, as well as the table was set for the Islanders in every way in this one, if they couldn't pull off this win they may not have a win in them.

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Eastern Conference Final Game Night: 9-7-20 Islanders v Lightning

Lightning construct a snowman over the burned out remains of the Islanders goaltending corps(e).


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the victory. Made his situational saves especially later in the First Period and then drank from a cool mountain stream named goal support.

First Period
1:14 TB Point (7), (Coleman, Schenn)
4:33 NYI Eberle (4), (Lee, Barzal)(PP)
8:12 TB Hedman (6), (Point, Kucherov)(PP)
10:46 TB McDonagh (1), (Kucherov, Sergachev)

Second Period
4:03 TB Gourde (4), (Maroon, Shattenkirk)
13:18 TB Point (8), (Hedman, Kucherov)(PP)

Third Period
5:51 TB Kucherov (5), (Point, Shattenkirk)
8:46 NYI Leddy (3), (Lee, Eberle)
9:31 TB Palat (6), (Point, Kucherov)
13:15 TB Gourde (5), (Shattenkirk, Hedman)(PP)

Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

After a Boston series that pretty much to script, tonight's game did not at all follow any sort of reason or rhyme other than the Lightning just beat the crap out of the Islanders. I thought with the layoff they would look flat, but they dominated 5v5 play in the First Period. The game was chopped up by a lot of special teams, which hasn't been the Lightning's forte in this playoffs, but it didn't matter. The Lightning just had it cooking tonight and once the goal horn sounded for an after-the-fact video review to award Yanni Gourde his first goal of the game to make it 4-1 in the early Second Period the rout was on. And every time the Isles tried to push back, the Lightning seemed ready to physically punk the Islanders back into submission. Luke Schenn built a penthouse apartment in Brock Nelson's head for as much as he physically messed with Nelson after whistles, even after the game was well out of hand and there was no big reason for the Lightning to be the aggressors.

If you're the Lightning you have to expect the Islanders to make a stand in Game Two. The Lightning's confidence has to be soaring and the Islanders' has to be in the toilet and their young players looked frustrated beyond belief. Physically, given how much energy they've exerted to this point, the Isles can't fall down 2-0 and put themselves in a position where they have to win four out of five to advance. They just won't have the gas. And, more importantly, psychologically that team has to prove it's capable of competing with the Lightning after losing a playoff series to the Lightning in the not too too distant past in 2016 and getting smashed 8-2 in Game One of their second playoff series against Tampa Bay in four years. If you're the Lightning, if you can get the first goal or two on the Islanders Wednesday night you might just break the Isles' belief. Yes, Trotz is a warlock. Yes, I expect a much better effort from the Islanders in Game Two. But, if you're the Lightning, you have the chance to throw a drowning team an anvil in Game Two and they look like this year they might just have that killer instinct to do so.

Who should the Isles start in Game Two? Um, zero good options there. Greiss has already lost to the Lightning in a playoff series and he went out really quick tonight. Varlamov, by the end of the game in his relief stint, looked ready to cry. Unless they've got Ken Dryden in his prime stashed in one of their road trunks, they've got problems. And, even if the skaters in front of them play better in Game Two, if they can't get a plus performance from whoever they roll out in that contest they may be cooked.

Victor Hedman only had to play 20:31 in that game? It's a big enough advantage for the Lightning just to have the guy, but to give him nights where he can have a mortal person's workload to conserve energy, too?

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Playoff Game Night: 8-31-20 Bruins v Lightning

In the deep waters of double OT, Victor Hedman finally drowned the Boston Bruins.

TB-3 (2OT)

Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-1

Andrei Vasilevkiy allowed 2 goals on 47 shots for the victory. The difference between this being a short series and this being a razor thin difficult series was goaltending. We'll never know how Boston would've fared with Rask between the pipes, but Vasilevskiy ultimately was the difference maker in Game Four and Game Five that put this series on ice.

First Period

Second Period
4:21 TB Palat (5), (Shattenkirk, Coleman)
12:38 BOS Pastrnak (3), (Krejci, Bergeron)(PP)

Third Period
12:03 TB Cirelli (2), (Hedman, Point)
17:27 BOS Krejci (4), (Chara, Clifton)


Double Overtime
14:10 TB Hedman (5), (Shattenkirk, Point)

Victor Hedman and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and second stars.

My thought on this series was always that Boston's lack of depth was their Achilles heel and that the Lightning would eventually wear them out and finish them off. I did not expect that scenario to play out even under the adverse conditions that occurred tonight with Nikita Kucherov getting hurt in the Second Period and the Lightning being forced to play a game with just 10 forwards. For a time it looked like the script might be flipped on the Lightning with a numerically deeper Bruins team capable of tilting the ice, and they did that for about a 20 minute swath of play between midway through the Third Period and halfway through the first OT. After that, though, I could not believe what I saw as the Lightning really kind of took over the game for the final 24 minutes or so of play. The Lightning's forwards, to their eternal credit (and partly thanks to a very good puckmoving backline that supported them really well) managed to tilt the ice on the Bruins and eventually Boston wilted to the point Hedman finally finished them off. It's the script I expected at the beginning of the series, but not the way I expected it. Tampa Bay actually caught Boston is expected 5v5 goals by the end of the game and missed catching them in overall expected goals by a hair (3.82 to 3.78). That's just remarkable considering 10 forwards.

Kudos to NBCSN, btw, for throwing an Irish wake for the Bruins instead of giving credit to the Lightning for what they accomplished. If you're keeping score at home, between our 2018 playoff series and this one, the Lightning are 8-2 against the mighty Bruins. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it NBCSN, Jack Edwards, and any other media who refuses to accept that Boston is a structurally flawed one line team who can't match up to what Tampa Bay has built.

The next series is a different beast, with the New York Islanders looking like they may well be the opponent. The Isles are like Columbus on steroids, albeit possibly without the red hot goaltender. That series is going to require all hands on deck for Tampa Bay, so at this hour we live in hope Kucherov is just nicked up and will be ready to go for Game One. Tampa Bay is halfway up the mountain, but this year there's no doubt the bigger challenges are closer to the summit.

Box score and extended statistics from

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