Tampa Bay tore up the memo that this series would be Sunrise’s coronation.
Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed one goal on 34 shots for the victory. Pretty much every pundit in the universe was acting like this series was a foregone conclusion, but last I checked playoff hockey leans a lot on goaltending, and the Lightning still have the best goaltender on Planet Earth.
14:01 FLA Duclair (1), (Huberdeau, Montour)
16:22 TB Perry (3), (Kucherov)(PP)
3:35 TB Bellemare (2), (Perry, Maroon)
15:54 TB Kucherov (3), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
17:44 TB Colton (4), (Paul, Sergachev)(PP)
Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, and Corey Perry were the game’s three stars.
One team showed up to the rink tonight reading their press clippings and one team showed up at the rink tonight on a mission to manufacture a win. The conventional wisdom going into this series seemed to be to be insanely unwise. Sunrise was supposed to get some magic bounce in their play because they finally won a playoff series for the first time since Bill Clinton was President. Nevermind the fact they looked horrible against Washington and if the Caps had anything left they could have and probably should have knocked off Sunrise in five games. So it’s not like little brother was playing great hockey coming into this series. The other pearl all the pundits were dropping was that, somehow, the Lightning were incapable of winning without Brayden Point. Great player. I’m not disrespecting Brayden Point. I would ask these pundits, have we forgotten the Lightning winning a Cup without Steven Stamkos for all but a hiccup? Or the time they won a Cup with Victor Hedman playing at 75% with a torn meniscus? You really think these guys don’t have any idea how to handle adversity and manufacture wins against good teams? Did you not see this team’s run last season?
The Lightning, sans a coverage mistake on Duclair’s goal, played a near perfect road game. Solid defensively. Leaned into the fact they have the best defenseman and goaltender on Earth. Remained patient. Manufactured their goals. Waited for their opponent to become impatient and come unglued. Buried them. MoneyPuck’s Deserve to Win Meter ended up almost 68% on Tampa Bay because from the tail end of the Second Period on they took this game by the throat from a confused and frustrated Panthers team (without Brayden Point!).
I don’t know what the medical situation is with Point. Cooper says he’s day-to-day. That could be complete subterfuge, but I’ll take it at face value, and if it’s true then W’s right now and staying ahead in the series buy time for Brayden Point to heal. So now you don’t have to even think about making a decision on him until Game Three at the earliest and you go into Game Two with a fat stack of house money and the chance to parlay that into stealing another W and buying Point even more time to get right medically. Is Sunrise going to come into the rink next game with more intensity and less undeserved entitlement? Probably. Does that mean a similar formula can’t work to steal Game Two? Not at all. If the Lightning stick to playing a solid defensive game with good puck management they have a puncher’s chance in every single game, and I don’t know why the talking heads in the hockey media don’t get that very obvious fact. If they want to cry that it’s not entertaining hockey, I don’t give a damn. It’s winning hockey, so buckle up and grab a note pad. This is how greatness gets done.