Yet, this isn’t just playoff coach speak. Coach Cooper is dead on with his assessment. On Wednesday night, the Lightning need to be the team that plays as if their season is on the line. They need to be the team winning the battles along the boards and in front of the net. Because all it takes is one. One win and the Canadiens, with their all-world goalie, are right back in this series.
Don’t expect the Lightning to slip six goals past Carey Price in a game again. As a matter of fact, it might be hard for them to score six times the rest of the series. He is good, he is elite-level good. And while he might have the same number of Stanley Cups as Ben Bishop (zero) he is the one player that can steal the series for the Canadiens. So they need to keep the pressure on him, keep shooting at all angles and attacking the net for rebounds.
Steven Stamkos, with his first goal since dinosaurs roamed the earth, is primed to go on a scoring binge. Tyler Johnson, held goalless in Game 2, is hopefully over his slump and will keep #ThatLine going (tangent alert: I guess their nickname is officially The Triplets since that’s how the Tampa Bay Times, the paper of record, refers to them. That’s a shame, I really like The TKO Line. But then again I’m a boxing fan so it holds a special spot in my heart. Oh, the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight? Did you really expect anything different? Mayweather wasn’t going to engage and the Pac-Man is gun-shy. There I said it. For all the past excitement he provided us, he is now a shot fighter. Time for him to hang them up and focus full time on his legacy as a congressman in the Philippines. Thanks for the memories Manny, now go do good).
It would be reassuring if the Lightning could keep the offense rolling (and the power play), but this is playoff hockey and the likelihood of that happening is about as good as me actually editing this article before I post it. Now that their blueline is as healthy as it has been at any point in the season, they don’t need to score 4 goals a game to win. Two or three should do the job.
The Canadiens will be throwing everything they have at the Lightning in Game 3. Expect there to be a lot of traffic in front of, and inside of, Bishop’s crease. Brandon Prust will probably “accidentally” run into him again. The Lightning need to keep their cool and then make them pay on the power play.
One of the reason’s the Red Wings kept up with their hooking, holding, obstructing style of play is that because when the refs did call a penalty, the Lightning couldn’t score a goal with the extra man so there was no incentive to not cheat. A 4-for-8 power play outburst should boost the Lightning’s special team confidence and if they score a goal early with the extra skater it might tamp down the Canadiens’ excesses.
Scoring early would also be a pretty nifty thing for Tampa Bay to do. As maligned a fan base as they are, Tampa fans are really, really loud when they’re fired up. With the screaming, yelling, soccer-style chanting (traditional fans, please just let them have their fun. It’s nice that a section of the fan base wants to do something other than sit on the ass and check their Facebook during the game. Even if you don’t like soccer, it’s no need to bash people who want to bring energy to the game. Now if they start lighting flares off in the arena, well then it’s time to back it down a bit) noise in the background it will be even harder for Montreal to gain momentum.
Plus, as I’ve pointed out, a lot of the Lightning offense comes from turnovers in the neutral zone. So if the Canadiens are down early and pressing, they will be more likely to take chances and then screw up those chances. Tampa is great at taking advantage of screw-ups.
Another reason it would be swell for the Lightning to attack early? Thanks to a now-cancelled Nitro Circus event, Games 3 and 4 are scheduled to be played on back-to-back nights. If the Lightning win Game 3, there is no time for the Canadiens to regroup and figure out a new strategy. They have to come right back on the next night and fight for their playoff lives.
On the flip side, if the Canadiens win Game 3, they have a bit of momentum and could steal Game 4 and before you know it - the series is tied at two games a piece and heading back to Montreal. We really don’t want to see that happen. So, Tampa Bay - keep your foot on their throats and don’t let them up. Get this series over quickly and watch the Caps/Rangers beat each other up for the next week.