Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some Thoughts on a Not So Good Horrible Game Six

You didn’t think they would do it the easy way did you?  You didn’t really think that they would win Game 6 at home and enjoy a couple of days off before diving headlong into the franchise’s second Stanley Cup Final?  If you did, then you haven’t been watching this year’s Tampa Bay Lightning for very long.  If there is a hard way to accomplish a task, this team will find a way to do it.

It’s hard to find any bright spots in a 7-3 loss, especially when a win would have propelled them into the final round, but let’s take a stab at it.

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy got some more ice time and, despite allowing a goal, lowered his post season numbers.  He also looked a lot more comfortable than his previous relief experience. Of course he’s still rocking a 5.74 GAA so I don’t think Coach Cooper is turning to him in Game 7.

2. Nikita Kucherov.  MY BOY NIKITA KUCHEROV scored two goals in the third to make things a slight more interesting for a while.  The Rangers have trouble keeping up with that line no matter what the game situation is. When it was 5-2 you could feel a slight disturbance among the New York fans. If only the Lightning could have figured out how to keep that line on the ice for the next 13 minutes.

3. There are two days off between games. You would think that with New York being the older team they would benefit from the extra time off, but the Lightning are a little banged up.  Two days might be enough to get Cedric Paquette back into the line up, help Braydon Coburn stop throwing up and have Andrej Sustr remember that he is actually a decent defenseman.

4. They didn’t lose in triple overtime.  At least they didn’t cost us any sleep while losing. I believe the narrative is that it is easier to get over a blowout loss than a heartbreaking one.

5. They weren’t eliminated.

The last point is the most important.  We can debate all day long about who had more pressure on them to win Game 6, but in the end, the Lightning had a game to give and the Rangers didn’t. So, the only team facing a “must win” situation was New York. We’ve all heard the Rangers stats when facing elimination.  Well you know which goalie has yet to lose when facing elimination?  It’s not Henrick. That’s right Ben Bishop has never lost an elimination game!  Sure he’s only played in two, but I can have fun with stats.

Speaking of the Rangers and their elimination game record, can I take a moment to thank FIFA for temporarily interrupting my Twitter feed? It was nice to read about wire fraud instead of the 30th consecutive post about New York never losing a Game 7 at home or running their record in elimination games to 654-3.  Thanks corrupt soccer cronies!

I’ve come to accept the fact that this is bizarro playoff season.  The Lightning dominated on home ice during the regular season so why not lose their last two home playoff games by giving up 12 goals?  Tampa can’t score on the power play during the regular season?  Of course, they’re clicking along at 22% in the post-season.  The Triplets are an unstoppable offensive force over the course of 81 games? Well…..some things stay the same.

So I wasn’t horribly bummed out by the loss on Tuesday night. Granted I didn’t watch any of it until they were already down 3-1 and I had a bit to drink before that (date night with The Duchess!). But going into that game I wasn’t really that confident they were going to win. There was a little too much talk about not wanting to go back to New York, as if they had broken the Rangers spirit with the Game 5 win.

As a young team we’ve already seen that they have had trouble closing out series.  The few times they got momentum in the opening round against Detroit they fumbled it away.  Then, after having the Canadiens on the ropes, they let them back into the series as well. In both series they’ve managed to play their best game when they’ve needed to (read: Ben Bishop has played his best) and hopefully they can do that again on Friday.

It would have been nice if they had wrapped it up Tuesday night. Just like it would be nice if they would sometimes shoot the puck at the net instead of trying to make one more pass. Or chip the puck up the boards instead of throwing it into the center of the ice in your defensive zone and hope your teammate gets to it first.  Or not give up 2-on-1s when they’re on the power play.  But then they wouldn’t be the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning.

OH MY GOD GUYS I SCORED! I SCORED A GOAL! (photo by Scott Audette/Getty Images)

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