Last night the Lightning opened up with a complete rampage over the Islanders. It was an interesting game insofar as Tampa did not miss the net until the 58 minute mark of the third period. That means that every one of their shots that was not blocked, was either a save or a goal. That might not seem like such a big deal if you’re coming from soccer, however in hockey when there’s 30 or 40 shots it is quite a feat. Last night the Lightning put 33 on Greiss, who was pulled in the first period, and Varlamov amounting to 8 goals.
I mentioned in the series preview that the Islanders would not be able to play the far looser style we saw from them against Philadelphia. This is the Lightning – four lines with excellent skating and an offensive threat. If they are allowed to play with tempo they are going to get looks. New York cannot look to regular season results, and instead accept they are outgunned and focus entirely on their own end of the ice. That is the only way they are going to beat a Lightning squad this deep.
While I expect the games to become a lot closer for the remainder of the series, there is no reason to think the Bolts cannot eventually finish off the Islanders and make it back to the Cup finals for the second time in six years. So let’s look ahead if that is the case.
The dynamic offense of the Knights has now been held to one even-strength goal through their last four games. Let that sink in. A 3-0 game seven looks strong but when you factor that the first tally was a powerplay, the second one was on an empty net to seal the deal, and then a second empty-net goal with five seconds left which is utterly meaningless, their offense has truly dried up. At any point the dam could burst once more, but they need to ensure that they are responsible on their own end until it does. Vegas did have a bit more jump in the final period of game one, which in a 1-0 game can sometimes be enough.
What the Numbers Tell Us
In comparing the Golden Knights to Tampa I am sticking with what I said last week before the Conference finals began – the value was/is with the Bolts in comparison to the Vegas number. Am I taking any Cup futures at the moment? No. If it is Dallas that represents the West instead, then the market would estimate the Bolts be in a better position than against the Knights. The argument here is whichever team wins the West should be the better squad but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will match up well against the Eastern winner.
My counter to this would be that both the Bolts and Stars have shown success against a variety of stylistic differences on the other side of the ice which is not always the case. Both could adapt to what the coaches bring to the table and yet, on paper, the Lightning should still have the Stars beat. As I mentioned in the series preview yesterday, the biggest potential cause of their undoing would come by way of an injury to Vasilevskiy. That is the one position they don’t have every opponent beat in the depth department necessarily. However short of that, it is the Bolts Cup to lose!