The Tampa Bay Lightning needs to find a way to win if they want to stay alive against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Tampa Bay Lightning finds themselves in a rather precarious position at the moment. If the Lightning can’t manage to find a way to win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals, they will soon find themselves on the brink of elimination. Given how hard the Lightning has worked this season, this would be a heartbreaking end to the season.
At the same time, if the Lightning can somehow channel some of the energy they had when they came back to win four in a row to defeat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, the entire landscape of the series could shift. Suddenly, the Lightning may very well find themselves on an unexpected upswing.
Of course, the Lightning is going to have to put in quite a bit of hard work if they hope to dig themselves out of the rather large hole they’ve dug over the course of the first two games of the series. The Bolts will have to fight with everything they have and leave nothing to question on the ice.
There are many things about the Lightning’s play so far this series that will need changing heading into tonight’s Game 3 matchup with the Capitals, but there are three in particular which could be definitive tipping points. Each of them may seem minor, but fans have seen first-hand how much something minor can impact the game.
Stay Out Of The Penalty Box
It almost feels as if this isn’t something that should need to be said, but here we are. If you take a look at the stats of those still remaining in the quest for the Cup, the Washington Capitals are in first place on the Power Play with a Power Play Percentage of 32.6.
The Caps have been awarded 49 opportunities with the man advantage so far in the postseason. They have managed to turn 16 of these opportunities into Power Play Goals. Three of the aforementioned Power Play Goals have come at the expense of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Games 1 and 2.
Right now, the Lightning’s penalty kill has been absolutely atrocious. Out of the teams still remaining in the postseason, the Lightning is in fourth place on the Penalty Kill. While this may not sound bad at first glance, allow us to remind you there are only four teams left in the postseason at this point.
Whether it is a bench penalty resulting in the loss of a spectacular goal or opening the door and inviting the Capitals in for a stroll in the defensive zone with a man down, giving the Capitals the opportunity with the man advantage has proven to be anything but an advantage for the Bolts.
Make Braden Holtby Work
Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby has been solid between the pipes. Over the last two games, Holtby has limited the Lightning to just four goals. This is a far cry from the five or more goals a night the Lightning has been scoring in the previous series.
At the same time, the Lightning hasn’t exactly made the 28-year-old netminder work for his paycheck as of late. The Bolts have a total of 56 shots on goal through Games 1 and 2 of the series. This is just not going to cut it if the Lightning wants to bring home their first victory of the series.
The Tampa Bay Lightning needs to come out of the tunnel and onto the ice ready to play. Much like they did against goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins, the Lightning needs to rock Holtby early and continue to put pressure on him throughout the course of the game.
In addition to taking shots on goal, the Lightning needs to dig deep for rebounds and firing from the dirty areas. Not every goal has to make the SportsCenter Top 10 plays of the night. The simple truth of the matter is no amount of TV time feels quite as good as hoisting the Stanley Cup high above your head.
Stop Leaning on Andrei Vasilevskiy
Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy has been stellar all season long. This became glaringly evident when Vasy was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Unfortunately, Vasilevskiy has been looking less than stellar over the course of Games 1 and 2.
While there has been more than a couple goals Vasilevskiy should’ve had, one of the biggest contributions to the cracks in Vasy’s wall has been the lack of help he’s had in front of the net. There has been more than one moment where Vasy has been faced with a two-on-one with little help from his defense.
This simply cannot happen tonight against the Caps. The Lightning defense needs to be firing on all cylinders from the first puck drop to the final buzzer, limiting time in the defensive zone, knocking opponents off the puck, and laying down the message-sending kind of hits.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has the talent needed in order to get the job done against the Capitals. If given the proper amount of assistance in front of the net, the Lightning could find themselves on the receiving end of their first win of the series tonight in DC.
The simple fact of the matter is the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to be more aggressive in all aspects of the game. They need to take the puck to the net and fire off shots from all areas, strike hard on the forecheck, limit the Capitals time in the defensive zone, and be the team everyone here in the Bolts Nation knows they can be.
The time for action is now. If the Lightning doesn’t find a way to bring home a victory tonight, each and every game for the remainder of the series will be an elimination game. While this definitely puts things into perspective and can act as a motivator for a team, this is no place to be in at this point in the postseason.
Hopefully, fans will see the Tampa Bay Lightning team which defeated the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in five games each and not the Lightning team who has been rocked in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final. It won’t be long before everyone here in the Bolts Nation will find out which team will be making an appearance tonight.
The puck is set to drop at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time from the Capital One Arena in DC. If you’re not one of the lucky members of the Bolts Nation able to be in attendance at tonight’s Game 3 contest, you can stay on top of all the action on NBC Sports or tune into 970WFLA or TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio to hear Dave Mishkin and Lightning founder Phil Esposito make the call.
Either way here’s hoping there’s something to cheer about tomorrow morning.