The year is 2001. A young 6-year old Arik Krause is just like any curious kid and grabs a VHS tape and puts it into the VCR. The tape is titled “ buy lasix 40 mg online cheap augmentin 875 1990 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs”. Now if you don’t know, the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of their dynasty and in these playoffs would face the Boston Bruins. A series which they would win for their fifth and final Stanley Cup this far. That series was famous for the Petr Klima goal in Game 1. Klima didn’t play at all during the third period or first two overtime periods, but he would slide the puck past Andy Moog in the third overtime and give the Oilers a win in Game 1.
tampa bay lightning
WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL PLAYOFF FORMAT?
IAN SHEPPARD: I honestly have no complaints with the current format. I didn’t hate the old one either with the traditional one through eight match ups. But I just don’t see too many issues with the current format. Sure you get some of the better matchups done and over with early with first-round divisional series.
I don’t mind having the divisional matchups early in the playoffs. You’re always guaranteed to get the rival series this way even if they are earlier in the playoffs. I haven’t found the quality of hockey or experience of the playoffs diminish since the change.
WYATT ZIEGER: 1-16 would be unique but travel completely shuts that idea down. I’d like to see the old 1-8 format return but with a play-in game like baseball for the last wildcard spot in each conference.
Having the 8 and 9 teams play each other for the last spot would increase competition because fewer teams would tank with an additional spot.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: With modern day travel and how luxurious these teams live on the road, travel isn’t the issue with a 1-16 format, it’s time zones. It would be very unfiar to make a #1 seeded Tampa Bay Lightning team travel to the Pacific time zone. That would be a brutal way to start the playoffs especially considering the NHL works their series on a 2-2-1-1-1 instead of a 2-3-2 system for travel.
I like the idea of 1-8, but honestly, the best part of the playoffs is the first and second rounds so why not put the best matchups there and let it set the tone for the rest of the playoffs. I say leave things alone for a few more years.
IF YOU COULD PRESENT ONE CHANGE TO THE NHL GM’S, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
IAN SHEPPARD: I don’t know if I would pitch changes in terms of rules but I much like everyone else would like to see something done regarding officiating and player safety. Compare to some sports the NHL is well behind the mark in terms of protecting its players with consistency. In the NFL if a player is hit in the head and shows even the slightest sign of concussion he is immediately taken out of the game.
I draw back to an incident in a game between the Coyotes and Oilers when Conor Garland had his helmet pushed back before taking the puck off his unprotected head and into the net. Garland was not only celebrated for a unique goal but remained in the game to score another goal. I’m not being a bitter Oilers fan here, just feel that in an instant like there’s no way a player should remain in the game after something like that.
That’s just one instance where I feel the NHL mishandled player safety and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed.
WYATT ZIEGER: I know hockey fans hate major changes to the game so I’ll stay away from making the net bigger or giving teams the option of a penalty shot instead of a power play.
Instead, I’d like to see the point format change. I propose; 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime win, 1 for an OT loss, 1 for a shootout win and 0 for a shootout loss. Giving more points for regulation wins would entice teams not to sit back late in tie games and would drive even more offense into overtime.
It would also weed out teams that survive in the standings thanks to losses in extra time.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I agree with Wyatt in the sense that I don’t think there’s an appetite for a massive change, so I will propose this: double up 3v3 OT. Make it ten minutes. At first, there was concern about how the players would handle it, but I think those have been erased by people in the game. Making it longer would also benefit teams with deeper, more skilled lineups since that’s what 3v3 is all about. More exciting OT and less dull shootouts, please!
WHO SHOULD THE LIGHTNING BE HOPING TO PLAY IN ROUND ONE?
IAN SHEPPARD: As it sits right now I think Montreal. If they were to stay in that last Wild Card spot, would be the obvious choice for an ideal matchup for the Lightning but I think if I’m Tampa I’m pulling for Columbus to make a push. I think Carolina is hot so if they drop a spot they would not be a team worth facing while Pittsburgh with it’s deep playoff pedigree could be scary.
Columbus is a team I think doesn’t really know what it wants. They went out and made some huge acquisitions in an attempt to win now. I just don’t think they would anywhere near capable of being ready for a powerhouse like Tampa especially after having to fight to get into the playoffs.
WYATT ZIEGER: If you want a fair matchup and someone that will actually give Tampa Bay a run for their money its gotta be Pittsburgh. They have all the playoff experience necessary and the best player in the world but they need to make the dance first.
If the Lightning take on the Penguins in the 1st round and get bounced it will be an extremely disappointing season for Tampa and create great parity for the NHL.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: They should be hoping that the Carolina Hurricanes grab the last playoff spot. Aside from Justin Williams, they’re largely inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. I don’t trust their goaltending situation either. That’s a bad recipe for playoff sucess and I think the Lightning would throttle them.
WHICH TEAM WILL HAVE THE TOUGHEST TIME STAYING UNDER THE CAP NEXT SEASON?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Winnipeg Jets. Even if the cap goes up to $83 million, they’ll have just over $26 million to sign Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba. That will all cost them at least $24 million combined, and that’s being generous. From there, they’ll still need two defensemen, four forwards, and a backup goalie. Now, I understand that they have some up and coming players on ELC’s that can slide in, and they could look at moving someone like Mathieu Perrault, but things are going to be tight in the ‘Peg. Nik Ehlers might be a cap casualty.
IAN SHEPPARD: See question 1. The talk for the last year has been about how the Leafs will maintain their young players with expiring ELC’s especially with the signing of John Tavares. With Matthews now being locked up at $11.6 AAV, it’s just one more domino in the cap issue.
Trying to shoehorn Marner’s potential deal into this group is going to be the tight rope that GM Kyle Dubas needs to tread. The right smart moves will keep the Leafs a Cup contender for at least five years. The wrong one could shrink that window.
WYATT ZIEGER: Tampa’s going to have a hell of a time this summer getting Brayden Point on a team friendly deal this offseason. Point could very well command 10 million plus if he scores over 100 points this season, which he’s on pace for.
Tampa will shed over 11 million in cap space from Stralman, Coburn, and Girardi if that happens though they will only have five roster defensemen. There is also the pay raises for both Kucherov and Gourde that totals nearly 9 million almost cancelling out the money coming off the books. If I’m an NHL GM this summer, I’m throwing the ever sacred offer sheet his way.
WILL MATTHEWS, NYLANDER, & MARNER ALL BE LEAFS NEXT SEASON?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I think they will be. The Leafs don’t have a “Marner, Matthews, Nylander’ problem; they have a Zaitsev & Marleau problem. If they package Kasperi Kapanen with Zaitsev, they could likely get a pick in return and shed $4.5 million in cap space. If they move out Connor Brown as well, then they’ll have an extra $6.5 million to fill out their roster. They can keep all their big guns if Kyle Dubas plays his cards right, and I think he will.
IAN SHEPPARD: No. I honestly don’t think so. They could end up moving Jake Muzzin, Patrick Marleau, Kasperi Kapanen or Nikita Zaitsev but the way Marner is playing right now I could see someone making a legit offer sheet for him.
For me either Marner leaves via the offer sheet or they end up trading Nylander to ensure they keep Marner. Keeping Muzzin or Marleau and maybe Kapanen keeps the depth of the team. Their window of winning it all can stretch over the next five years if they keep a deep core. I believe ripping the band-aid off with Marner or moving Nylander will help that.
WYATT ZIEGER: I think two of the three will return. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are both key components on the team, and I believe Nylander’s contract holdout has put a sour taste in some fans mouths still. The Leafs are going to eventually need to shed salary and are still a top 4 D away from cup contention, and trading Nylander would accelerate the process.
That deal most likely won’t come down at the trade deadline but could be a draft table move; we’ll wait and see.
WHICH TEAMS 2ND HALF RESURGENCE HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I understand that the Flyers are seven points out of the playoffs, but their rise from laughing stock to a team that could work their way into playoff contention has been fun to watch. Carter Hart adds another fantastic layer to this. They have a solid team on paper; if they keep this winning streak going, they could make things real interesting out east.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Blues. At the start of the season, I answered one of these questions with St. Louis as my surprise slumping team to start the year. The talk was about them selling off pieces after coach Mike Yeo was fired. Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko were expected to be dealt at the deadline.
But since then the team has turned it around winning 9 of 14 games in 2019 and now find themselves one point out of a playoff spot behind the Canucks. These sellers may find themselves as buyers in a few weeks.
WYATT ZIEGER: (Said as Mugato) The Philadelphia Flyers, they’re so hot right now.
Philadelphia is 8-1-1 in their last ten and have shot out of the basement, but more work is still needed as they’re still 8 points out of a playoff spot. Props to Carter Hart who has been rock solid with a 2.48GAA and .925SV% and captain Claude Giroux, coming off a 100 point season, who has 58 points in 54 games so far.
The Flyers still have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs, but with teams like Buffalo and Columbus on a slide if they stay hot, they still have a chance.
WHO IS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PIECE OF ‘TRADE BAIT’ ON THE MARKET?’
IAN SHEPPARD: For me, it comes down to three. Matt Duchene, Micheal Ferland, and the Oilers first round pick. Duchene is the most talented and with 45 points (20G-25A) in 38 games this year is the obvious number one desire for a lot of teams.
Ferland is just behind Duchene with 25 points(13G-12A) in 39 games. And both players will be UFA’s at the end of the year. The one difference is the almost $3 million in cap differential between the two which might make Ferland easier to acquire.
And for the Oilers first round pick, I think it’s a toss up where it could end up and what comes back for it, so it’ll interesting and frightening to see where a trade involving it leads.
WYATT ZIEGER: Term is important and Parayko still has two years remaining on his deal after this season and his 5.5 million cap hit is manageable, especially for a defenseman of his caliber.
Point production is down this year for Parayko, he’s on pace for less than 30 for the first time in his career which may lessen trade value by a bit, making him an even more attractive piece for trade partners.
Despite the down point production, Parayko is still scoring goals. Currently, he sits at 8, one off his career high.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I think it’s got to be Mark Stone. He’s a pending UFA, but as far as rentals go, he’s the best player that could be realistically had. He’s played four full NHL seasons and he’s scored 20 goals every single time. He’s a big body as well and I think he’d be a monster on a team that’s looking for an impact playoff performer. If he goes to a team with an elite centre, he could hit the 40-goal mark this season. A player like Stone is rare and there should be a long list of suitors should the Sens decide to move on.
BESIDES TAMPA BAY, WHICH NHL TEAM HAS THE MOST COMPLETE ROSTER?
IAN SHEPPARD: The Winnipeg Jets. I love every line this team puts out. Whether its the first line with a combined 155 points between Connor, Scheifele, and Wheeler or the second line led by Bryan Little and Patrik Laine to the bottom six which is gritty and touch and a D-core featuring Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey and Tyler Myers this team is deep. They’ve had some injury issues with Byfuglien and Ehlers recently and a struggling Laine but I think things will balance out.
The bigger and possibly most surprising attribute to this team has been it’s goaltending. Between Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit the team has won 31 games. It seems like whoever is between the pipes for the Jets will give a standout performance.
WYATT ZIEGER: It has to be the Nashville Predators right? They have the best defense in the NHL, (sorry San Jose), they can roll all 4 lines and have last years Vezina winner in net.
The only thing you could knock Nashville for is their lack of a bonafide superstar on offense. Arvidsson, Johansen, and Forsberg lead the way for forwards on the Preds but only Arvidsson is at the point-per-game marker with 25 points (18G, 7A) in 25 games. Even that isn’t enough though as 42 players in the NHL have over a PPG this season.
I wouldn’t count Nashville out as a team looking to improve their top 6 at the deadline
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Don’t want to copy Ian, but I will. The Jets are just too deep to ignore. They have four lines that can contribute offensively and a d-core that doesn’t really have a weak spot, although they could add another left-handed d-man to really shore things up. They have a good young goalie as well. It’s a near perfect roster.
Honourable mention to the Maple Leafs and the Sharks. Those two teams made me pause and think.
WHAT PIECES SHOULD THE OILERS DANGLE FOR A TOP SIX FORWARD?
IAN SHEPPARD: I think there are five players on this roster that shouldn’t be moved regardless of the return. Connor McDavid (Do I really have to say that?) Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom. Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Ethan Bear, and the first round pick remain on the table for me, but the return must be worth it.
If a legit top-6 forward with term is available then it’s more than worth it. But if it were that simple it would probably have happened already so time will tell what move is made, at this point, I think one is inevitable.
WYATT ZIEGER: I hate to be a cynic … who am I kidding I love it.
With Peter Chiarelli at the helm, the Oilers should be dangling nothing to try and get a top 6 forward. What I consider fair value in a deal I can almost certainly say Peter Chiarelli would not.
But if I’m going to play ball, I’m sorry Edmonton Jesse Puljujarvi is the piece I move.
I think by now the experiment is over in Edmonton and they are hindering his development more than they are helping it. Send him to a team willing to roll the dice on him or one that will invest time into turning him into an NHL player.
The only problem for the Oilers, his trade value, which has fallen off a cliff since the beginning of the season. Puljujarvi is still young enough to be playing in Juniors this year so there is still hope he finds his game, it just may not be in Edmonton.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: If it’s a young (under 27) top six option who has a good shot and has proven he can score 20 goals a season, then Chiarelli should absolutely move the first rounder for it, even if that player isn’t under contract for the 2019-20 season. If that player IS under contract, then throw Ethan Bear in the package or look at throwing one of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto along with maybe a 2nd round pick. Those are the two scenarios I would consider ‘wins’ for the Oilers heading into the deadline.
This summers crop of RFA’s is star-studded. Which player is most likely to have a Nylander-esque holdout?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Brayden Point, Matt Tkachuk, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jake Guentzel, and Kasperi Kapanen are all RFA’s who are on teams that could be tight to the cap when all is said and done. But I’m going to give two names who I think could potentially hold out next season.
First is Mitch Marner. Auston Matthews is going to be priority number one for Kyle Dubas, which could push Marner’s signing date back a little. We know that Dubas isn’t afraid to wait until literally the final hour to get a deal done and I get the sense that Marner won’t be in the mood to take a discount if neither Nylander or Matthews did.
Kyle Connor is in a similar spot to Marner. He is a fantastic young player on a team that has both tremendous offensive talent and salary cap troubles. Patrik Laine is also an RFA, so Connor is no doubt priority number two for the Jets.
IAN SHEPPARD: Sorry Leafs fans. You’re destined for another lengthy holdout. Auston Matthews will be an RFA at the end of the 2018-19 season and for me, it won’t be automatic that the deal gets done right away. Taking Connor McDavid’s deal from a few years ago into consideration, Matthews will want something similar if not more with inflation and the idea that McDavid signed for slightly less than he could have.
Matthews seems like a player with a strong business sense who won’t for less than what he thinks he deserves and given the Nylander and Tavares deals along with Mitch Marner also coming up on the end of his ELC, getting Matthews locked up could be a long process.
WYATT ZIEGER: The Lightning are a team that would really benefit from the cap going up the extra 4 million as its expected too. Especially if they have a hope in hell of re-signing Brayden Point.
We are pretty much at the 1/3 mark of the season. Who is your Stanley Cup favourite?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: There’s a list of teams I really like this season. The Preds and Jets look good out West while the Leafs and Capitals both look unstoppable at times. I wanted to find a sexier pick, but I gotta go with Tampa Bay. Every year the “experts” call them the Stanley Cup favourite and every year they seem to lose out, but this year seems different. Their roster is loaded, they have some fresh young talent making an impact, and I like to think that they’ve learned their lesson from years past.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are currently leading the league with 43 points and have two players in the top-10 in points. They lead the league in goals and have a roster stacked with talent, with a top-6 lineup that can produce points consistently and a defensive unit that is loaded with all-star talent.
They are without a former Vezina-Candidate in Andrei Vasilevskiy in net who is out with a broken foot, but they have been able to survive thus far while they await his return. Tampa has been on the verge of a Cup the last 5 years or so and for me right now this could be their year.
WYATT ZIEGER: Pave the way for Smashville baby.
With Seattle officially coming into the NHL, which city would you most like to see get an NHL franchise (via relocation)?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I really want to say Quebec City, but it just isn’t realistic until the dollar figures itself out. That’s unfortunate because I think the league would really benefit from an eighth Canadian team. The obvious answer to this question is Houston.
Arizona has been on life support for what seems like a decade and now that they’ll be moving to the Central Division when Seattle shows up, the transition from the desert to Houston will be rather seamless. Houston is a good sports city and they have a rather large TV market, which is huge for the NHL and their Board of Governors. It isn’t working in Arizona and if they don’t figure out their arena situation soon, that organization could be H-Town bound.
IAN SHEPPARD: I have to pick a Canadian city. Especially when the next American city to have its name tossed into the hat is Houston and that just doesn’t feel right. With 7 teams in Canada currently, four in the west and three in the east, I think to balance things out, putting a team in Quebec City or potential Hamilton would be the best thing to see for hockey fans up north.
WYATT ZIEGER: I’ll say Houston for a couple of reasons.
It’s no secret that upcoming free agent John Tavares has been meeting with teams this week in LA. Five to be exact; The Leafs, Bruins, Sharks, Stars and Lightning as well as phone calls with at least three other teams.
Each team will present a different package to Tavares, who is the most coveted free agent on the market.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made it to the Conference Finals or farther for the third time in four years. An impressive run in the salary cap era. While Ovechkin and his Capitals are known for not getting out of the second round, it’s becoming a trend for the Lightning to get stuck in the Conference Finals, this being the third time in eight years they’ve been eliminated just before the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the most part, The Lightning didn’t show up to the Eastern Conference Finals, Washington stifled Tampa’s speed through the neutral zone, and even in games that the Lightning won, goaltender Andre Vasilevskiy stood on his head.
One thing we’ll touch on later in the article but it’s worth pointing out now as well. This Tampa Bay Lightning team will be back; they are a very young team up front with a veteran core that still has plenty of years left in them. It would be a shock if they didn’t win a Stanley Cup with this core of players.
What went wrong?
At the end of the day, it’s the Eastern Conference Finals, and they ran into a very hungry Washington team that just got over their nemesis in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ovechkin played like somebody that simply wouldn’t be denied in this series. The physicality that Washington played with for most of the series and the neutral zone trap when they had the lead to counter the faster Tampa transition made it hard for the Lightning to generate offence.
Tampa Bay finished the series without scoring for 159 minutes & 27 seconds. Holtby was phenomenal in Game Seven, but for the most part, the Lightning couldn’t generate anything five on five and once the whistles got put away later in the series, that ended up being the last straw.
The Lightning in the regular season had lots of secondary scoring and more importantly had lots of scoring from their defensemen, which disappeared in the playoffs. Victor Hedman finished with only one goal in 17 games, and Mikhail Sergachev didn’t do much better with only two goals.
While Vasilevskiy played unbelievably in games three, four & five. He did allow 16 goals in four home games in the Eastern Conference Finals as the Lightning never played well on home ice in this series.
Is there a heartbeat?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a very young core of players that will allow them to be good for a long time. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and Mikhail Sergachev are all fantastic young talent that will be coupled with a veteran core of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
One thing coach Jon Cooper reiterated at the end of his press conference was that the Lightning’s window is never closed and Steve Yzerman always gives him a team that can compete.
Cooper: “The one thing about Steve Yzerman, he seems to keep our window open every year. I don’t think the window will ever be closed with this team.” #TBLvsWSH
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 24, 2018
The Lightning will be a good team for many years to come. One has got to question whether or not the third-round wall that they can’t seem to get through will eat away at the confidence of the veterans on this team.
Maybe that’s already coming into play with Stamkos as he mentioned:
Stamkos: “It’s going to take a few days to digest this. It’s tough to sit here right now and think of positive things… It was a great, great season but it doesn’t feel that way when you’ve been here before and can’t find a way to win. It’s an empty feeling.” #TBLvsWSH
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 24, 2018
I’d fully expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to be right back in the Eastern Conference Finals next year.
Day 40 of the Eastern Conference Final saw another chippy game with great chances and better goaltending. With the help from an unlikely hero, the Washington Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1998.
Here’s how the game played out:
Washington Capitals 4-0 Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington wins series 4-3
The time has come.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
The Washington Capitals had the opportunity Tuesday night to science the doubters once again, that they did with a stellar game seven performance on the road. The Capitals went with Braden Holtby who has been playing lights out since regaining his starting job in game three of the first round, and Alex Ovechkin who has been playing like a man possessed this round.
Holtby saved his best for last in this series, shutting out Tampa Bay for the second half of game five as well as game six and seven. Holtby stopped 29 shots in game seven and finished the series with a shut-out streak of 159 minutes. Tampa Bay did have there fair share of chances but simply couldn’t break thorugh.
Washington opened the scoring early on a Ovechkin lazar beam just 1:02 into the game. A neutral-zone turnover by Tampa led to a beauty feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov to Ovechkin for his famous one-timer to make 1-0 early taking the crowd out of the game.
Absolutely no time wasted.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
Mid-way through the first is when the rough stuff began, a scrum in front of Hotlby lead to coincidental unsportsmanlike penalties for Tom Wilson and Brayden Coburn. As soon as the two stepped out of the penalty box they would through down for a spirited tilt in which both men got their shots in and led to bloody knuckles from Wilson.
Washington would add to their lead mid way through the second. Dan Girardi would miss handle a dump in from Washington and Andre Burakovsky picked up the loose puck, snapping home his first of the playoffs to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
Burakovsky was not done there, an offensive zone turnover paired with a bad line change led to Burakovsky being left all alone in the neutral zone. John Carlson would make no mistake with his pass sending Burakovsky in alone sniping one five hole on Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 3-0 Capitals and seemingly putting an end to the game. Nicklas Backstrom would add an empty netter to officially seal the deal.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay played their hearts out for the majority of the playoffs. They just ran into a Capitals team that would not be denied of making the Stanley Cup Finals. Tampa Bay is very close to winning a Stanley Cup, they could very well be the favorites next year, all Tampa had to do better was score five on five more constantly, if they did they may have won the series.
Washington has been in three tough series so far, Devante Smith-Pelly, T.J Oshie and Brooks Orpik all seemed to be shaken up in game seven. Most notably Orpik who was hit from behind into the boards by Cedric Paquette and was down for a few moments . Luckily for Washington all three have a few days to heal their wounds.
— NHL (@NHL) May 24, 2018
The Capitals now turn their attention to the Vegas Golden Knights who has been patiently waiting for the winner. It should be a fun series as both will be looking to get their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Does Ovechkin finally cement his legacy and win the Stanley Cup that has eluded him for his career? Or do the Golden Knights finish off the inaugural season with a Stanley Cup victory?
The fun will begin Monday, May 28th at 6 p.m. MT.
Day 38 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was a low-scoring one for the first time in the Eastern Conference Final. Great goaltending on both sides and a physical game from Washington leads to a Game 7.
Here’s how it went down:
Tampa Bay 0-2 Washington
Series tied 3-3
— NHL (@NHL) May 22, 2018
After a commanding win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to book their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final to meet the Vegas Golden Knights.
After the Lightning jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in Game 5, they looked to do the same in Game 6 and remain undefeated at the Capital One Arena in the playoffs. But Washington was going to give them a dog-fight.
The first period went scoreless but was a very even opening frame. It was a tough physical period with both Braden Holtby and Andrei Vasilevskiy turning away scoring chances on both ends.
The shot totals were almost even too with Washington totaling eight shots and Tampa Bay six.
More back and forth physical play carried its way into the second period. A first period fight between Brooks Orpik and JT Miller seemed to give way to some heavy hits in the second, with Washington especially throwing bodies with 30 hits after two periods of play.
With under five minutes left in the second we finally got our first goal of the game. The Caps would score on the powerplay with Nicklas Backstrom setting up TJ Oshie in slot who sniped a one-timer past Vasilevskiy who had little time to use his quick lateral movement to make the save.
— NHL (@NHL) May 22, 2018
The Caps would add to their lead with 10 minutes left in the game. After both teams traded scoring chances, Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call to eventually feed the puck back into the slot for Devante Smith-Pelly who snapped a shot past the Lightning goaltender for a 2-0 lead.
After three straight games where he gave up a total of 10 goals, Braden Holtby had a massive bounce
-back game stopping all 23 shots faced from Tampa Bay for his first shutout of this postseason and his fifth of his career in the playoffs.
The Capitals showered Tampa Bay with pressure all game throwing 34 shots on net and brought a level of physicality we have yet to see from them in the playoffs so far. Brigning all of that in Game 6 and handing the Lightning their first playoff loss at Capital One Arena results in a Game 7 for the East crown.
Game 7 will take place Wednesday night at 6 p.m. MT from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
Day 36 was back to the high scoring match-up that we’ve been accustomed to since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Tampa Bay scored early and held onto the lead behind more great goaltending as they come within one win of the Stanley Cup Final.
Here’s how it went down:
Washington Capitals 2-3 Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay leads series 3-2
— NHL (@NHL) May 19, 2018
After both teams swapped wins on the other’s home ice, Game 5 was set to be an exciting match-up. With a total of 26 goals being scored in the first four games, with no game having a goal total less than six, this one was set to be exciting.
The Capitals looked for a more physical game with head coach Barry Trotz opting to play Alex Chiasson over Andre Burakovsky on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly, but it didn’t seem to make a difference with Tampa Bay outshooting Washington 6-1 in the first half of the opening period.
It was a rough start for Caps goaltender Braden Holtby who let in two early, lightly shot goals.
Tampa Bay would only take 19 seconds to open up the scoring with Cedric Paquette scoring his first of the postseason.
The puck was bouncing around in the neutral zone and found two Lightning players in the Caps end as Ryan Callahan poked the puck past the defender to Paquette who snuck it between the five-hole of Holtby.
Nine minutes later the Lightning would add to their lead. Three Tampa Bay forwards entered the zone with Dmitry Orlov blowing a tire. Nikita Kucherov took the puck and slid it to Ondrej Palat who sniped a weak shot from between the face-off circle past Holtby for the 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay would waste no time once again scoring 33 seconds into the second period. The Lightning fourth line found legs with Anton Stralman carrying the puck up the wing and driving to the net and throwing it on Holtby. The puck bounced in the air, and Ryan Callahan crashed the net and had it deflect in for his second of the playoffs.
The goal was reviewed and deemed that Callahan did not get the puck in with his hand and the goal stood for the 3-0 lead.
Washington would finally get on the board in the second, breathing a bit of life back into their game. Matt Niskanen would blast a shot from the blue-line with Evgeny Kuznetsov tipping it in from in front of the net for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin would score his first goal since Game 2 with the net empty. Holtby headed to the bench with two minutes left in the game and with the Caps setting up in the Tampa Bay zone John Carlson sent a pass to Ovi from the blue-line and the captain one-timed it home to cut the lead to 3-2.
— NHL (@NHL) May 20, 2018
Sadly, for Washington, it wasn’t enough as Tampa Bay stood tall in the dying seconds to hold onto the win and 3-2 series lead.
Andrei Vasilevskiy continued to be the backbone of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since giving up 1tengoals in the first two games of the series, he has only given up six since Game 2. In Game 5 he made 28 saves and in the last three games ,he’s made 100 saves on 106 Washington shots.
— NHL (@NHL) May 20, 2018
Tampa Bay outpowered Washington from the time the puck dropped in Game 5. Whether it be the quick start and early two goals in the first period or the tremendous defense and goaltender that allowed them to hold the two-goal lead through two periods of play.
The series heads back to Washington on Monday night. Game 6 starts at 6 p.m. MT from Capital One Arena.