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Lightning Miss Golden Opportunity in Double OT Loss

September 16, 2020, 12:12 PM ET [5 Comments]
Michael Stuart
Tampa Bay Lightning Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Once again without Brayden Point in the lineup, the Tampa Bay Lightning missed out on a golden opportunity. This time it was in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final, when a victory would have booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa did everything right; they dominated the shot attempt share, expected goal share, and scoring chance share through all five periods of play. The only thing they couldn’t do? Beat Semyon Varlamov more than once. That, plus a colossal gaffe on New York’s overtime winner, was enough to give the Islanders a chance at Game Six.

Give Varlamov a ton of credit for facing a cumulative value of more than three “expected goals” (per Natural Stat Trick) and only allowing one. He was a rock for his team, as the Lightning just kept firing and firing and firing all evening. Outside of the score and missed power play opportunities, it was actually a really well played game for Jon Cooper’s Lightning. Of course, the score is a fairly important metric to miss out on…

Rather than go through five periods of play-by-play action, the broad takeaway here is that, at least from an Xs and Os perspective, the Lightning don’t need to change much going into Game Six. If the Islanders come out of Game Six with a victory, though? Things get really interesting.

As alluded to above, the biggest concern coming out of Game Five wasn’t anything to do with the team’s play; it was the health of Brayden Point. The Lightning superstar was once again sidelined for the evening, having apparently re-aggravated his injury in the Game Four victory. After that contest, Cooper noted that it was an injury that was going to have to be “managed” moving forward, so it’s tough to gauge his potential availability for an all-important Game Six.

The other big picture concern is this group’s performance when sitting on three wins in an Eastern Conference Final series over the last few seasons. It’s true that the roster is slightly different each year, and that drawing conclusions based on single game samples from a few years ago is a fool’s errand, but the trend here is still at least somewhat concerning given that the core of this group (and its coach) remains the same:

A reversal of this trend, and a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, would go a long way in repairing the heartbreak that those 2016 and 2018 runs produced.

The bottom line for the Lightning is that this series can’t go seven games. Not only would it give New York all the confidence and life in the world, but it would also further strengthen the rest advantage that the Dallas Stars are going to have over whoever comes out of this series. Tampa needs to get the job done.

As always, thanks for reading.
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