Have to thank the girlfriend for providing the Less Than Jake reference, because I’m not a fan but we need to vary it from Against Me! and Tom Petty. Like once or twice.
So we’ve got to wrap up this preview, and cover the special teams for Tampa and how it all plays out. Let’s get to it.
Tampa Power Play – The Lightning’s biggest chance to get really into this series and win it is right here. The Bolts put up seven power play goals against the Rangers, though not all of them meant much. The Hawks’ kill hasn’t exactly been great, but it’s been timely. The Ducks’ power play goals in the last two games came after the Hawks already had a big lead, and that’s sort of what they’ve done since the first round. They’ve gotten the kills they need to. But this is probably as dangerous a power play as they’ve seen.
You already know about Stamkos setting up his Doomsday Gun from the left circle in a 1-3-1 formation, with Stralman running things from the point. But the Bolts’ PP has evolved from just that, playing off teams cheating towards Stamkos, Not that the Hawks shouldn’t be keenly aware of Stamkos from there, as he’s scored plenty against the Hawks from that spot. However, with Kucherov, Johnson, and Palat manning the other spots and their creativity, the Bolts get a lot of movement and creativity going which can become a real problem. They don’t really have the behemoth in front of the net that the Hawks have struggled with in the past. Callahan and Killorn make a fist of it but these are not huge guys. If the Hawks cheat too much to their right to block Stamkos, the man in the high slot is going to have an awful lot of room for high-tips or shots himself. There is a drop off to the second unit, but Jason Garrison resided there and he has a huge shot himself from the point. Filppula isn’t the playmaker that the Triplets are (we need a new name for them stat!) but isn’t bereft of dash either. The Hawks have to keep a lid on this power play, otherwise they’re going to leave a lot of work for themselves at even-strength.
Penalty Kill – There is some danger here too, Sheri, if Cooper sends out more of his weapons on the kill. The Hawks have trouble with serious high pressure when they’re on the power play, and the Ducks and others certainly fashioned more than enough chances while shorthanded without cashing in. The main forward for the Lightning on the kill is Brian Boyle however, along with Pacquette and Filppula. Boyle’s reach and size does clog up shooting lanes, but the Hawks should be able to maneuver pucks and feet around him as he doesn’t move that well. This is where Coburn and Carle and Garrison and Sustr are effective, because they are all big and really clog up lanes and clear the net. The Lightning want to force the Hawks to the boards where they can get multiple guys in the lane, so the Hawks will have to make the tip of the Lightning’s diamond-kill move so that they can get to the middle of the ice and open things up. If the Hawks are getting shots from Keith and Seabrook and Sharp from right in the middle, they’re going to get real chances. If they’re counting on Toews and Kane to get looks curling around the circles, that’s where things are going to go stale.
It’s when Palat, Johnson, and Killorn flip over the boards on the kill, because they can really force at the points and any turnover or mistake is going to result in breaks the other way the Hawks can’t catch. With the Hawks only generally leaving one man up top, they’re real susceptible to giving up shorthanded rushes and against this team that’s going to be doom.
How It All Plays Out
Or as near as I can figger it. I don’t think tonight will see Quenneville get as match-y up-y as he was in Game 7. I think he’s going to want to see what Cooper is chasing with the last change before he decides what to do. So obviously, we’ll see Johnson’s and Filppula’s line out against Vermette and Richards as much as they can get. When thing get back to the UC, that’s when Q can play this how he wants and get his best against the Lightning’s best.
When that happens, it’s hard to see how the Lightning have enough. They want to play the same game, carry the puck in but the Hawks love to stand up at their blue line and deny that. The Lightning don’t want to have to give the puck up, and they’re going to have to be really focused on putting dumps and chips in Seabrook’s and Hjalmarsson’s corner otherwise Keith and Oduya will skate it out all day long. The Lightning can win a lot of those races but they don’t have the size to make the Hawks cough it up consistently like the Ducks did at times.
If the Lightning aren’t precise at the Hawks’ line, it’s going to put their bottom four D in serious trouble they won’t survive. If the Hawks can turn the play around at their line and rush at Coburn, Carle, Sustr, and Garrison with speed and numbers, you can forget it. The Hawks can beat them to the outside or get to the puck first down low and when they start cycling and moving those four are going to be chasing shadows. Give the Hawks enough possession for a long enough time… All. Goalies. Break.
And that’s to me why the Hawks are going to win this. Unless the Lightning’s top six and/or power play goes nuclear, they don’t have enough to combat the Hawks’ bottom six. The Lightning don’t even really have a bottom six. And with Toews, Hossa, Saad being excellent two-way forwards, it’s hard to imagine the Lightning’s top six is going to massively outplay the Hawks’.
Hawks in 6.