Pens-Lightning Game 3
As the Lightning learned, or should have learned last spring, you simply can’t hide their dreck of a blue line behind Hedman-Stralman forever. Hedman makes up for a lot, and sometimes can do it all on his own as we saw in Games 1-3 in last year’s Final. But that’s not a sustainable model. The Penguins have essentially steamrolled the Lightning in three games, and Tampa only has Andrei Vasilevskiy to thank for not being pretty much finished at 0-3 down right now. The past two games the Penguins are carrying a 62% Corsi-percentage. That’s borderline ridiculous.
And it’s how the Hawks did it to the Lightning last year as well. You’ll recall the third line of Teuvo-Vermette-Versteeg/Bickell scoring big goals in Games 1 and 5. Well they’ve got Hedman and Stralman dealing with both Crosby and Malkin when they can, but the HBK (yes, love this name) line is simply running riot because none of Sustr, Carle, Garrison, or Coburn can do anything other than get windburn when they’re out there. They were +10 on Sustr. +11 on Garrison. And that’s not going to get any better. The only solution, as it was last spring which Jon Cooper got to too late, is to split Stralman and Hedman. But Stralman isn’t quite the same away from Hedman, but then who is? Otherwise, there are just too many moles on the Penguins for the Lightning defense to whack. Or they can just bank on more miracles from Vasilevskiy and converting all their chances that the still unimpressive Penguins defense gives up. But it feels like they’re just outgunned here. Then they head into one of the most interesting offseasons for a team we’ve seen in quite a while. But we’re not there yet.
San Jose-St. Louis Game 3
This one seems a little more simple. If the Blues don’t take penalties, they’ll have every chance. But they’re going to take penalties, because they’re the Blues and no team can get through multiple games without going on the kill. Hey remember when the Flyers didn’t take a penalty in Game 1 of the ’10 Final? That was a thing that happened. The Flyers. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.
Otherwise, it feels like these teams are pretty well matched but the Blues face the problem that Martin Jones has been much better at home in the playoffs than on the road. He’s given up just nine goals in their seven home playoff games. At home the Sharks can have Vlasic out against Tarasenko whenever they want, and pick and choose where they want Burns to push the play from. Brian Elliot was really good in the last two road games against Dallas, so they’ll have that in their back pocket. Feels like the Blues get one Elliot-inspired win in the Tank, and this series heads back 2-2. But it also feels like that’s the only way the Blues get a win in San Jose. And there’s always the chance they return to form and go loopy, giving the Sharks multiple power play goals per game. That would be less than ideal for them.