If you ranked top reasons the Lightning squeaked by the Hurricanes in Game 1, Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s brilliant play would go No. 1. In particular, the Lightning asked a lot of Vasilevskiy early on, and he showed why Rod Brind’Amour called him “the best in the world.”
But, all things considered, the Lightning had to be happy that the special teams broke even (one power-play goal apiece) against the Hurricanes in Game 1. It will be a challenge to keep that battle to a draw, or even win it, in Game 2 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
Lightning hope to adjust to tenacious Hurricanes PK in Game 2
As Jack Han discussed back in April, you might summarize Carolina’s M.O. as “under-think, over-speed.”
To boil things down and maybe over-simplify, sometimes Carolina throws “everything but the kitchen sink” at opponents. While there’s the risk of a drawback where quantity outweighs quality, the Hurricanes tend to overwhelm opponents more often than not.
That quality vs. quantity battle could very well continue to play out in this series, as the Lightning are known for leveraging their skill to burn opponents even if they’re not dominating possession overall.
Most glaringly, the Lightning scored their power-play goal (a nice tip by Brayden Point) on the only shot they produced over three man advantages.
The Hurricanes’ “power kill” unit actually generated more shots on goal (2-1) than the Lightning on Tampa Bay’s three power plays.
Meanwhile, Carolina went with that barrage approach at all strengths. That included the power play, where the Hurricanes fired seven shots on goal (two allowed), generated three high-danger chances, and managed their only goal vs. Vasilevskiy.
Ultimately, that special teams battle was a draw (again, one PPG apiece), but the Bolts were playing with fire.
It will be interesting to see if the Lightning can adjust to the Hurricanes’ “power kill pressure” in Game 2. Maybe it will take some time?
“Yeah, man, they pressure hard,” Brayden Point said, via Bryan Burns of the Lightning’s website. “They don’t give you a lot of space. They force you to make plays, and if you bobble a puck, they’re on you right away. And another thing is their up-ice pressure. They did a great job disrupting our breakout. That’s something we’ve got to look at. We’re lucky enough to get a chance and we capitalized on it, but, yeah, that’s something we’ve got to look at for sure.”
As Point notes, the Hurricanes’ don’t just make life difficult for a power play when they’re in Carolina’s zone.
One of the best ways to disrupt a power play is to short-circuit it before it even starts. Denying entry is easier said than done, but you can really get a man advantage out of rhythm if you can pull it off.
Maybe that all-out pressure forces teams to hurriedly force shots from the point? Gander at the way the Hurricanes keep power play chances to the point, rather than high-danger areas, via Hockey Viz:
Opportunity to counter-punch?
Speaking of “easier said than done,” there’s almost always a counterpoint to aggression: if your opponent can withstand that rush, they might catch you out of position.
” … They converge so hard to the puck and a lot of times they’re successful in getting it,” Killorn said, via Burns. “But if you can make a play where it gets through a guy, then they have two guys going to one, that’s when plays will open up and that’s what happened on Pointer’s. Pointer had half a step on a guy, and Heddy makes a great play.”
(You can see that Brayden Point PPG that Killorn is referring to around the three-minute mark of the video above this post’s headline.)
If Lightning – Hurricanes boiled down to special teams play — both in Game 2, and the series — that might be a plus for Tampa Bay. After all, the Bolts are supremely gifted, and Carolina is ferocious on the power play.
Still, the Lightning almost definitely want to see things play out differently against the Hurricanes in Game 2. Part of that is simply not taking as many penalties. But they’ll also need to adjust to the challenges Carolina creates.
Chances are, even a team as talented as Tampa Bay won’t tie or win the special teams battle most nights when they only manage a single shot on goal at 5-on-4.
LIGHTNING VS. HURRICANES (TB leads 1-0) – series livestream link
Game 1: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1
Game 2: Tues. June 1: Lightning at Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Thurs. June 3: Hurricanes at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network)
Game 4: Sat. June 5: Hurricanes at Lightning, 4 p.m. ET (USA Network)
*Game 5: Tues. June 8: Lightning at Hurricanes TBD
*Game 6: Thurs. June 10: Hurricanes at Lightning TBD
*Game 7: Sat. June 12: Lightning at Hurricanes
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.