The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
This should be very familiar territory for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
When they play the New York Islanders on Friday night in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup Semifinal series (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock), it will be the fifth time in the Steven Stamkos–Victor Hedman era that they will have played in this situation.
One game to decide who goes to the Stanley Cup Final and who goes home.
The Lightning’s consistency for going deep into the playoffs over the past decade has been remarkable, and has helped make them one of the elite franchises in the NHL. Even if they do not actually win the Stanley Cup, you know there is a very good chance they are going to be one of the last four teams standing and probably having the entire series come down to a winner-take-all game.
This is the sixth time they have played in the semifinal/Conference Final round over the past 11 years, with five of those series now going to the distance.
A quick refresher on how these games have gone for the Lightning over the years. It has not always gone well, with offense being a major problem in these situations.
- 2010-11: Lost Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final to Boston Bruins 1-0
- 2014-15: Won Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final over New York Rangers 2-0
- 2015-16: Lost Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final to Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1
- 2017-18: Lost Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final to Washington Capitals 4-0
The Lightning have just three total goals in their previous four Game 7s in this round, with all three of the losses being against teams that went on to win the Stanley Cup in the next round. For a team that is consistently one of the best offensive teams in the league, that is a stunning development.
Before this core broke through and won the Stanley Cup a year ago (after winning the Eastern Conference Final in six games over the Islanders) these near-misses were a major source of frustration for the Lightning, especially as they struggled to find offense in those defeats.
Offense should take center stage again on Friday.
For starters, even though they have gone on another deep playoff run this season it has not necessarily been their offense leading the way. It has mostly been a dominant performance from starting goalie Andre Vasilevskiy. Since the start of the Second Round the Lightning have been held to two goals or less in eight of the 11 games, including four of the first six in this series.
Just for comparisons sake, in 25 playoff games a year ago on their way to a championship they were held to two goals or less only nine times for the entire postseason. So the offense has already been a little bit of a struggle recently, and that is with Nikita Kucherov leading the playoffs in scoring (by a wide margin) and Brayden Point currently carrying a nine-game goal streak.
But when you consider that Kucherov may not be available, and even if he is, may not be at 100%, it is definitely going to be a concern. Kucherov was injured early in Game 6 when he was cross-checked by Scott Mayfield. Kucherov exited the game and did not return, leaving his status for Friday’s game in doubt.
Win or lose on Friday the fact the Lightning are back in this exact same spot — again — is a testament to how successful the organization has been over the past decade. Since the start of the 2010-11 season no team in the league has won more playoff games than Tampa Bay’s 76 (Boston with 73 and Pittsburgh with 62 are the only teams with more than 60 wins during that stretch) while they also have the league’s best postseason winning percentage by a fairly significant margin.
A win on Friday will put them in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in seven years with a chance to become just the fourth team since 1990 to win consecutive Stanley Cups.
FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE