The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.
• The Lightning enter Game 6 on Saturday night just one win away from a third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
• The Bruins’ path will likely be dictated by David Pastrnak’s contract situation.
• The Panthers should not overreact to their Stanley Cup Playoff performance.
With one more win the Tampa Bay Lightning will be back in the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season and the fourth time over the past seven seasons.
They enter Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday night with a 3-2 series lead over the New York Rangers after winning three consecutive games. It has been a combination of the Lightning’s top line taking over, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy allowing just four goals in Games 3-5 of the series.
If recent history is any guide, this is where Vasilevskiy really starts to shine.
Vasilevskiy has been one of the constants for the Lightning over the past three seasons, playing every minute in goal for the team in the postseason. While his overall numbers are sensational and have helped cement his status among the all-time greats, it is when he has a chance to knock an opponent out of the playoffs where he really takes over. He is as automatic in these games as any player in the NHL can be.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
Since the start of the 2019-20 postseason, Vasilevskiy and the Lightning have played in 15 games where they have had a chance to eliminate an opponent.
Vasilevskiy’s record in those games is 10-5 (with only one of those losses coming in regulation; the other four in overtime) with a .951 save percentage and a whopping six shutouts.
For his career, he has a .944 save percentage in 22 games where the Lightning have a chance to eliminate an opponent. In 15 those of games he has allowed two goals or less. In 10 games he has allowed one goal or less.
What is perhaps even more stunning is that in his career he has actually lost three potential knockout games in which he has only allowed two goals and had save percentage over .940. In the aforementioned four overtime losses he allowed just two goals in regulation in each game. In 22 potential knockout games in his career he has allowed three goals in regulation just three times. So even when he does not actually get the win he is still almost unbeatable in these types of games.
That is bad news for a Rangers team that has been struggling to generate consistent offense in this series over the past three games.
Not only has Vasilevskiy bounced back from a shaky start in Games 1-2, but the Lightning have also put the clamps on them defensively in Games 3-5 of the series.
In Tampa Bay’s Game 5 win, for example, the Rangers generated just five high-danger scoring chances (in all situations) for the entire game, with only one of them coming after the first period.
Over those three games overall the high-danger scoring chances are 53-26 in favor of the Lightning (67%) while the expected goals are 13.01-7.38 in favor of the Lightning (64%).
In terms of scoring chances and expected goals the Lightning are doubling the Rangers up across the board. That sort of play is not going to be good enough to beat the Lightning and Vasilevskiy in any game, let alone an elimination game. The Lightning have not only been the league’s best team over the past seven years, they have developed a knack for closing teams out when they have the chance.
Add in the fact Saturday’s game is in Tampa Bay where the Lightning are 6-1 this postseason and it is going to take an incredible effort from the Rangers, probably their best of the postseason to this point, to force a Game 7.
2022 NHL playoff schedule: Eastern Conference Final
NEW YORK RANGERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TB leads 3-2)
Game 1 – Rangers 6, Lightning 2
Game 2 – Rangers 3, Lightning 2
Game 3 – Lightning 3, Rangers 2
Game 4 – Lightning 4, Rangers 1
Game 5 – Lightning 3, Rangers 1
Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
* If necessary
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.