Remember when eight goals seemed like a lot in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Game 2 win against the New York Rangers? The two teams have already combined for 10 tallies tonight, and Game 3 will require one more to determine a winner.
Ryan McDonagh tied the game up early in the third period, while Ondrej Palat scored his second goal of the contest to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead with a little less than six minutes remaining. Having 5:55 seemed like ample time in a game like this … and it turns out that it was.
Dan Boyle’s aggressiveness paid off, as he crashed the net for the 5-5 goal against the team he once won a Stanley Cup with:
Both goalies are struggling … but you never know when the next marathon OT epic might come. Either way, after all of this, next goal wins.
The New York Rangers allowed six goals in their worst showing of the 2015 playoffs
, but that wasn’t due to a failing in five-on-five play. Tampa Bay did get two even strength goals and that shouldn’t be ignored, but the Rangers were the better team in terms of five-on-five shots and scoring chances, per War on Ice
Instead, the Rangers’ biggest issue was penalties as they gave Tampa Bay six opportunities tonight and the Lightning converted on three of them. The fact that a lack of discipline played a significant role in the Rangers’ blowout loss wasn’t lost on captain Ryan McDonagh.
“Our guys better figure it out quickly here and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team,” McDonagh said, per the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard.
The Rangers are up to 44 minor penalties in 14 playoff games, but Tampa Bay has been significantly worse with 68 minors in 15 contests. Even in this game, Tampa Bay also had a tough time staying out of the sin bin. It wouldn’t have taken a lot for this story to be reversed and the discussion to be about Tampa Bay’s penalty troubles. If the Lightning aren’t careful, perhaps that will be the plot line in Game 3 on Wednesday.
Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello, who’s been out since Game 5 of the first playoff round after taking a Ryan McDonagh shot to the side of the head, resumed skating on Monday prior to tonight’s Eastern Conference Final game against Tampa Bay.
Zuccarello, 27, missed New York’s entire seven-game win over Washington in Round 2 with a suspected concussion, and also sat out the conference final opener on Saturday. Prior to the Tampa Bay series, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he was “holding out hope” for a possible Zuccarello return; noting that the diminutive Norwegian had done “everything but” skate in terms of working out.
Getting Zuccarello back would be a major boon for the Blueshirts. He’s one of their most creative playmakers — third on the team in assists this year, with 34 — and received plenty of minutes during the regular season (17:16 per game).
2.00 — Goals per game for the Rangers in these playoffs. The reason they’re in the conference finals is they’ve only given up 1.67 per game, thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist (.944 save percentage). Remarkably, six of the Rangers’ eight wins have been by a score of 2-1. Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider lead the Blueshirts with five goals each, followed by Derek Stepan with three, while Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, Kevin Hayes, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle have two each.
55.4 — Anaheim’s faceoff percentage, the highest of the four remaining teams. The Ducks struggled in this area last postseason, but the addition of Ryan Kesler (63.7% this year), who replaced Nick Bonino (45.8% last year), has really helped them. Should be interesting to see how Kesler does against Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in the game.
10-1 — The combined overtime record of the four remaining teams, led by the Rangers (4-0). The only team that’s suffered an overtime loss is Anaheim (Game 3 versus Calgary).
48.31 — Tampa Bay’s Corsi close percentage, the lowest of the four remaining teams. Which lends credence to the notion that the Lightning haven’t really played up to their potential in the postseason. In a related story, Ben Bishop was excellent versus Montreal, registering a save percentage of .940 in six games, while outplaying Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price. Let’s see how Bishop does versus Lundqvist.
9 — Power-play goals allowed by Chicago. Six to Nashville, then three more to Minnesota. Poor penalty killing is not something that’s normally associated with successful playoff teams, so the Blackhawks will want to tighten that area up versus the Ducks, who’ve scored nine power-play goals in nine games.
Tonight is a DEFINING MOMENT for Alex Ovechkin. He needs to STEP UP and be a GAME-CHANGER. If he’s really the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, he needs to PROVE IT.
Hands up if you’ve heard something along those lines the past couple of days.
Perhaps on PHT!
Over to Ovechkin’s teammate, Joel Ward, with the rebuttal.
“People talk and debate about it. I get it. I’m just trying to tell you: Hockey’s not that game,” Ward said, per the Washington Post. “People don’t understand, the sport of hockey is a different beast compared to other sports. You can’t just throw that deep ball in the corner, and it’s up to you to just go and grab it. Things happen. You make a pass, it banks off the boards differently, it goes off a guy’s skate, bounces over there. There’s a lot of variables that go into it. … Hockey is the ultimate beast, man. It’s a crazy sport.”
Indeed it is. Here’s how author Michael J. Mauboussin ranks the randomness of hockey compared to other sports:
This isn’t to make excuses for Ovechkin before the game is even played. He obviously needs to play well.
But even if he plays well and does all the right things, he might not score and the Capitals might not win. That’s just the reality of the game. Especially these days. It’s why you hear stuff like this from the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh:
And it’s why coaches focus on process over results. The process can be controlled. The results, for the most part, can’t.
“Obviously we’d like to score and produce out there,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think we had some good looks last game that we should have put in. But we’ve just got to keep working hard and play the right way and hopefully it will help us.”