Two high powered division winners. Two opponents they just couldn’t seem to beat. Two “bad sports towns” headed to Eastern Conference Finals and it feels oh so good.
That’s right the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals are headed to the ECF after finally exorcising their demons in the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lightning since coming into the league 25 years ago had beaten the Bruins just 8 times in the New Garden/Fleet Center and continued to struggle against the Bruins this season dropping their first three meetings to the Bruins before a resounding shutout victory in the last week of the season that yours truly was in attendance at, notta big deal. By the end of the series they had boosted their @Boston win total to 10 taking two on the road from the Bruins.
How they did it:
After their sloppy Game 1 performance, where they looked rusty, the Lightning remained confident in their biggest difference maker: their depth. Lightning coach Jon Cooper continued to roll all 4 lines against the Bruins resulting in constant, fresh, pressure in the offensive zone that wore down the Bruins and resulted in production from all 4. In contrast the Bruins had to rely almost exclusively upon their lethal top line of Bergeron, Pasternak, and Marchand for all of their production. Eventually this began take its toll as the deeper Lightning were able to suffocate the Bruins offensive production and didn’t allow a single 5on5 goal the final three games.
Relevant stat: Despite having the 2nd highest Goals per game average in the playoffs, 3.50, the Lightning goals leader, Nikita Kucherov, only has 6 goals and 12 points. Bottom line the Lighting are getting scoring from all 4 lines and this characteristic has proved vital for several of the last teams to hoist the cup.
Despite getting contributions from everyone, the MVP’s for the series had to be the aptly named PBJ line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson. Palat was an absolute monster on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, while still dazzling on the attack with some timely goals. If it wasn’t Palat then Brayden Point was the best skater on the Lightning this series. He played an incredible 2-way game going head to head with Bergeron, the seemingly perennial Selke winner, and out playing him. Point was physical, disciplined, and put on a skating clinic every time he had the puck on his stick consistently frustrating the Bruins and drawing penalties. His play will be critical against the Capitals next series. Tyler Johnson, this guy just loves the playoffs. Though he isn’t matching his torrid scoring pace from 2015, he continues to grind against players much larger than him and put himself in the dirty areas to score goals. Guy is the definition of GRIT and I love having him on this team.
Final Thought: Brad Marchand is fucking rat bastard and Callahan should’ve caved his face in for that lick…that being said if he was on the Lightning he’d easily be my favorite player.
The Capitals hadn’t made it out of the Second Round for 25 years and 5 of the times they had the chance to advance, it was the Penguins that sent them home backing. Is it their year? I’m not convinced yet and if they hope to have any chance at giving Ovi a cup they can’t be content on just beating the Penguins in the Second Round.
How they did it:
Not really sure, didn’t get to watch too much of this series…I know Holtby was incredible and that Crosby was on the ice for 12 of the Penguins last 13 goals in the series. Seems like another Bruins issue as Crosby and Guentzel were asked to carry the load and though they answered the call it wasn’t enough against a high powered Capitals team. Fat Phil Kessel was a ghost, probably at the buffet, and Malkin was playing hurt the whole time. Throughout Game 6 Kris Letang was consistently out of position, including on the eventually OT winner. When you’re supposed to be your team’s bonafide #1 defenseman, you cannot be such a liability and begs the question how valuable he is as the Penguins were able to hoist the cup last year without him at all.
This has to go Holtby. Since sitting in favor of Nabokov the first two games of the Columbus series Holtby has been the rock the Capitals have needed on their back end. He’s got a GAA of just 2.04 and beautiful save % of .926. He’s made Trotz look like he belongs on Sesame Street for ever benching him in the first place and he’ll need to keep up his play in order to bail out Washington’s weaker back-end against Tampa
Papa Lack always told me the mark of a true man is one who can acknowledge when he has done something wrong. So I would like to officially apologize to The Redshirt Blog itself, and all of our fans. I know I’ve been absent since the Wild Card round of the playoffs and that’s unacceptable. I won’t make excuses, like some noted internet moguls who claim to be salt of the earth and built brick by brick, and all I can ask is that you continue support the dream and enjoy the content I churn out.
P.S. I am on the record though as not apologizing to that ginger cuck Big Blogger. Guy eats puffins cereal and leaves the empty boxes in the pantry. If I had a gun with two bullets in it and was in a room with him, Hitler, and Toby from the office, I’d shoot Hitler twice then make Big Blogger clean up the mess. Guy is the definition of a beta.