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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: On The Road Again

  • The New York Rangers are two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and the series shifts to Amalie Arena for a pivotal Game 3 matchup. The Rangers were successful in ending the Lightning’s streak of 18 wins following a loss which stretched back to the start of the 2020 playoffs, and have an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the series this afternoon.
  • This is the most important game of the series for the Lightning, and after a pretty underwhelming performance outside of a few moments in Game 2, this is their moment to try and get back in the series.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy was better than he was in Game 1, but he was still leaking pucks and looking a bit unsure of himself. The series shifting back home should give them a bit of an edge, and they can use every edge they can get at this point.
  • The Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions for a reason, and even with the Rangers up 2-0, this series is far from over.
  • The prospect of going down 3-0 to the Rangers will certainly bring the best out of them, and if desperation sets in it could create an opening for the Blueshirts to capitalize.
  • As for Game 2, the Kid Line was spectacular once again. It was great to see K’Andre Miller score shortly after the Lightning went up 1-0 after being gifted a power play, and it was even better to see Adam Fox find Kaapo Kakko for the second goal of the game.
  • Mika Zibanejad’s snipe early in the third really took the winds out of Tampa’s sails, and certainly impact how the period played out.
  • The 3-2 score of Game 2 doesn’t adequately reflect what happened on the ice, as the Rangers probably should have had an extra goal or two. Tampa’s late goal made the game closer than it should have been, and that’s one mistake the Rangers will certainly reflect on. Overall they will look at what went right in Game 2, see where they failed to capitalize, and come out with a more refined approach in Game 3.
  • I don’t think anyone is predicting a sweep, but I think the Rangers would much prefer to go up 3-0 and head home 3-1, as opposed to losing Game 3 and winning Game 4. Luckily the team continues to take things one game at a time, and that’s an approach that’s worked for them this season.
  • One of the more interesting things about the first two games has been compete level, and despite having a significant amount of time off before the start of the series, the Lightning have looked like the slower and more fatigued team.
  • The Rangers have been in a rhythm of playing, resting, playing, resting, and so on for the last couple of weeks, and the team staff and players deserve credit for their endurance, preparation, and ability to recover and get back on the ice ready to play.
  • The last thing I will say here is that the Rangers being down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0, and 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes is something that makes them better equipped to prepare for a Lightning team in an 0-2 hole.
  • Having that recent experience puts them in a position to understand the desperation and sense of urgency Tampa Bay is going to play with, and reflect on how quickly a lead can go away if you lose focus on the task at hand.
  • If the Rangers play similar in Game 3 as they did in Game 2, but capitalize on the opportunities they didn’t, they will have a chance to break the Lightning’s spirit. I think it was encouraging to see the Rangers be able to win without scoring a power play goal, and I don’t think you are going to have too many games in a row where the man-advantage unit remains quiet.
  • This afternoon is another big opportunity and challenge for a young team that has answered the call all year long. The vibes are incredibly good right now, and you get the feeling that something special is taking place.