The Game 7s of the NHL’s conference finals weren’t as exciting as the each series overall was, particularly Chicago-Anaheim, which went for thrill-a-minute to Game 7 clunker. But Tampa Bay-NY Rangers produced a good game, and in the end the Blackhawks and Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Tampa Bay won 2-0 in Madison Square Garden in a tense game that was scoreless over two periods and play-by-play man Doc Emrick on NBC Sports Network said what I was thinking—that the game was a lot like an Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 back in 2011, when Tampa lost in Boston 1-0 on a third-period goal.
But in that ’11 game, the Lightning were outshot and outplayed up and down the ice and it just took until the third period for it to catch up with them. This time they were in control on the defensive end. I can’t recall the Rangers ever really getting serious chances to score—at the very least, Ben Bishop didn’t have to make any spectacular saves.
New York’s Rick Nash continued to be AWOL when it came to simply shooting the puck and the Rangers’ best offensive player only took one shot at the net. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was as good as expected—in fact, he was the one making spectacular saves, twice denying the Lightning when they had open shots close-in.
It made the goal that finally but Tampa on the board a little ironic—Alex Killorn’s shot got under Lundqvist’s legs and kind of squirted through. It was a tough way to give up the goal that beats you—and Tampa added another with just under nine minutes to go to win it.
Even though Tampa Bay only outshot New York 25-22, that stat doesn’t show the quality of the Lightning looks was much better, as epitomized by the two spectacular saves Lundqvist had to make. Those weren’t the ones that got through, but the simple math of hockey is that when you get consistently better looks than your opponent, the bounce of the puck eventually goes your way.
Tampa Bay won because they were the better team on Friday night, and even though New York won the President’s Trophy, the Lightning just seem to be the more talented team up and down the lineup. When they get goaltending, they’re very difficult to beat.
Now let’s get to Chicago’s 5-3 win over Anaheim on Saturday night. Continue reading “Tampa Bay & Chicago Win Game 7s” »