Lightning’s keys to Game Seven

Since 1985, five NHL teams have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, but none of those teams were able to add a third consecutive ring to their collection. The Tampa Bay Lightning have the opportunity to break that trend, but as history has shown us, this is no easy task.

The Bolts have dominated the NHL over the past few seasons, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups behind dazzling play from star players such as Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Steven Stamkos. The Lightning have established themselves as the team to beat in the eastern conference in recent years, but some other teams have started to take notice. This resulted in the most loaded eastern conference playoff field in history. This season marks the first time in NHL history that all eight eastern conference playoff teams finished the regular season with at least 100 points.

A Key Rival Right Out of the Gate

Tampa Bay drew the Maple Leafs in the first round, which is an interesting matchup because the Leafs are arguably the hungriest team in the NHL playoffs. Toronto is currently going through one of the worst playoff droughts in sports. The Leafs haven’t made it out of the first round since 2004, and are 0-9 in their past nine potential series-clinching games. However, star players Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are eager to change that narrative.

The Leafs had a chance to put away the series with a 3-2 lead late in game six, but Lightning veteran Anthony Cirelli punched back with a late goal to tie the game at 3-3. Once the game went to overtime, all the momentum was on the Bolts side and former all-star Brayden Point put in the game winner to force a game seven back in Toronto.

If the momentum was on the Bolts side after Cirelli’s goal to tie it, then it’s definitely on Tampa’s side after a comeback OT win to force a game seven. Tampa has the momentum, Tampa has the experience, and Tampa definitely has the talent. The only advantage that the Lightning don’t have in game seven is home ice advantage. It’s going to be crucial for the Lightning to have a fast start in game seven. If the Lightning can get on the board in the first 10 minutes of the game, it would go a long way to quieting that raucous Toronto crowd.

Brick Walls in Net

Another determining factor in Saturday’s game seven will be the play of both goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy was very solid in the third period and overtime in game six, but he has been shaky throughout the series. The same is true for Toronto netminder Jack Campbell. Both goaltenders have gone through stretches where they seem locked in, but then again every game has seen the winning team score at least four goals. The goaltender who plays better in game seven will give their team a major advantage in the series clinching game. Vasilevskiy has more experience, so look for him to shut the door in game seven.

 

 

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