I was concerned going into the late minutes of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils. It was a concern grown out of the habit by way of the Bolts late regular season and continued into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.
With a skimpy one-goal lead, I feared the dreaded 3rd period lapse.
The Lightning held on and won 3-1, it doesn’t change my concern going forward with the habit. It’s putrid how the Bolts have seemingly lain down and let things go to the favor of the opposition regularly during the second half of the NHL sseason in 2017-18. I mean, shit man, Tampa Bay gave the eventual worst team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres, a chance to tie the matchup at the Amalie on February 27th and then win in overtime. A 1-0 game, turned into a 2-1 loss by way of complacency and a who-cares? late-game arrogance. To have that expressed in play with regularity does not bode well.
Oh, the April meeting was another careless effort but Tampa Bay won the high-scoring affair so everything I just complained about is meaningless, right? Right?? Someone’s going to think it, but it’s not like the Sabres game I cited was the only time overtime was forced by an opponent. It was happening again and again in February and March; leads conceded in the 3rd that led to overtime and the shootout. Those lapses were too common for a club that was topping the NHL for most of the season and vying for the President’s Trophy.
And with the Devils, this type of opportunity to make a late push was there. It’d shown up in game 2, which the Bolts eventually won 5-3. General NHL variety of viewers watched and wondering what the hell was going on as Tampa Bay stepped down in the 3rd from Stanley Cup-Contender status to playing sloppy as if the game was suddenly simply beer league play?
I don’t know where the complacent-late element came from. What I do know is that this is the Second Season in the NHL and that generally you’re not supposed to see the same issues play out or specifically that fans shouldn’t expect to hold steady to them. Yet, here we are, Game 5, and we’ve seen the issue pop up in previous games.
The risk of it carries over is my point, and it leaves this fan uncomfortable.
Game 3 was a concession unto itself by way of recklessness in the 3rd. It was a different kind of folly and all that I’m left to do when recapping it is to facepalm. It was a great game in the first two periods – fast, fast, fast, and a tied affair going into the 3rd. New Jersey scored on a 3rd period power play and the wheels fell off. **Sigh** It happens, but the do-or-die time of the NHL playoffs is a poor time for this to manifest.
I’m writing all doom-and-gloom here but the Bolts hold a 3-1 series lead going in to Saturday’s matinee at the Amalie. My point is basically that play has to be a constant through all periods of play and the Lightning have had the habit of squandering games by forgoing the constant when they take a lead into the third period. The Devils are a capable club and I wonder where this series would be if Cory Schneider had been tabbed as their backstop from the start?
Schneider has posted a 1.67 GAA and .951 save percentage on 75 shots and that looks rather fantastic, don’t it? That’s better than Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 2.26 GAA and .937 save% in decidedly more playing time. Vasy’s faced a torrent of 133 shots in his four games in net. If you do a little math it shows that’s a bit more than 33 shots a game.
Then again, Cory’s faced the same in his two games in net. The total number of shots spikes up to 75 by way of his 9 shots faced in Game 2 after relieving Keith Kincaid.
Basically a complete game effort is necessary no matter what the score is. A late-game lapse is opening the door for the Devils to force a Game 6 at Prudential Center in Newark. One-sided play may have marked the first two periods of Games 1 and 2 but the 3rd period is part of that game, no matter what the score. You cannot write it off when you have a lead and you can’t give up when the chips are down. Not in the Second Season when there is no true tomorrow.