Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Time: 8 PM EST
Location: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Network: NBCSN, CBC
Game Seven. Two words that make the hairs on the back of any athlete or fan stand up. Two words that can change the face of an entire franchise. Two words that intensifies every moment, glorifies every goal, and amplifies every mistake. The Pens and Lightning face off for the final time this year, winner gets a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals, loser goes home with plenty to think about during the offseason.
Game Six was a must win for Pittsburgh and God knows that they wanted it. The stars came out to play, and convincingly pushed the series another game. Phil Kessel opened up the scoring with his ninth playoff goal of the year, batting the puck out of mid-air on a cross ice feed from Sidney Crosby. The Pens captain also notched his third game winning goal of the series, on a nifty solo effort, beating Vasilevskiy five hole. However, it was Bryan Rust who sealed the deal, flying in on a breakaway from neutral ice and undressing Vasilevskiy which you can watch to your delight below:
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nikita Kucherov’s presence must be there and it must be felt. His shot totals are down this series, averaging only two shots per game, compared to almost 4.5 against the Islanders. Thus contributing to only two goals, which came in a three point performance in game five. The Triplets were put back together midway through the second period in an attempt to get things going. When Kucherov is playing well, he is lethal, and can potentially send the Bolts packing to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin has been relatively quiet this postseason. Yes he is riding a four game point streak, but his point totals are inflated. Two nights ago, he had the secondary assists on Kessel’s PPG, and in game five, Malkin merely shot the puck on net and Conor Sheary buried the rebound. While results are not coming, there is no lack of chances. With scoring chances similar to Nikita Kucherov’s in the second round, Malkin has been unlucky in not finishing. This great, big, Russian bear is bound to break out, and Game 7 may just be the opportune time to.
Keys to Victory:
Tampa Bay Lightning:
- Stay Out of the Box. Do not give the star power in Pittsburgh time on the man advantage because they have been very good at making teams pay. 25.4% Efficiency
- Help Your Goalie. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been very good, great even. However, since game one he has given up at least three goals in each game- definitely not good enough to win a series.
- The Triplets. I love this line more than anything, yea Stammer is not there and they have to play apart, but these three can really do some damage together. Keep them as a unit.
- Shots, Shots, Shots, EVERYBODY! Pepper Vasilevskiy, take Vasilevskiy out of his comfort zone, make him move around and force him out of position.
- Line Matching. Having Letang shut down Kucherov, and letting either Kessel or Crosby roam free of Victor Hedman has been crucial in wins thus far. Good on you Mike Sullivan.
- Speed. The Pens are the fastest team left, use that to the advantage. Win puck battles in the corners and work a cycle. Break out as a unit quick and efficiently, and do not let Tampa set up defensively.
Video Credit: nhl.com