The Tampa Bay lightning have been out played in every facet of the first two games of their playoff series against Columbus. Ok they played well the first period of game one, but it has been all down hill after that.
The defense is the worst it has looked all season and maybe in a couple of years. The defensive pairings at practice today did not include Victor Hedman in the top six so he may be the odd man out when the series resumes in Columbus on Sunday night.
As usually happens at playoff time with this Lightning team, the Lightning’s top three offensive players have disappeared. I almost called the Hillsborough County Sheriffs department to file a missing persons report on Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Braydon Point.
Steven Stamkos has not scored a goal or had a point in the last six playoff games going back to last years game three of the Eastern Conference Finals against Washington.
Kucherov’s last goal was also in game three of the Washington series last year and with his one game suspension looming it will be at least eight playoff games without scoring goal.
You cannot have this kind of effort from your top players and expect to move on in the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way.
These three have been missing since the puck dropped on Wednesday night and Nikita Kucherov will continue to be MIA as he has been suspended for one game for boarding as he hit Columbus defensemen Markus Nutivaara in the back of the head with his stick.
Will it matter? Well you hate to have one of your best players out of the game but he has done nothing in the series so far, so its next man up and that happens to be Ryan Callahan who has been scratched these first two games.
Yes the Lightning is getting outplayed in every facet of the game, but head coach Jon Cooper is getting out coached by Columbus coach John Tortorella.
Cooper seems to be really stubborn and set in his ways and refuses to make any adjustments. You see something is not working, change it. The couple of power play opportunities the Lightning have had, they ran the same offense and after a while Columbus figured it out and the Lightning couldn’t even get the puck in the offensive zone.
The defense has been a mess. The special teams that were so good during the regular season have been exposed badly. The Lightning’s power play unit has allowed two short handed goals which happened rarely during the regular season.
Victor Hedman has probably played his worst two games as a Lightning player that I have seen him play. His decision making, his puck handling all have been suspect. Hedman missed the last week of the regular season with a head injury and I am wondering if he is really 100 percent recovered.
The penalty kill has been atrocious allowing Columbus to score at will. The playoffs are all about adjustments and Cooper has done nothing to counter what the Blue Jackets are doing.
Andrei Vasilevskiy the Vezina Trophy candidate has not been himself either as he has allowed some suspect goals and not been able to give the team a boost with his goaltending like he did in the regular season.
Last year the Lightning played better on the road during the playoffs than they did at home. With two games coming up against the Blue Jackets in Columbus, lets hope that is the case against this year or tee times will start a bit earlier than expected this spring for the Lightning.
Another question that we are all wondering about is maybe this Lightning team is built for the regular season, not the playoffs We have seen this played out the last few seasons in the playoffs as this team just doesn’t seem to have what it takes come playoff team to get them over the top.
The Lightning have another opportunity to right the ship starting tomorrow night in Columbus.
Let’s hope Cooper and the guys can figure how to beat that defensive system trap the Blue jackets have played much of the series.
if not, this will be the best team in NHL history to not win a Stanley Cup and get eliminated by an eighth seed in the first round of the playoffs.