Lightning Sweep the Panthers To Advance To The Eastern Conference Finals

This performance was one of the best in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Oh sure. There have been games and series that meant more, but the way this Lightning played and executed was at such a high level it will go down in history as one of their best performances.

The Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Florida Panthers 2-0 to complete the four-game sweep of Florida in their second-round matchup.

Consider the Florida Panthers were the highest-scoring team in the NHL this season with an average of 4.11 goals per game. The highest-scoring team ever in the salary cap era.

The Panthers also had the best record in the NHL, winning the president’s trophy with a 58-18-6 record and accumulating 122 points.

It wasn’t just that the Bolts swept the Panthers in four straight. It was the way they did it.

When it’s time to play playoff hockey, the switch is flipped from an offensive focus to a defensive mentality. As Lightning coach Jon Cooper has said many times, it’s not how many you score; it’s how many you don’t allow the opposition to score that separates winning from losing.

The Lightning allowed the highest-scoring team in the NHL to score just three goals in four games. Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair, and Eutu Luostarinen scored the goals for the Panthers.

Where was Carter Verhaeghe, Alexander Barkov, Claude Giroux, and Jonathon Huberdeau? Verhaeghe led the Panthers with six goals in the first-round series win against Washington.

The Lightning defense was smothering against the number one offense and was able to shut down the high-octane Panthers offense.

The power play of the Panthers, the best in the NHL during the regular season, suddenly ran out of gas in the postseason. The power play went just 1-31, which didn’t help their lack of offensive firepower against the Lightning.

It looked like the Lightning were sleepwalking through games during the regular season at times. Their skating was slow. They were turning the puck over. There was a lack of a forecheck, and Andrei Vasilevskiy looked tired.

But since game six of the Toronto Series, this Lightning team has been unstoppable.

The Lightning blocked 77 shots in the Panther series, an average of 18 a game. That’s the commitment, passion, heart, and desire it takes to win the Stanley Cup.

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy adds to his Hall of Fame resume with each playoff win. With another Stanley Cup on his resume, we can easily talk about him as one of the greatest goaltenders in history.

Since game six of the Toronto series, Vasilevskiy has allowed four goals for a .980 save percentage. Vasievskiy stopped 151 of 154 shots against the Panthers and posted a 0.98 goals-against average against the best offense in the NHL.

Forty-nine of those shots came in the 2-0 Game four-win Monday night. This postseason, Vasilevskiy is 8-3 with a 2.22 goals-against average, the best of his career.

Vasilevskiy won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as the MVP of the playoffs and is well on his way to a repeat performance.

Although the Lightning has won two Stanley Cups, they are playing like they are trying to win their first.

Steven Stamkos said that although most of the players on this team have won a cup or two, Brandon Hagel, Nick Paul, and Pierre-Edouard-Bellmare have not. They are trying to win one for those guys.

When the spotlight is the brightest, that is when your stars need to shine. Andrei Vasileviskiy is doing that and should have been the first, second, and third star on Monday night.

The Lightning will get some much-needed rest before the Eastern Conference finals begin against the Carolina Hurricanes or the New York Rangers.

No schedule has been posted yet for that series.

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