The Lightning are halfway to another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes twice in Raleigh by scores of 2-1.
Compared to their first-round matchup with Florida, this series with Carolina is a different style of hockey than what we witnessed against the Panthers.
The Lightning have played tough defense, relied on goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky, and have been able to throttle Carolina’s offensive attack to take a commanding series lead two games to none.
This is the same style of hockey that the Bolts embraced on their way to winning the Stanley Cup last season.
Vasilevskiy has been outstanding the last three games, shutting out the Panthers in game six and allowing just two goals in the first two games against Carolina. As a result, he has put himself in contention for the Conn Smythe Trophy and is also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the fourth year in a row.
Both Carolina goals in this series have come on power plays, meaning the Bolts have not given up a five-on-five goal going back to game six of the Florida series.
That’s how good the defense has been and how stellar Andrei Vasilevskiy has been in goal.
Jon Cooper talked about what it’s like to have Vasilevskiy in goal every night. “Vasy is a world-class goalie. When he’s in the zone, I don’t know if there’s anybody better. It’s a luxury to have him back there.”
Let’s not forget how good the defense has been these last two games as well. Cooper talked about the defensive mindset that has taken over this Lightning team. “I look at our team defense tonight, and people will look at the shot clock and sit there and say, ‘Wow, look, the Lightning got outshot.’ But if you’re going to look at what we look at, were they quality shots, could our goalie see them? That’s what we want to do for him, let him see pucks, clear rebounds, and when we do breakdown, he’s there for us.
With the series now shifting to Tampa for games three and four, that plays out favorably for the Lightning as this team has never lost a playoff series when taking a 2-0 series lead.
The Lightning are 4-1 on the road this post-season, and Steven Stamkos talked about that road mentality after the 2-1 win on Tuesday night.
“I think we just know how important it is to win on the road in the playoffs, how tough it is, especially in a building like this. It was rocking these last two games. To come in here and get both wins was huge. We get to come home in front of our fans that are going to be just as rowdy, I think. We’ve got to continue to battle the way we are. It’s a grind out there. There’s not a lot of time and space, so you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities when you can, and we did that tonight.”