VIDEO: Tampa Bay Lightning Look to Make History and Advance to Stanley Cup Finals Tonight
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // May 21, 2018
Bolts CAN REACH SECOND CUP FINAL IN FOUR YEARS
ABOVE VIDEO: Ryan Callahan had a goal and an assist as the Tampa Bay Lightning held on to beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 5.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – If you ask me, there is simply is no better sport than hockey, and there really is no better sport than hockey in April and May.
Not even the NFL in January or college football after Thanksgiving compares to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first two days of March Madness is a close second but from start to finish the Stanley Cup playoffs reign supreme in my book.
If you are a hockey fan or curious about the sport and you’re not watching what the Tampa Bay Lightning have been doing over the past five seasons—then you are missing out on a unique sports experience. The good news is, the Bolts are still playing and there is room on their Stanley Cup playoff bandwagon.
Playing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years, Tampa Bay is one win away from playing for all of the marbles in the toughest professional sports tournament.
A win tonight over the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital and the Bolts will face the Las Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, for the right to hoist the most expensive, oldest and most coveted trophy in all of sports – the Stanley Cup.
THE BEAUTY OF THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
And speaking of the Knights, they were the longest of long shots to win the Stanley Cup, as they began the season with odds of 500-to-1 to win the championship. Yet, here they are waiting for the winner of the Tampa-Washington series after defeating the Winnipeg Jets four games to one in the Western Conference finals.
That’s the beauty of the NHL Playoffs and unlike the NBA, every team has a chance to hoist the sports top prize when the playoffs begin. In 2012 the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup as a No.8 seed in the west and last year the Nashville Predators were the final team to qualify for the playoffs and reached the finals.
No eighth seed has ever advanced to the NBA Finals or reached the conference finals. In fact, Only five eighth-seeded teams have managed to win a series versus the number one seeded team in NBA history.
CAPITALS PLAYOFF STRUGGLES FAVOR BOLTS TONIGHT
The Lightning lost the first two games at home before winning three straight in this series. In fact, until Tampa’s 3-2 home win on Saturday night, the visiting team had won every game in the series through the first four games marking the 26th time that has happened in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Capitals aren’t exactly known for playoff heroics, in fact, they are notorious for making history in a bad way this time of the year. Washington has invented ways to blow playoff series leads in the franchises 43-year history and have reached this point in the playoffs just three times with only six wins in conference finals play.
They were the first No.1 seed ever to blow a 3-1 series lead and lose to an eighth seed and also became the first No.1 seed to be swept in round two. The Capitals hold an all-time series record of 0-2 when winning Games 1 and 2 as visitors, losing in six games to the Penguins in 1996 and Lightning in 2003 playoffs.
Overall, NHL clubs are 71-20 in 91 all-time best-of-seven series when taking a 2-0 lead on the road and in the conference era (since 1974-75) and teams that held a 2-0 series lead in the Conference Finals/Semifinals own an all-time series record of 39-2.
But here the Capitals sit, on the brink of elimination and to add a bit of salt to a wound that just won’t close, George McPhee, the General Manager of the Capitals from 1997 until 2014 is the man that built the Vegas Golden Knights, the team that is now waiting on the winner of this series to face in the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year of existence.
HOW TAMPA CAME BACK IN SERIES
The Lightning are now ahead in the series thanks to their young goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who made 102 saves in the Bolts three straight wins.
Vasilevskiy, who complained of being tired at seasons end and looked exhausted in Games 1 and 2 after allowing 10-goals, led the NHL with 18 road victories during the regular season and is 5-1 as a visitor during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs allowing less than two goals per game.
If Lightning fans are worried tonight’s game is in D.C., don’t be, playing at home in the NHL playoffs means nothing. Road teams are 41-35 this postseason (76 GP) and Tampa shared the league lead with 25 road wins during the regular season and have won five of six away from Amalie Arena in the playoffs.
ABOVE VIDEO: Tampa Bay head coach fields a question from Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski about the play oh his goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is Game 5’s final minute.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
Vegas isn’t the only team that is making history.
If Tampa can win tonight in D.C., they can become the eighth team to win a Conference Finals after losing Games 1 and 2. Only one of those clubs did so after dropping the first two games at home: the Red Wings rallied to defeat the Bruins in seven games in the 1945 Semifinals.
The historical numbers support a Tampa series win. Since 1974-75, when the Conference Finals is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 owns an all-time series record of 22-7. However, the hardest game to win is the clinching game and despite the success of road teams in the playoffs, to do it away from home is even tougher.
The Lightning know this first hand.
Just two short years ago they were the last team to lose Games 6 and 7 after taking a 3-2 series lead in the conference finals when the Penguins won Game 6 in Tampa and finished off the Bolts to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in game 7.
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