It seem’s like an eternity since the Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Western Conference Champion is enjoying the extra rest as they await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals. Well, the wait is just about over as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Washington Capitals in game seven Wednesday night. The FPC NHL Staff was given a simple question: Who is the Lightning’s x-factor in game seven?
Ian Glendon: It has to be goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning have the ability to score throughout their lineup, led by the top line of Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller, and Nikita Kucherov, however, on any given night they can go quiet as was the case in game six. Therefore, tonight’s game seven will rest solely on the shoulders of the Russian netminder.
In games one and two in Tampa, Vasilevskiy was off his game has he surrendered 10 goals in two losses to start the series. However, he found his game as the went to the Nation’s Capital and keyed the Lightning to three straight wins and a series lead. After failing to knock out the Capitals in game six, Vasilevskiy will have to be at the top of his game from the drop of the puck. A poor start could open the floodgates against a talented offensive team such as the Capitals.
Kevin Gesterling: This is a two-part answer because I think they have two x-factors and they play on the same line. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have been ghosts the last three games; they have combined for 2 points and a -3 plus/minus rating. If Tampa has a chance in this game these two need to step up. They have been fortunate to win two of the three games these guys have put up little production.
In a game seven, a team’s best players need to step up. And that is what I will be looking for tonight. Are Stamkos and Kucherov factors tonight? Because if they are not, this may not end well for the Lightning.
A factor that is out of Tampa’s control but could be huge are the fans. This is why teams play for home ice advantage in the regular season. There is no better time than now to get loud with a trip to the finals on the line.
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Zachary Herr: Despite a bad start in games one and two, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out in in games three, four and five. Vasilevskiy recorded 30, 38 and 38 saves while holding the Capitals to only two goals in each of those three games. The Capitals outplayed Tampa in game five and peppered Vasilevskiy with shots and scoring chances. But, Vasilevskiy’s hot play has kept them in the series and lead them on a three-game streak, two games that were in DC. His electric saves push the Lightning going forward and really help the team build momentum.
J.W. Gravley: If you’re going to ask me who the X-factor is for the Lightning then I am going to go with, not a player, but their power play. This series, like most of the season, has given opponents trouble and the same can be said in the Eastern Conference Finals. Minus game six where the Caps shut down the two chances the Bolts went on the man advantage. If the Caps hit the penalty box often and early in the game seven, it might be their last game of the season.