After an exciting first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the second round is where the cream really rises to the top to quote the late great Randy “Macho Man” Savage. There was much anticipation for all four of these matchups but especially the second installment of the Sunshine State Showdown. While at times this series has lived up to the hype, the Florida Panthers are coming to realize the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup Champions for a reason. Mistakes will end up in the back of your end and that not only holds true for the Panthers-Lightning series, but all of the remaining series in the playoffs.
As the games get harder, so do the opportunities for coming back in games. With a good defence like the Lightning, the Panthers are finding out the hard way that a good defence always beats a good offence. Because the Panthers are still learning how to lose before they can. Similar to what the Lightning went through. Except, unlike in the previous round the Lightning are showing why they are not like the Washington Capitals when it comes to having a lead.
Tampa Bay Lightning Giving Panthers No Hope
Cardiac Cats Finding Comebacks Hard To Come By
In the first round, the Florida Panthers were able to get away with mistakes against the Washington Capitals. Washington did not have that killer instinct and made mistakes that cost them their first-round series against Florida. The Capitals were the better team and had bottled up the Panthers high-flying offence. But there was a reason why the Panthers were called the Cardiac Cats for a reason. They led the NHL in comebacks this regular season. But that style of hockey was not going to be able to translate to the playoffs. And it almost didn’t.
The Panthers were able to squeak by the Capitals, but against the Lightning, they are finding goals and comebacks hard to come by. Tampa Bay has received a team commitment from all their players and they will do anything to win. Florida is still learning that. The Lightning will not make the same mistakes Washington did to allow the Panthers back into games. Once the Lightning have the lead their defence goes to work. Sound familiar, it is the same style of hockey the New Jersey Devils won with, that was called boring.
The Panthers got away with not scoring a power-play goal against the Capitals. Against Tampa Bay, they scored their first in Game 3. In the playoffs, the Panthers are 1-for-28 on the power play while surrendering four power-play goals in the series to Tampa through three games. That is not good enough. Special teams were going to play a big role coming into this series. And just like last year, Tampa Bay is dominating special teams’ play.
Around Full Press Hockey
Top Players Step Up in Big Moments
With no Brayden Point, it was the next man up for the Lightning. Enter Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov has become a man possessed in this series for the Lightning. Through three games in this series, Kucherov has seven points, giving him 15 points in 10 games in the playoffs. He has literally taken over this series for the Lightning. Not to mention his running mate Steven Stamkos. But what things even better is head coach Jon Cooper has gotten Kucherov out there with other players like a Ross Colton for match up purposes.
That is what led to the game-winning goal in Game 2. And with Stamkos and Kucherov along with Victor Hedman on the power-play, the Lightning have a dangerous unit. Though that unit had to be tweaked some because of the loss of Point. Corey Perry has filled that void nicely, scoring two power-play goals in the series.
However, for the Panthers, their star players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, and the rest of the high-powered offence has been non-existent. They need more from those players, but Barkov and Huberdeau look timid and are only looking for each other. That is not what made the Panthers successful, they used their skill to get others involved. Carter Verhaeghe, whose 12 points got the Panthers to the second round, is just not the same player in this round as he deals with an injury. The Panthers need other guys to step up as they are on the verge of elimination.