Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Lacking Complete Game In Playoffs

If the Lightning want to win Game 7, Jon Cooper needs to get a complete game out of his team. Showing up with anything other than perfection could be the end to the Lightning’s season. (Getty Images / Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Lightning Lacking Complete Game In Playoffs
Eugene Helfrick

In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Tampa Bay Lightning played their best game of the postseason. As a whole, the team played a complete game, taking the lead early and locking out the New York Islanders in route to a 4-0 win. There were many reasons why this was the best game of the postseason for the Lightning, with the biggest being that it was the only time the Lightning played a full 60-minute game.

Lacking A Complete Game

Playing a complete game has been a real issue for the Lightning all year, but it really has come to light in the playoffs. The Lightning will consistently take a period or two to get going or take a period off after having a strong start. Games 4 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals are perfect examples of this trend. After taking a 4-0 lead in Game 4, the Lightning stopped playing their game in the third period. This let the Penguins back into the game and almost blew one of the best performances from the Lightning in the Conference Finals. In Game 6, it took the Lightning until the third period to even look ready to play hockey. Before the third they looked flat and unready to play a desperate Penguins team.

Also Read: Vasilevskiy’s The Least of the Lightning’s Worries

Perhaps this is what makes the Lightning so frustrating to watch this year. You can see a real difference between when the team is playing their game and when they are coasting. When the team is disengaged with the game, they become unwatchable. Bad passing, no pressure, zero defensive responsibility and hanging their goaltender out to dry has become a sure sign that the Lightning are no longer playing their game.

Close Out The Period

This is no more apparent than how often the Lightning give up a goal in the last minute of play before the end of a period. Just in the last few games the Lightning have given up two goals in the last minute, one of which the game winner, in a complete breakdown of better judgment. In an attempt to take the game to the locker room, the team instead gave up any momentum they had and made an already difficult battle neigh impossible to overcome.

Now with Game 7 looming, Lightning fans have a lot to be excited and nervous about. If the team decides to come out and play a complete game, they will put themselves squarely in a position to move onto their second straight Stanley Cup Final. If they take even a minute off; however, this Penguins’ team will burn them. Fifty-nine minutes does not make a complete game… and it only takes a second to give up the game-winning goal.

Also Read: Former Flyer Brian Propp soldiers on

Tampa Bay Lightning
Eugene Helfrick
@eugenehelfrick

Eugene covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for Along the Boards. He joined the team in April 2015.

More in Tampa Bay Lightning

Trophy Group Shot

NHL Photos: Awards Red Carpet

Chelsea StedryJune 24, 2016
Brent Burns with Gerry and Wyatt Nelson

NHL Photos: Awards Media Day

Chelsea StedryJune 23, 2016
It's time to wrap up the 2015-2016. What's the final verdict on the year?

Wrap-Up: Lightning Had Successful But Poorly Realized Season

Eugene HelfrickJune 6, 2016
The Lightning have hung Vasileveskiy out to dry consistently this series. The only reason the team's had a chance this series is his stellar play.

Vasilevskiy’s The Least of the Lightning’s Worries

Eugene HelfrickMay 20, 2016
The Tampa Bay Lightning closed out Game 5, but now found a new identity as a resilient team.

Lightning Find New Identity In Playoffs

Eugene HelfrickMay 9, 2016
The Lightning got lazy in Game 1. Can they respond in Game 2, or is this a sign of trouble for the Lightning?

Lazy Lightning Lose Game 1

Eugene HelfrickApril 29, 2016
Johnson and Mrazek have turned this playoff rivalry into a two-man show.

Wings vs Lightning Has Become A Two Man Series

Eugene HelfrickApril 19, 2016

After the Horn: Datsyuk debates departing Detroit and more

Samantha AbateApril 4, 2016
Ben Bishop

Making The Case: Why Ben Bishop Should Win The Vezina

Eugene HelfrickApril 1, 2016