1.I’m not a big believer in momentum carrying over from game to game during a playoff series. I do think momentum swings within games occur and those swings can be significant in determining a winner. But with each new game, the slate is clean.
The status of a series (which team is up and which team is down) can have an impact on each individual game, however. For example, we often hear from teams that the fourth win in a series is the hardest to get. That’s because the opposition, facing elimination, plays with a high desperation level.
In this series between the Lightning and New York Islanders, the Lightning, after losing Game One at home, needed a response in Game Two. They didn’t want to head to Brooklyn for Game Three staring at a 2-0 series deficit. The Islanders, on the other hand, had already earned at least a split out of the first two games in Tampa. So while New York would have loved to have won both contests, the Islanders didn’t display the same level of urgency as the Lightning in Game Two. That disparity was reflected in how decisively the Lightning controlled play in Game Two.
After last night’s OT win in Game Three, the Lightning have now reestablished home ice advantage. Like the Islanders after Game One, the Bolts have earned at least a split of Games Three and Four. The Isles will head into Game Four needing a win as badly as the Lightning did in Game Two. New York does not want to fall into a 3-1 series hole – and it’s likely that the Islanders will put forth a performance similar to the one the Lightning produced in Game Two.
I’ve heard some people speculate that the Islanders will have a tough time bouncing back from their deflating Game Three defeat. The Isles blew two third period leads and were less than a minute away from winning the game. But as I stated earlier, I don’t think those circumstances will have any effect on how the Islanders play in Game Four. On Friday, the Lightning should expect to see the Islanders’ best game yet in the series.
2.All four Second Round series are at 2-1 through three games. In the three other series, the Capitals, Predators and Stars are trailing. The Caps and Predators are coming off strong Game Three performances – the Caps lost, because Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray stole that game, while the Preds won. But the Stars had a horrible outing in last night’s 6-1 loss to St. Louis.
The Stars had a terrific regular season. They finished with the most points in the Western Conference and led the league in goals scored. All year, however, there have been lingering questions about their goaltending. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi split time during the regular season, but save percentage was a concern for both. Lehtonen’s was .906 and Niemi’s was .905. Perhaps some of that was due to the quality of the shots the Stars allowed, but those numbers are low for a team that posted 109 regular season points.
Many wondered if the Stars would run into trouble in the playoffs, based on their goaltending and team defense. Their first round series against Minnesota started well – the Stars allowed just one total goal in the first two games. But then they allowed five goals in two of the next three games. In their clinching Game Six win, they almost blew a 4-0 third period lead, holding on for a 5-4 triumph.
We’re seeing some similar trends in their Round Two series versus the Blues. Lehtonen was terrific in Game One, making 31 saves in a 2-1 Dallas win. But in Game Two, he allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and made only two saves on five shots before being pulled after the first period. The Stars did rally from the 3-1 deficit to force overtime, but still ended up losing. Then the wheels came off in Game Three. Niemi, who played well in relief during Game Two, couldn’t make it out of the second period in Game Three.
So which Stars team will show up in Game Four? The one that has won four playoff games this year in which it has held the opposition to two goals or less? Or the one that has given up at least four goals in the other five games?
3.I remember attending the first day of Lightning training camp in September of 2002. I was just beginning my first season as the Lightning’s radio broadcaster. One of the first people I met that day was Erik Erlendsson, beat writer for the Tampa Tribune. Shortly thereafter, he invited me to dinner at his house. My fiancée and I met his wife and three sons. The youngest was just a baby at that time.
Much has happened in both our lives since that September day in 2002. My fiancée became my wife in 2003 and now we have two kids, ages 10 and 8. Erik has a fourth son, now 11. His oldest, who was nearly six at that initial dinner, is now in college.
As many of you know, the Tampa Bay Times purchased the Tampa Tribune yesterday. So Erik is now out of a job.
I could mention his professionalism, knowledge, integrity and expertise. But regular readers of his work already know those qualities. They will be missed.
Personally, I’ll miss his presence around the team, especially on the road, where we’ve shared more meals and conversations than I can remember over the past 13 and a half years.
I’ve always believed that talent doesn’t go unnoticed. If that’s the case, Erik should land on his feet soon. Whoever gets him will be lucky to have him.