Boyle missed the Lightning’s 2-1 loss in Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. Boyle practiced with his teammates on Friday but wasn’t able to go a day later.
His status is currently listed as day-to-day. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he didn’t know when Boyle would be able to return.
“I don’t know how to answer that, honestly,” Cooper said when asked Boyle’s chances of playing in Game 2.
Boyle scored 15 goals and played in all 82 regular season games for the Bolts. He’s added a goal and an assist in the postseason, and hadn’t missed a game all year until Saturday.
His main value for the Lightning comes in the form of all the intangibles he provides.
“Boyle’s a huge part of our team,” Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. “He’s a big guy back there. He’s killing penalties and just kind of doing all the little things right. On the forecheck, he gets in and makes his presence there. It’s tough missing him. Hopefully he can get back here. Other guys need to step up now.”
Immediately following Game 1, Cooper felt the Lightning didn’t play all that poorly but were just unlucky to give up the game-winning goal in the closing stages of the contest.
After watching the game video Saturday night, however, Cooper had a decidedly different take on the Bolts’ performance.
“It’s funny watching games, you play the game and you can watch it and look at the game and not think you played very well, and then you watch the tape and it’s actually a little better than you thought,” Cooper said. “Then there’s the times when you think you played OK and you watch the tape and you want to vomit. That was a little bit how (Saturday) night went because, for two periods, I thought we were a little bit better than we were until I watched the tape. I think the Rangers played extremely well, but there are so many things. We just kind of stubbed our toe all night.”
Cooper pointed to a number of turnovers by the Lightning that led to odd-man rushes for New York and kept the Bolts from establishing possession in the Rangers’ zone.
“We were just handing them tickets to the movie, and we were the turnstile and watching them go by,” Cooper said. “We can’t do that.”
Tampa Bay struggled to get going early in the game, and by the time the Lightning played their way into the game in the third period, the Rangers already had a 1-0 lead and the Bolts were playing from behind.
“I thought we played better as the game went on,” Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop said. “Like I said (Saturday), I think we played better in the third than we did in the first, and I think the first 20 we were kind of in the feeling out process. We were kind of seeing what was going to happen instead of just going out there and playing our game. I think in the third we started playing better, so hopefully we can carry that on to tomorrow.”
Johnson said Bishop’s play in net kept the Lightning in the game.
Otherwise the Bolts could have been behind three to four goals going into the final period.
“When you look at the video, Bish was huge for us,” Johnson said. “He really helped us out and really kept that game close. And our team has to be way better. We’ve got to be more desperate, got to play harder and execution was just off pretty much the entire night, something you usually don’t see from us.”
Tampa Bay finished the regular season as the top scoring team in the NHL, averaging 3.16 goals per game.
The Rangers, likewise, did well offensively and were just behind in third with 3.02 goals each time out.
Continuing that offensive execution in the playoffs has proven to be a bit more elusive however.
The Lightning are scoring 2.5 goals per game in the postseason, fourth-best among playoff teams. The Rangers are decidedly more defensive-minded in the playoffs, however, ranking tied for 14th of 16 teams at an even two goals a game.
Cooper said before the Eastern Conference Final series started that teams spend the regular season figuring out how to score goals and the playoffs figuring out how to prevent them. Saturday’s 2-1 scoreline showed how goals will be at a premium going forward.
“I don’t think the scoring around the league has really transferred into the playoffs as much,” Bishop said. “Every game here and there a team has a breakout, but most games are pretty close. It’s tough when everybody’s going 110 percent every shift where sometimes in the regular season when you’re up 3-1, we seemed to score a few goals late when we’ve already been up in games. Obviously that doesn’t happen in the playoffs.”
Ondrej Palat registered the only goal for the Lightning in Game 1. Cooper said if the Bolts want to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, they’re going to need more than the Triplets to score.
“When you’ve looked at some of these big games, we’ve had other guys score,” Cooper said. “We’ve had other guys contribute, but depth is a big thing. You look across the hall (at the Rangers) and they haven’t scored a ton of goals in the playoffs but they’re getting a balanced attack from a lot of guys. Rick Nash hasn’t scored every single night. They’ve had guys chip in. They’re advancing, and that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”