Each Wednesday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the game that intrigues him most that night. Weekes will also be assisting fans with three must-watch elements of the game.
What more can we say about Tyler Johnson that hasn't been said? Probably not a lot. A lot has been said, and it's all good, and it's all deserved.
He's a star for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Simple as that. Enough said. He's a star. He proved it in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final with his hat trick in a 6-2 win against the New York Rangers that evened the best-of-7 series at 1-1.
Johnson scored shorthanded on a great play. He scored on a 4-on-3 power play. He scored on even strength. He did it all. He does it all.
Look at Johnson going to the front of the net. He's 5-foot-8, barely, and he's in front of the net more than Rick Nash of the New York Rangers. It's amazing, truly amazing to watch him play.
I can't wait to watch him play again in Game 3 on Wednesday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Here is my breakdown:
Pluses: Their power play is back. Their power play is producing.
Their power play struggled the better part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and coming into this series from speaking to a couple of people in their organization the key to their game other than their speed and defending was they needed their power play to produce.
They had two power-play goals in Game 2. They had a power-play goal in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals. They also had one in Game 6 against the Capitals. Go back to Game 6 in the last round and they are 4-for-15 on the power play in their past four games. That's a big plus.
I think they're more simplified on the power play now. I don't think they're burning the clock as much. It's quick thoughts followed by quick action. It's pass, make a play, shoot. They're not being over selective and too fine, which all power plays have a tendency to do when they're not working.
The other plus is they're good on the road. Very good, in fact. They set a franchise record for road wins this season with 28. They are 3-2 on the road in the playoffs, including that must-win 2-1 victory in Game 6 against the Capitals.
You don't come into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 1 seed without being comfortable playing on the road. That's certainly a huge plus for them. I would say it's also aided by the fact that it's in large part a similar group that went to the Stanley Cup Final last year. That's a big reason to have confidence in terms of being able to handle playing on the road.
I don't think losing 6-2 in Game 2 will hurt the Rangers' confidence. They know they can win on the road and they don't doubt themselves. They're a confident group.
Minuses: Penalties. Way, way, way too many penalties.
You have to recognize your opponent and the Lightning are just too good of a team to keep putting on the power play. It doesn't make sense to give them man advantages, especially when they have two units that can beat you, not just one.
The Rangers have given the Lightning 10 power plays through two games and the Lightning have four power play goals. That's too many.
They gave the Capitals, who had the best power play in the NHL in the regular season, 15 chances in the entire seven-game series. The Capitals never found a rhythm on the power play and scored one goal -- and it came on their first power play.
I would also say turnovers were a big problem for the Rangers in Game 2. They were credited with 14 giveaways, that's way too many for their group.
In addition, they were beaten soundly in the neutral zone in Game 2. In talking to some people around the team before Game 2 they said they felt they needed to do a better job in the neutral zone than they did in Game 1. They were worse.
The Lightning were attacking the middle of the ice far too easily. The Rangers didn't make good decisions with the puck when they had it and they forced plays that were not there.
And lastly, man, this team has got to score. They have 24 goals in regulation in 14 playoff games. Rick Nash has two goals. Rick Nash can't have two goals at this point.
If the Rangers want to win the Stanley Cup they need the Rick Nash from the first 68 to 70 games of the regular season. It's that simple. He's too impactful of a player to be this much of a non-factor on the scoresheet.
Nash needs to get more, period. I've known him for a long time and I'm a big booster of his game. When he's on his game he's a unique player, but I don't understand why with a stick as long as a pole vault he's not going to the middle.
You're not going to score on Ben Bishop with wrist shots from outside the dot on a regular basis.
To win this series, the Rangers need Nash to score.
Pluses: Oh there are plenty.
Their power play right now is lethal, just lethal.
They played to their strengths in Game 2. They played their game. They attacked in different ways, man.
They went east-west, north-south, all over the place. Their cycle game was dirty. Their rush game was dirty. They gave it to you any way you wanted it in Game 2. Whatever you wanted, they cooked it up.
They were physical too. They outhit the Rangers, and they're not a physical team.
All things being equal, the Lightning played to their identity in Game 2, no question about it. They looked every bit like the team that was the highest scoring team in the regular season.
Minuses: Too many penalties.
Good skilled teams don't take that many penalties. They gave the Rangers five power plays. Yes they had six, but why give it back? The Rangers were handing it to you, take it and run, don't give it back.
I'm sure coach Jon Cooper is talking to his group about that. There is no reason for that many penalties, especially when you're dominating the play in a lot of facets like the Lightning did in Game 2.
I didn't like that from their standpoint in what was an excellent game for them. You're always trying to get advantages, but that will be a disadvantage because it looks like the Rangers' power play has found some rhythm.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. The team that controls the neutral zone will win the game.
2. Discipline will be huge. Both teams need to be better in this department.
3. Rick Nash. He has to score. Enough is enough. He has to score.