With the first round of the series coming to a close for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets, the Lightning will move onto the second round and the Blue Jackets will be leaving the bubble. This series was close despite it being a 4-1 victory. With four of the five games being a one goal difference. A different bounce in any game could have resulted in a Blue Jackets victory.
Brayden Point Key in Beating Columbus Blue Jackets
Brayden Point Key Throughout Series
With this being such a key series for the Lightning after the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tampa needed their best players to step up. With Steven Stamkos out, that burden would fall to Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Brayden Point was able to accumulate an individual expected goals of 3.58 through the five games and posted four goals and three assists. He was dominant offensively for the Lightning and able to score two of the game winners, both in overtime.
Kucherov, while not posting as many goals or generating as much quality, still did well offensively. He was able to generate just one goal but added six assists through five games. The Lightning needed these two players to step up in order to win this series and they were able to perform.
Columbus Too Reliant on Korpisalo
The Blue Jackets were not the defensively capable team they usually are throughout most of this series. The Blue Jackets had Joonas Korpisalo realize his full potential at the best time. The rest of the roster was unable to provide him with the support they gave throughout the regular season. There were flashes of the team’s defensive abilities in Game 5, however, by that point, it was too late.
This Blue Jackets roster is not one known for its offensive prowess. When their defence breaks down their flaws grow more apparent. Players like Seth Jones, while playing lots of minutes, had an xGF% of 38.5%. It’s for these reasons that the Blue Jackets lost. With such a strong goalie in the net on such a hot streak, they became defensively unsound and it is a large part of why they lost this series. This is a roster that should is able to win games consistently 1-0, and without the incredible defence that defined them as a team, they were unable to beat the Lightning.
After Game 3 in the series analysis, it was stated that the Lightning’s depth was not performing. The depth was able to come through in Game 5 for the team. While it was still the team’s stars that led the way, Anthony Cirelli, Tyler Johnson and Blake Coleman were all able to add goals. Similarly in Game Four, the Lightning were able to win due to goals by Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde. With these players starting to produce for the Lightning, it could result in a deep playoff push.
While just two games do not absolve them from the first three, it is a step in the right direction for the Lightning’s roster. They will need to continue to look to players like Ondrej Palat to bring something to the table offensively if this success is to continue. A deep playoff run will require a full team effort offensively. Getting past a defensive juggernaut such as the Blue Jackets, though, is a strong start.
The Lightning will need to continue to see work from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. He was able to show flashes of brilliance in certain games and fell flat in others. The Lightning are a very strong defensive team and Vasilevskiy has been able to benefit from that. Because of that, his flaws aren’t as apparent, but they are certainly there. For any team to be able to win the Stanley Cup they need to have their goaltender to perform well and win with that.
Blue Jackets Lack of Offence
The Blue Jackets needed their forwards to step up and score. While that happened in Game 5 it was too late. Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand were able to score goals in the final game of the series. By this game, however, the team was on the brink of elimination. The team struggled to score. While scoring is not always the main objective of a roster constructed such as the Blue Jackets, it is sometimes a necessity.
A player that was referred to multiple times as needing to help on offence was Gustav Nyquist, which he never did. Through five games the winger managed no goals and just one assist. A team should expect more from its second-highest-paid player. The Blue Jackets will need to evaluate their forwards and overall ways of creating offence this off-season because it was a persistent issue through the series and the regular season.
With the Lightning finally beating the Blue Jackets, it seems they have exorcised one of their demons from the past year and are moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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