Victor Hedman Dominates as Tampa Bay Lightning Win Eastern Conference Final

Victor Hedman

The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a 4-2 series victory over the New York Islanders to move onto the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman is having a historic run in terms of goal totals by a defenceman. Now the Lightning are moving on to the final round of the playoffs to face the Dallas Stars. Let’s reflect and break down what the Lightning did well and where the Islanders should look to improve.

Victor Hedman Dominates as Tampa Bay Lightning Advance to Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bays Key Pieces

The first clear strength of the Lightning is Victor Hedman’s amazing series and the entirety of his playoffs. In his last six games Victor Hedman posted four goals and two assists, and he has nine goals during the entire postseason. Hedman has consistently been among the league’s stars for many seasons now. He’s consistently strong both offensively and defensively. However, this run goes beyond that. Hedman has been nothing short of incredible for the Lightning. He is showing shades of 2015 Duncan Keith in terms of career-defining performances. It’s these kinds of runs that win Stanley Cups and the Conn Smythe.

After being (fairly) criticized in the first round, Ondrej Palat has stepped it up for the second and third rounds. Against the Islanders, Palat was able to post three goals and an assist. Palat was also able to generate an ixG of 3.17 through the six games played, scoring in line with what was projected. Most know Palat for his defensive capabilities. This playoff run he has shown that he is extremely good all around, and not just a defensive specialist.

Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov have been excellent through the series, like they have been all playoffs. Point, while only playing in four games, still posted three goals and four assists and Kucherov was able to put up two goals and seven assists through six games. These two players have been Tampa’s primary source of offence, not only this playoffs but for the entire season for Tampa.

New York Islanders Key Pieces

The Islanders definitely struggled against the Lightning, who were able to break through their defence and didn’t allow New York to generate any offence whatsoever. Jordan Eberle only scored two goals and an assist this series, he was likely the Islanders most consistent offensive threat. While Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau had great games, they also had some games while they were invisible as well. Despite this, these three players were the ones generating the offence for New York.

As stated in the series preview, the Islanders had three strong defenders in Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews. It was certainly a hindrance to the Islanders to have Pelech out for Game 6. These are three very strong pieces for the Islanders moving forward and they were some of the best players for the Islanders all playoffs long.

What Tampa has to do to Win

Tampa is moving on to the Stanley Cup Final and will need to see their key players continue to dominate. Dallas plays a very similar style to the teams Tampa has already beaten. Dallas is a very strong defensive team, finishing sixth in the regular season in xGA/60 at 5v5. Tampa has already beaten the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, and, the Islanders who finished third, first, and 16th in the respective categories. The Stars also have very strong goaltending between Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop. Dallas finished first in regular-season save percentage, but Tampa has been able to overtake the teams that finished fifth, second, and tenth already this playoffs as well. This is a team that Tampa can very well beat if they play a similar game to what they already have been.

If Steven Stamkos is able to come back for the Stanley Cup Final, this would be a major addition to the Lightning’s already red hot roster. They can overwhelm the opposing team with their unmatched offence, and can even keep up with the best defensive teams. If Victor Hedman and Brayden Point continue their contest to see who deserves the Conn Smythe more, Tampa Bay will be in a prime position.

What New York can do Moving Forward

The Islanders were a resilient team this postseason. They relied on strong goaltending and tried to slow the game down to their pace of play. While they do not need to jump on the hyper offence trend that is growing across the league, they do need to add some scoring to the forwards. They already have some key pieces to their core gameplan. The Islanders should not look to go out and add more of the same.

To shore up the weakness instead of doubling down on their strength would work wonders under Barry Trotz’s style. He has already proven that he can have the roster in front of him play the game he wants, he just needs some pieces to add some goals up front. The Islanders generated just two goals or less in five out of six games this series. It is the clear weakness of the roster. If they could address it, the Islanders could be primed for a similar season in 2020-21.

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