The defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are returning to the Stanley Cup Final. Their 1-0 victory in Game 7 over the New York Islanders has set the stage for a Lightning repeat. A big reason why the Lightning are going to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals is the play of Yanni Gourde. With everyone was focused on Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point, it was Gourde who scored the biggest goals of the series. Including the game-winning goal, short-handed in Game 7 to send the Lightning back to the Stanley Cup Final. Gourde is proving no matter what role a player is in they can have a huge impact.
Yanni Gourde Steps Up As Lightning Advance To Meet Montreal
Gourde has been making an impact ever since he came to the Lightning organization after being signed as an undrafted free agent. His stellar play has continued over from last postseason. There he helped the Lightning win their first Stanley Cup Championship since 2004. Gourde compiled 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 25 postseason games. Two of the goals were game-winners. This postseason, his point production is way down with six points in 18 playoff games including five goals. However, of those five goals, three came in the series against the Islanders. The final being the most important as it proved to be the game-winner in Game 7.
Gourde is proving that you do not have to be the biggest guy on the ice to make an impact. And playing alongside Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, the Lightning have found themselves a checking line that can shut down other team’s top lines. This line has been making an impact ever since Jon Cooper put them together last year. And even though Yanni Gourde was quiet to start the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, once the Stanley Cup Semifinals came, it was a whole different story.
Scoring At The Right Time
Gourde found ways to get open and score goals. With the series tied at 1-1, Gourde opened the scoring in Game 3 silencing the rocking crowd at Nassau Coliseum. He created many looks in that game as well as his line was flying around. The goal was set up by a beautiful feed from Coleman through the crease behind Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders defence just lost Gourde at the side of the net. In Game 5, where Tampa routed the Islanders 8-0, Gourde recorded his second goal of the series giving the Lightning some insurance.
With the Lightning’s back against the wall and after a poor night in Game 6, where his line gave up the winner, Gourde comes out and plays his best game of the series. Jon Cooper has enough faith in Gourde to put him out there shorthanded. He gets an opportunity because the defence of the Islanders loses him coming off the bench on a line change. Gourde gets the puck and fires it home. Gourde was flying from the drop of the puck in Game 7. He had multiple chances to increase the Lightning’s lead but could not. But with Kucherov, not 100 percent healthy, Stamkos and Point bottled up, it fell on Yanni Gourde to step up and he did.
Andrei Vasilevskiy Shut The Door Again
Dating back to last postseason, Andrei Vasilevskiy has now recorded four consecutive shutouts in close-out games for the Lightning. Three this postseason alone. That is an unbelievable stat for this Vezina Trophy finalist. He was stellar again for the Lightning. Though he did not face that many shots in Game 7, he was there to make the big save. But it was not just Game 7 Vasilevskiy was good in. He played well in every game, even the games his team lost. This postseason Vasilevskiy has 1.99 goals against average and a .936 save percentage in 18 games including four shutouts. He has gotten only better as the playoffs went along.
Against the Islanders, Vasilevskiy recorded a 1.59 goals-against average with a .940 save percentage including two shutouts. Vasilevskiy has been excellent especially in the big moments. He asks calm, cool, and collected for the Lightning. The players know with him back there, they can just play their game to perfection. And he had to be good, especially in the games, his team play poorly in. If it was not for the play for Point, this man would be a lock to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Maybe he still is.
Electric Power Play Continues To Strike
One of the keys for the Islanders in this season was staying out of the penalty box against a very good Lightning power play. Unfortunately, they did not and the Lightning power play continued to strike. With so many options on both units, the Lightning are so dangerous. This has been a trend since Round 1 and will be a storyline heading into the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal too. Tampa Bay through three rounds is hitting at a 37.7 percent rate on the power play. In the series against the Islanders, they had a 20.9 percent power-play success rate. These numbers are just ridiculous and a major reason why the Lightning are going back to the Stanely Cup Final. Is there any team that can stop them? Well, it could be the Canadiens penalty kill as it is the best penalty kill versus the best power play in the Stanley Cup Final.
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