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Anatomy of a playoff crash

COLUMBUS – Ryan McDonagh is sitting in the silent Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room, where his teammates spend some moment of silent, frustrated meditation before leaving for the offseason.

How will this happen? How was a Lightning team that collected 128 points and 62 victories – a part of all the NHL record time for the win – lost in four fast games at Columbus Blue Jackets, the last wild card in the Eastern Conference and one team that finished 30 points behind them?

How can a team seem to be available for a Stanley Cup? How does a team whose Vegas sportsbooks have been cut as minus-400 favorites before the cash out series of four games?

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" It's hard to determine something, "McDonagh says. "We get sick with lots of different fashions. The strengths that we've won in the regular season have not been won in this series. All those categories won."

What caused the fall of this historic playoff, the first time in history that the top league team was swept in the first round in a series of seven games?

Here's the anatomy of Lightning's disappearance in Columbus:

Jump in front: Game 1 mistake | Damages (and stupidity)
Special teams The Wrath of Bob
They are out-coached | & # 39; This is not our time & # 39;

Jackets are not an 8-seed

Blue Jackets are not your typical second wild card. In fact, they have more points in the regular season than the three Western Conference playoff teams. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Before opening the Lightning corpse to identify the inner causes of their death, we will dazzle the Columbus Blue Jackets with the praise they deserve.

It's not No. 8 seed. This is the 13th best NHL team based on points, with 98, higher than three Western Conference playoff teams at Dallas Stars (93), Vegas Golden Knights (93 ) Colorado Avalanche (90). These are the 12th goals per game (3.12) and 11th goals-against each game (2.82), releasing several playoff teams in each category. They are 12th in expected percentage of expected goals (50.87), better than six playoff teams.

They are a fully enough team that has been the largest of the underdogs by the Lightning significance of a regular season, and the Vegas sportsbook series for the series. (Lightning is minus 400 in the money line to win the series.)

1 Related

But where the punditist failed to recognize the two trends. First, the Blue Jackets became another team from a Western Western trip that ended on March 24. They had a team meeting that got rid of the wind on some issues, and that meeting was mentioned by some players which have got them in the right course. They win seven eight games to close the regular season, giving two or fewer goals for every victory. (The 6-2 home defeat at the Bruins on April 2, in a critical game, gave us all their fragrances as an opponent.)

The other trend is that this is the third straight season Jackets made the playoffs. They went out to five in Penguins in 2017, but gained experience. They won the first two games in Washington in 2018 and lost the series in six games, but gained more experience.

"The more and more playoff hockey you play, the more you feel about the situations you put in. It's very important that it's been three years in a row for us. Guys are getting more minute, more experience with situations and with surges Hopefully, you're ready for that it's not new to you, "Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said.

So it's not new for jackets to start the series well on the road, and they've probably learned something or two about protecting the series that led to ice at home after the last postseason.

At Game 1, Lightning tried to win 8-0 instead of 3-0

Blue Jackets was a punchline after a Game 1 at Tampa. They are 3-0 while Lightning has tied a postseason record franchise for first-time goals, and they look completely outmatched. This is what Lightning does in regular seasons: Earlier and often the score (their first goal goal was San Jose for most NHLs), and won a big margin (30 of their 62 winners were three or more goals).

The quick discovery they had in the playoffs, the opponents did not fall into the canvas after three quick punches. They wonder and are waiting for some mistakes or removals that get them back into battle. The reason McDonagh's misleading counsel, which Blue Jackets went on and became a goal for Nick Foligno, became an omen of the end.

That pinch of Erik Cernak and passed through McDonagh is the kind of play you will do in regular time if you think other people are thinking about the next stop on their 82-game journey. When Josh Anderson dropped it in Foligno, Lightning had five guys at the bottom of the top of the zone's attacking zones. And then he stopped it in the past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

From that point on, the Jackets took the game at even strength, out of a short return to form from Lightning to start the third season. They recorded a brief goal against the great power-playing Lightning, and a play-off of their own.

Early this season, coach Jon Cooper said that to win the playoffs, "We need to win games 2 -1, and not 5-4." Lightning tried to win Game 1 through, like ng, 8-0. Instead, a critical mistake got the Jackets in battle and helped them score first in a series of upsets.

Game 2 hangover

Center lightning Tyler Johnson whose team had a crisis of confidence during Game 1, got away from making the plays they had all the time. Retrieved Game 2: While Lightning had the advantage of playing the game in 5-on-5 shooting attempts and played well in the first half despite giving two goals, their expected percentages The goal for the second (42.39) and third (48.54) indicates their failure to play. The Blue Jackets won the game 5-1 thanks to two play-power goals and a bright third stage where Riley Nash and Artemi Panarin scored 3:09 apart.

During the regular season, Lightning back-to-back lost the game once, in early November when Vasilevskiy was injured. They thought they could walk on Game 2 and snap back to the form. They are wrong. The collapse of three goals in the lead to the loss of Game 1 has broken their thinking for Game 2.

"You are happy with yourself when you are 3-0 and then we give the gift one for them. The problem is to bring it to Game 2. That's a little amazing for us. They got in the first five minutes, and we did not respond as much as we should, "said Cooper.

Injuries (and stupidity)

After a time when he was likely to win Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP, Nikita Kucherov was a non-factor in this series, especially after he was suspended from Game 3 . Scott Audette / NHLI / Getty Images

At Game 3, Lightning has two of their most important players, due to other reasons.

Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman is clear that he is not in Games 1 and 2. He is in the negative with shooting attempts and custom practice. He came from the top of Jackets defenseman David Savard (of all people) on a critical goal in Game 1. He missed the last four games of the regular season with injury to upper-body. Nikita Kucherov, the leading NHL scorer with 128 points and a favorite to win Hart Trophy as the MVP league, missed Game 3 while serving a suspension game for boarding defenseman Markus Nutivaara in Game 2 It's a cheap shot to one player in a possible position, given frustration to Columbus early in the game.

Does Kucherov's loss affect Lightning? Really. They found their offensive game in the third stage and ended just one goal. Not having Kucherov on ice to score or setting up the equalizer is critical. In that sense, he is probably their most important player – dazzling his loss. The hypocrisy, self-serving play that leads to suspension is not exactly the stuff of MVPs. (Fortunately, Hart's votes have been cast for what a regular season award, and Kucherov has had a regular regular season.)

Un-special teams

After Game 4, Kucherov still tries to find out what has happened to his open power play. "There's no power plays, One PP in two games, hard, I do not know what to say," she says.

No one happens to the special difference of the team in this series. Lightning has a power-play percentage of 28.1 in the regular season, highest in NHL history for an 82-game season and the highest overall since 1987-88 Calgary Flames is at 28.5 percent in an 80- game period. Lightning has a 33 percent share of power-play on the road, the highest since the NHL started tracking stats in 1977.

Against Blue Jackets? Their gaming power went on 1-for-6, finally converting to Game 4. Part of the problem is not getting enough of them, which is a combination of perennial celebrations and discipline of Jackets – Columbus had the regular times at least once in the hand.

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in the mid-1970s of Montreal Canadiens, which surrounds and keeps moving. They finished 5-for-10 in the series against a lightning penalty kill that ended up being tied for the first in the NHL. Allowing your opponent a 50 percent power conversion conversion rate is the thing where the sweep is made.

Columbus's playing power made gaming goals in Games 1 and 2. The game-winner at Game 4 was technically also a special team goal, scoring 6-on-5 at a delayed penalty.

Insufficient shock: Lightning has not played horribly on 5-on-5. Jackets scored eight power goals in six Tampa. The Bolts expect a percentage of goals of 54.86, and 54.17 percent of the chances of scoring over four games. But the superficial goals that have the advantage of man do all the difference. "The special teams are huge for us at the time, and down the playoffs. We did not get bounces in the penalty kill, and they got the confidence of playing power while the series continued," Steven Stamkos said. .

It's enough to say, they really missed Hedman in both these units.

Columbus forecheck

Last month, an article titled "How Tampa Bay Lightning is perishing," long before anyone is considered to be reasonable. A section of them seems to be particularly prophetic after the Blue Jackets' sweep: That a team playing an effective forechecking game can slow down an offensive juggernaut in a crawl.

The Washington Capitals have proven it's the last time playing 1-1-3 traps acquired by Jackets, Penguins, Lightning and Golden Knights on the route to the Stanley Cup. Columbus played a 1-2-2 against Lightning system that effectively blocked the neutral zone. One is pushing for attempts to destroy the Tampa Bay handler; two other forward provide neutral zone support either at carrier pressure or take away the lane; passing through them, and Defenderemen Jackets add another layer of support before goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"They are at the top of the puck. They take the ice, move the puck and move our feet. Do not allow them to get to their setup often," McDonagh said.

It's easier said than done. Until the Game 4 offensive, Jackets spent over the past eight seasons of plucking the Tampa pucks – they have 30 takeaways in the series – and force Lightning to play chips-and-chase games when entering the offensive zone. [19659004] "We got behind and we got away from our identity, which contained pucks," said Cooper.

When the Jackets are the puck, they hold it methodically, which is another key to overpowering the Lightning: Slowing down the speed. As of March 11, the Jackets are 26th in the NHL at play speed. Lightning is 14th.

When they got through front defense, there was another problem: Bobrovsky finally became a playoff goalie.

Bob's hatred

Sergei Bobrovsky reversed the trend in his typical playoff struggles, possibly sending a message to other NHL that this year was different. Jamie Sabau / NHLI by Getty Images

One of the reasons that Blue Jackets has not yet moved into the first round of franchise history is Bobrey's playoff's horrid playoff history. In the past 17 playoff games with Columbus, Bobrovsky had a 3.41 goal-against the average and a .898 save percentage. Not bad, Bob.

But in this postseason, he was a revelation: a .932 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against the average.

"I think we played well in front of him along the way here. But he did, in times of games when we needed a big save, he made them," Tortorella said.

Remember that Foligno's goal in Game 1? That's important only because Bobrovsky has made a big save on Nikita Kucherov who can make the game 4-0. Later, he stopped at Stamkos when the captain of the Bolts took the 4-1.

At both games in Columbus, Bobrovsky succeeded in all the offensive acts of Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy appears on ice. Vasilevskiy concluded a series with a .856 save percentage and a 3.82 goals-against the average. Among the many unpredictable facets of this loneliness, the Blue Jackets that get a very powerful goaltending are high on that list.

"I'm happy for her," Tortorella says. "She has a bit of a burr, and it's a good thing for an athlete to have."

The lack of difficulty

One of Cooper's pet theory about the death of his Lightning was that they did not flip the postseason switches after the river for months.

"When you have the points we have, it's a blessing and a curse, in a way, and then suddenly you need to go out. It's not a reason, really," Cooper said after Game 4. " That's how it goes: You have a regular regular season and we have a historic playoff. "

(Well, yes, it's historic: For the first time in the NHL, a team with the most points in the regular season failed to win a game in an opening round of seven games.)

Cooper's argument was Blue Jackets combined with playoffs who played significant games over the past three weeks, and playing well: Columbus won seven eight games, providing two or fewer goals for each of those achievements. Meanwhile, Lightning lost their confidence in Game 1 and had a bad stretch that cost them their season.

"We could not find our game, obviously, For six days in April, we could not find it," Cooper says. "It is unfortunate, because it places a blemish on what a hell of a regular time."

Then again, Cooper is out-coached

Kucherov is sitting in his stall, looking painfully, asking about Game 4. "It sucks, yes not much to say," he said. "It's a playoff. No easy team. You need to give them credit. They struggled hard. Not our time, I guess."

It brings us to the final surgical exploration of autopsy: Lightning, despite all their success at regular times and being statistical steamroller in many ways, can not only know how to win the playoffs.

"If you did not get the goal to win all of this, it's a failure We do not appreciate what happened in the regular season. That's the first game, we came out and got the first lead and then we did not get any momentum in that game. We did not defend enough as a team, the whole series, "Stamkos says.

So one is left wondering how, then, Lightning can learn to win the postseason. How to deal with poverty. How to move what they did to the regular season in the postseason.

Maybe it just lasts time, as did for Blue Jackets.

"I do not know," Cooper said. "It's funny: We hope to leave this year, and we're gone. In 2015, we have no expectation to go anywhere, and we go far, with the same core of players," he said. "It's hard to win this league. It's hard not to touch the Stanley Cup at the end, but how many teams have come through it? They knock on the door and knock on the door and then … look at the Example, they had two wonderful years and got the second round, and the year did not expect them to do anything they won the Stanley Cup. "

Changes will come for Lightning. They need, after a disaster of this magnitude. But given the core, and given core ages, the window remains wide open to win.

Perhaps one day, during the rise of the Cup, Lightning will wonder how this defeat is a moment format. Or, maybe, they wonder what might be, as one of the greatest regular season teams in NHL history that his postseason was last four frustrating games.

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