After back-to-back losses to begin the series, the Devils find themselves in a precarious place.
As the series shifts to New Jersey for games three and four, Tampa Bay is up in the series 2-0. New Jersey will look to rebound on home ice. Though the Devils have given up 10 goals through the first two games the Devils have shown through stretches they can play with the Lightning. The Devils know a series does not begin until a team loses on home ice, now it is New Jersey’s time to hold serve.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Five Takeaways from Tampa Bay-New Jersey
Here are some takeaways as the series shifts to New Jersey:
Momentum: Who says momentum does not play a factor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Prior to the playoffs beginning, New Jersey was fighting for their playoff lives. Once the Devils made the playoffs, it appeared the Devils were just satisfied just making the playoffs as New Jersey rested their starters in the final game of the season against Washington. The Devils still had something to play for. Other teams were just not satisfied being in the playoffs, the good teams always want more. Having momentum is key entering the playoffs. New Jersey losing against Washington stopped all their momentum as their starters rested for a week. In the first two games of the series, swings of momentum have factored into Tampa’s wins. At pivotal times in each game, the Lightning were able to regain momentum after the Devils started to establish their style of play. Now the Devils will have the shift the tides of momentum as game three begin.
Experience: Entering the playoffs the Tampa Bay Lightning had all the playoff experience. Most of their roster was there for the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, and back to the conference final in 2016. They know what it takes to make it in the playoffs. That is why it is not surprising at all, they are taking advantage of a young Devils team with no playoff experience. The Devils have only five players that have playoffs experience. It took New Jersey over a period and a half in game one to find their skating legs. Granted it was the first playoff game for most players on the Devils. New Jersey had a better start to Game 2, but again the experience of the Lightning was just too much. Tampa Bay has been here in this position before and New Jersey is just experiencing this for the first time.
Turnovers: When playing a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning any mental mistakes will cost a team dearly. Through two games, the Devils defense have turned the puck over way too much. This has allowed Tampa Bay to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. A team like the Lightning are good enough without having any extra help. Once they do get that extra help from turnovers, they turn them into goals. If the Devils continue to make careless mistakes, this series will be over quickly.
Playing 60 Minutes: Throughout the course of the season, the Devils were able to get away with not playing a full 60 minute game. Any lapse the Devils had, they seemed to be able to make it up later in the game. However, in the playoffs taking time off results in being down in a game and in a series. During a ten minute lapse in game two, the entire game shifted in favor of the Lightning. The Devils played such a great first period, but then the Devils lost that intensity and the Lightning made them pay for it. During a regular season game no problem, there is always another game. Now in the playoffs, the hill is harder to climb. The Devils have to be focused on playing a full 60-minute game come game three.
Scoring depth: As the playoffs enter its fifth fay of action, secondary scoring and scoring depth has played a factor in every series. So far in this series the Lightning got three goals from Alex Killorn, and two from Tyler Johnson. While other players like Ondrej Palat has three assists, Brayden Point two assists, and Ryan McDonagh has three assists. Even though Nikita Kucherov has two goals in this series, the work of the second and third lines are the reason Tampa leads the series. On the other hand, the Devils top players have been the only ones to score goals. In order for the Devils to stay in this series, they must get production from their secondary scorers and cannot rely on the top line to keep producing. One of the reasons the Devils made the playoffs, besides Taylor Hall being an MVP candidates, was depth scoring. Once the Devils get their depth scoring going it takes pressure of the top line for New Jersey.
As the series resumes Monday night in New Jersey, it would not be surprising if the Devils make major changes to their lineup which includes having Cory Schneider start instead of Keith Kinkaid.