The defending Stanley Cup Champions are advancing to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. After being the No. 4 seed, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers in the first round. Their high-powered power play helped clinch the first-round series. In the second round, they beat Carolina in five games thanks to a Game 5 shutout from Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning are peaking at the perfect time and getting contributions from everyone.
The Lightning powerplay keeps scoring
In Game 5, Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots for his third career playoff shutout. Brayden Point continued his hot streak on the power play, scoring on a beautiful move that shook Alex Nedeljkovic out of his skates. Point now has 12 points in 11 games, and 8 power-play points in the Playoffs. In the third period, Ross Colton scored to ensure the win. Colton skated into the right hash marks and rifled a shot to Nedeljkovic. The shot snuck right between Nedeljkovic’s pad and glove hand, finding the back of the net. Shortly after, the game ended, and Tampa Bay advanced to the Stanley Cup Semifinals
What’s next for the Hurricanes
Although the loss is disappointing, the Hurricanes are in a good spot. Their top line of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Tuevo Teravainen are all under 26. Additionally, they have a Calder Trophy finalist in Nedeljkovic. Nedeljkovic posted a 2.17 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in his nine games. Not to mention Petr Mrazek as either the starting goalie or the backup, depending on Nedeljkovic’s development over the offseason. They shouldn’t look to change up the team but instead, stand pat and focus on continuing to build chemistry. While they have some older players, these Playoffs should be viewed as a learning experience so the Hurricanes can come back stronger next year.
What’s next for the Lightning
The Lighting now await the winner of the Bruins Islanders series. They will most likely be the favorites, with how they’re playing and their playoff resume. They should be confident against either team, as both will be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Lightning. Point’s 12 points would be enough to lead any other team, but he is third in points on the Lightning. Steven Stamkos is having a resurgence in the Playoffs, posting 13 points in 11 games. Nikita Kucherov is playing even better, with 13 assists and 18 points. Victor Hedman is just behind Point with 11 points, all assists. Vasilevskiy is continuing his Vezina-caliber season, posting a 2.24 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage over the two series.