Wholesome Hockey: Cirelli’s O.T. score lifts Lightning to the Cup!
In a series that has displayed defense and minimal scoring, we saw an excellently executed offensive play that ultimately decided the series. After turning over the puck in the Islanders zone, Barclay Goodrow was able to control the possession and bring the puck behind the Islanders' net.
This is where we saw one of the most important aspects of an efficient offense, Anthony Cirelli went straight to the net. Crowding the net has been stated numerous times in this series as a catalyst for goals and Anthony Cirelli crashing the net allowed Barclay Goodrow to fire a centering pass that Cirelli could chip into the net to end the game and the series.
The goal reminded us as fans how hard it was to score in this series. We saw two early goals by Devon Toews (4:15) and Victor Hedman (6:28) that deceived some into thinking that Game Six was going to be a high-scoring game. The two goals displayed offensive prowess and skill that was barely visible in the wake of the great defense and goaltending that controlled the series, with Devon Toews wrapping around the net to score and Victor Hedman taking a blocked shot and shooting into the top shelf pad side corner. This would be the highlight for scoring in the game as the game gave us more than 60 minutes of game time without another goal.
The game developed into a familiar one for those that have been following the series closely. As the hits started looking harder and the shots looked less hopeful of going in, it became clear that the next goal was going to be the decider. The only question was whether the Islanders would be able to force a Game Seven or if the Lightning would punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
We saw the Islanders squander a golden opportunity late in Game Two, as they were given a five-minute major power play and couldn’t score to put the game away. Similarly, the Islanders saw themselves with a power play with less than nine minutes to go in overtime. The Islanders couldn’t muster any form of an attack and the Lightning killed the penalty with ease. After failing to take advantage of the power play, one could feel the momentum shift towards Tampa Bay.
The game reminds us to give credit where it has to be given. After an embarrassing Game One, Semyon Varlamov played out of his mind, and Game Six was no exception. Semyon Varlamov faced a punishing 48 shots that were on goal and saved 46 of those shots. While we can blame the Islanders' defense for allowing the high number of shots to reach the goal, something we rarely see out of a Barry Trotz coached team, we must acknowledge that Semyon Varlamov had the best performance of the night, for either team.
The Islanders have a promising future. This series is going to be heart-breaking, but head coach Barry Trotz has this team built to be competitive for many years to come. While it is too early to declare Trotz the second-coming of the legendary Al Arbour, the job that Barry Trotz has done catapulting the Islanders to Cup-relevancy is one that few coaches could have done.
The Lightning are playing in the Stanley Cup and this team looks ready to take what they believe is rightfully theirs. The Lightning reminds us of historic championship teams from across sports that were embarrassed the year before. The Lightning being swept last season after having one of the greatest regular seasons of any hockey team in the history of the game, now they enter the Final with a vengeance and eagerness that makes few people doubt that they will be hoisting the Stanley Cup.