Do you really think they looked good for 80% of this game?
They looked like this year's Devils hanging on for dear life vs. the Blackhawks or Anaheim with a rock-solid Schneider performance; and then Tampa just had a complete breakdown (after Bishop's initial first period breakdown) to hand them 3-4 goals in quick succession. I just can't take them seriously, I can't give them credit**, they don't pass the "Conference Finals eye test", they do not play up to par with Anaheim, Chicago, or Tampa (at times, aside from tonight's breakdown), they just don't look like they belong. They scrape by. They seize the rare opportunity but do not win by design or by domination.
I'd normally concede that I'm obviously biased and speaking like a rival fan, but I won't because I see a ton of fans around the league with no horses in the race saying the exact same thing.
** - In the context of seeing how the West plays, and has played for several years, I just can't take them seriously. They're a good enough team to cruise through the East, and the East teams are fractured and every team has their own gaping holes, so the Rangers somehow find a way to make it through. But you watch the West and you compare the two, and I just can't say the Rangers are such an amazing team, I just can't. Sure, you can point to the President's Trophy, but that makes my point. The Western teams are playing more Western teams over the course of the season. The West is just so strong, so skilled, so supreme compared to the East that I can't take them seriously and give them credit. It's akin to Washington Capitals finishing top of the Southeast every year. Was that the mark of a really good team, or was the Southeast just that bad? We all know the answer to that question. And on a larger scale, the Rangers, and their 2-3 year window of opportunity, are a similar case, I feel. We thought they'd get bounced by the Kings last year and it proved to be true. The East is just a walk in the park, a bunch of B-level teams compared to the West, and it shows. I just can't call them an amazing hockey club, in the context of watching some of those Western Conference matchups. St. Louis, Anaheim, Minnesota, Chicago, etc. would've all been first place in the East if they were here. The gap is just so wide.
I thought they did okay in the first despite the shot total (16-7). Most of the Bolts' chances were kept to the outside. Brassard scoring early was huge for their psyche. Lundqvist's best save was on Stamkos getting the leg out to keep it 1-0. That was a big turning point because Yandle scored afterwards. Then they left too much gap for Stralman to find Callahan who coincidentally was Tampa's best player. He was a pain in the ass. Lundqvist stopped him with it 2-1 in the second and also denied Boyle. Those guys come to play in these big games.
The second, I agree. They got completely outplayed. Those two power plays sucked. The Lightning had better shorthanded chances. For a while, it was basically Lundqvist carrying them. To their credit, they regrouped and played to win instead of sitting back which doesn't work against a dangerously skilled opponent like the Bolts.
Regarding the West, I agree the Ducks have impressed. I was wrong about them. Something I'm sure LOTCB will keep reminding me. They are big, physical and skilled. Remind me of a more talented Kings with a better D. However, Andersen is still a second-year goalie and he blinked in the last game. I have to think the Hawks will force a Game 7 giving us two great Conference Finals. Chicago has the heart of a champion. They showed that with Toews scoring twice in the final two. Amazing. Anaheim is better than Chicago because they're much deeper. The Hawks rely so heavily on that top four without Rozsival. Quenneville can't trust Timonen or Cumiskey. So, the Ducks' strategy is perfect. Keep applying pressure and banging away.
Looking forward to watching that tomorrow and breathing.